If it is to kick-start the evolution that is becoming increasingly urgent, the communications industry needs guidance. Agency bosses and senior communications executives both in-agency and in-house are generally aware of the need to adapt to technology and data. They’ve read the articles, they’ve been to the seminars, they’ve had the discussions.
But they don’t know where to start.
This has become more and more apparent to me since I started working with multiple companies after I set up independently at the start of the year. The issues they face are similar in nature and, whether overtly or as a hidden agenda, they’re asking for help. Progression paralysis is very common.
They want someone to give them a starting point. They want something that helps them build out their digital offering and provides a comprehensive, modern communications service. They don’t want theory; they want actionable strategies.
And I believe that adoption of the PESO model could very well be the start point and the guiding force that people are looking for.
At the FutureComms15 conference a couple of weeks ago, I was invited to take part in a panel discussion on this topic. The response was fantastic, as evidenced by this blog post by John Brown of Hotwire, and by the delegate (who shall remain nameless) who approached me excitedly afterwards to say: “That was really interesting! Look, I’ve even made loads of notes!” (He’s not the sort of guy to make notes, trust me.)
The PESO Model Explained
PESO stands for Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned. It describes the four types of media that now exist but, more than that, it illustrates how to use them in an integrated manner to build fully-formed, intelligent communications programmes. This diagram by Gini Dietrich in her book Spin Sucks is the best illustration I’ve yet seen:
Used properly, it can significantly increase the reach of a message, provide fantastic audience targeting and generate truly measurable results. All the things that marketing, digital and SEO consultants have been saying for many, many years.
PR has traditionally played in the Earned media sphere. And while most consultants have dabbled in Shared and Owned to one extent or another, many still view PR as ‘earned media’. Which is wrong on so many levels and is holding the industry back.
Charles Arthur, former technology editor of The Guardian, said it himself at FutureComms: “Earned is becoming a smaller and less important part of what people share”.
Paying for Media: Like Paying for Sex?
When it comes to Paid Alex Myers, f0under of Manifest, said at FutureComms: “Paid media is like paying for sex: you only have to do it if you’re not engaging enough to get it for free”. It’s catchy and it’s funny, and it’s true that the PR industry sees Paid as somewhat dirty. Paying for message distribution is cheating, isn’t it?
Well, no. And I couldn’t disagree with Alex more. In the past, this may have been the case. Well, it definitely was. But in 2015, absolutely not.
Paid is, or should be, part and parcel of getting a message in front of relevant people purely due to the nature of the way we all consume content. Whether it’s Facebook advertising, promoted tweets, Google Adwords or Taboola native advertising, Paid should be something that’s considered for every campaign.
There was an interesting point made from the audience at FutureComms when someone from Tower Media stated that: “We’re buying content from SEO