The Public Relations BlogMedia & PsychologyPR TheoriesThe PESO Model: Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned Media

The PESO Model: Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned Media

A straightforward media classification model.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

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The PESO mod­el is help­ful in pub­lic relations.

The PESO mod­el is used to clas­si­fy dif­fer­ent types of media: paid, earned, and shared media. The mod­el has emerged as an invalu­able tool for nav­ig­at­ing the com­plex­it­ies of mod­ern pub­lic rela­tions.

This con­tem­por­ary approach to PR affords organ­isa­tions a more com­pre­hens­ive and stra­tegic per­spect­ive on their com­mu­nic­a­tions efforts, respond­ing adeptly to the expo­nen­tial rise in digit­al chan­nels and audi­ence segmentation.

Here we go:

The PESO Model

PESO Model - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
The PESO mod­el in pub­lic relations.
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The PESO Model

The PESO mod­el divides the media land­scape into four dif­fer­ent media chan­nel types: 

  • Paid chan­nels include advert­ising, spon­sor­ships, ambas­sad­or col­lab­or­a­tions, etc.
  • Earned chan­nels include news art­icles, influ­en­cer endorse­ments, word-of-mouth, etc.
  • Shared chan­nels include social media brand posts, accounts, SERP vis­ib­il­ity, etc.
  • Owned chan­nels include news­let­ters, web­sites, pub­lic­a­tions for intern­al or extern­al use, etc.

Don Bartholomew, vice pres­id­ent of digit­al research at Fleishman Hillard, presen­ted a ver­sion of the PESO mod­el in 2010. According to PR blog­ger and PR meas­ure­ment expert Heather Yaxley, his 2010 art­icle is likely to be the earli­est men­tion of the model:

PESO Model | PR Theories | Doctor Spin
The PESO mod­el. Source: PRConversations.

In 2013, PR blog­ger Gini Dietrich pop­ular­ised the PESO mod­el on her blog and later trade­marked her heav­ily pro­moted and widely spread infographic.

In June 2013, Gini Dietrich presen­ted the first iter­a­tion of the PESO mod­el you may recog­nise in a blog post: The Four Different Types of Media. It was fol­lowed in August by the post Mobile Marketing: Use the Four Media Types in Promotion, where she talked about integ­rat­ing paid, earned, owned, and shared.”
Source: PRConversations​.com 1Yaxley, H. (2020, June 28). Tracing the meas­ure­ment ori­gins of PESO. PRConversations​.com. https://​www​.prcon​ver​sa​tions​.com/​t​r​a​c​i​n​g​-​t​h​e​-​m​e​a​s​u​r​e​m​e​n​t​-​o​r​i​g​i​n​s​-​o​f​-​p​e​so/

It is also worth point­ing out this 2010 McKinsey Quarterly art­icle by David Edelman and Britan Salsburg that includes sold and hijacked media along­side what used to be called POEM (paid, owned and earned media). Both of these con­cepts still have value even though their exe­cu­tion has changed in the past dec­ade.“
Source: PRConversations​.com 2Yaxley, H. (2020, June 28). Tracing the meas­ure­ment ori­gins of PESO. PRConversations​.com. https://​www​.prcon​ver​sa​tions​.com/​t​r​a​c​i​n​g​-​t​h​e​-​m​e​a​s​u​r​e​m​e​n​t​-​o​r​i​g​i​n​s​-​o​f​-​p​e​so/

I prefer to use the mod­el to under­score the crit­ic­al dif­fer­ences between mar­ket­ing (paid media) and pub­lic rela­tions (earned, shared, and owned media). Others prefer to use the mod­el to show­case how pub­lic rela­tions could ven­ture into paid media channels.

Learn more: The PESO Model: Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned Media

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Different Types of Media in PR

Paid media is some­what for­eign to pub­lic rela­tions, encom­passing advert­ise­ments, sponsored con­tent, and oth­er forms of pur­chased expos­ure. However, the PESO mod­el under­scores its util­ity not as a stan­dalone strategy but as one com­pon­ent in a much lar­ger orches­tra of tactics. 

By dove­tail­ing paid efforts with oth­er media types, organ­isa­tions can extend the reach of their mes­saging, com­ple­ment­ing tra­di­tion­al advert­ising with the authen­ti­city and engage­ment offered by earned, shared, and owned media.

Earned Media

Earned media refers to pub­li­city gained through meth­ods oth­er than paid advert­ising. It includes news fea­tures, reviews, and any oth­er form of cov­er­age that an organ­isa­tion doesn’t dir­ectly control. 

Earned media is often seen as a wild card due to its unpre­dict­ab­il­ity. However, coher­ent and integ­rated com­mu­nic­a­tion activ­it­ies can help shape the nar­rat­ive and cre­ate the con­di­tions for pos­it­ive cov­er­age, allow­ing organ­isa­tions to take advant­age of the cred­ib­il­ity earned media provides.

Shared Media

Shared media rep­res­ents a new­er but no less sig­ni­fic­ant sphere of PR. Encompassing social media plat­forms and oth­er user-gen­er­ated con­tent, shared media fosters dia­logue and engage­ment. The PESO mod­el acknow­ledges its grow­ing influ­ence, and its inter­sec­tion with oth­er media types is crucial.

Organisations can boost engage­ment, feed­back, and vir­al­ity by shar­ing owned con­tent or pro­mot­ing paid media on social plat­forms, turn­ing audi­ences from pass­ive recip­i­ents into act­ive participants.

Owned Media

Owned media refers to the chan­nels con­trolled by the organ­isa­tion, such as web­sites, blogs, news­let­ters, and more.

While owned media provides unpar­alleled con­trol over the mes­sage, the PESO mod­el recog­nises that it’s most effect­ive when stra­tegic­ally integ­rated with the oth­er three types. For instance, owned con­tent can extend the life of earned media cov­er­age or serve as a launch­pad for paid and shared media campaigns.

A Great Model — But Not Perfect

The PESO mod­el under­scores the inter­con­nec­ted nature of mod­ern pub­lic rela­tions. Rather than view­ing each media type in isol­a­tion, it encour­ages a hol­ist­ic approach that aligns and integ­rates vari­ous media strategies.

I prefer to use the mod­el to under­score the crit­ic­al dif­fer­ences between mar­ket­ing (paid media) and pub­lic rela­tions (earned, shared, and owned media). Others prefer to use the mod­el to show­case how pub­lic rela­tions could ven­ture into paid media channels.

If a young man tells his date how hand­some, smart and suc­cess­ful he is — that’s advert­ising. If the young man tells his date she’s intel­li­gent, looks lovely, and is a great con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist, he’s say­ing the right things to the right per­son and that’s mar­ket­ing. If someone else tells the young woman how hand­some, smart and suc­cess­ful her date is — that’s PR.”
— S. H. Simmons

In a time where the lines between pub­lic rela­tions, mar­ket­ing, and advert­ising con­tin­ue to blur, the PESO mod­el offers a ver­sat­ile and adapt­able frame­work that mir­rors the com­plex­ity of the mod­ern media landscape.

In short: The PESO mod­el is imper­fect but use­ful when ana­lys­ing the mod­ern media landscape.

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Thanks for read­ing. Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing art­icles with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tions and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. You might also con­sider my PR ser­vices or speak­ing engage­ments.

PR Resource: The PESO Paradox

PESO Model - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
The PESO mod­el in pub­lic relations.
Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

The PESO Paradox

According to the PESO mod­el, there are four types of media channels:

  • Paid media chan­nels. Example: Advertising.
  • Earned media chan­nels. Example: Third-party publicity.
  • Shared media chan­nels. Example: Social media publishing.
  • Owned media chan­nels. Example: Website publishing.

How do you cat­egor­ise these four types of media chan­nels? A pop­u­lar approach is to divide them based on cor­por­ate function:

Function: Marketing

  • Paid media chan­nels. Example: Advertising.

Function: Communications

  • Earned media chan­nels. Example: Third-party publicity.
  • Shared media chan­nels. Example: Social media publishing.
  • Owned media chan­nels. Example: Website publishing.

Another approach is to divide the PESO media chan­nels based on cor­por­ate UIX control:

Brand Experience: Full Control

  • Owned media chan­nels. Example: Website publishing.

Brand Experience: Partial Control

  • Paid media chan­nels. Example: Advertising.
  • Shared media chan­nels. Example: Social media publishing.

Brand Experience: No Control

  • Earned media chan­nels. Example: Third-party publicity.

A third but cent­ral approach to the PESO media chan­nels is based on conversion/​monetisation strategies:

Value: Awareness

  • Paid media chan­nels. Example: Advertising.
  • Earned media chan­nels. Example: Third-party publicity.
  • Shared media chan­nels. Example: Social media publishing.

Value: Transactional

  • Owned media chan­nels. Example: Website publishing.

The vari­ous above per­spect­ives force organ­isa­tions to face prob­lem­at­ic paradoxes:

The PESO para­dox = paid, earned, shared, and owned media chan­nels can be grouped in dif­fer­ent ways that are equally and sim­ul­tan­eously true but also stra­tegic­ally con­flict­ing, which cre­ates a meas­ure­ment prob­lem (com­par­at­ive valid­ity) for organisations.

How do you set up a reli­able pro­cess to accur­ately determ­ine how to dis­trib­ute your media chan­nel investments?

Applications of the PESO paradox:

  • Should we invest in social media advert­ising to boost the algorithm for increased organ­ic con­tent success?
  • Should we pri­or­it­ise our web­site, where we con­trol the brand exper­i­ence, or social media, where our key pub­lics reside?
  • How do we com­pare the return on invest­ment (ROI) of dif­fer­ent media chan­nels when they are pro­foundly dif­fer­ent and seem to defy any such comparisons? 
  • How do we value aware­ness-type media chan­nels if the long-term cost is pro­por­tion­al to cut­ting away pieces of our busi­ness in a way that will weak­en the organ­isa­tion and strengthen the social networks?
  • How do we fun­nel organ­ic aware­ness into trans­ac­tion­al value when third-party plat­forms work against us and the pub­lic is unwill­ing to switch media channels?

Please note: The PESO mod­el has “fuzzy edges” due to vari­ous hybrid media forms. For example, you can run cam­paign ban­ner ads or social for­ums on your web­site or add advert­ising spots with­in edit­or­i­al social media content.

Learn more: The PESO Paradox

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Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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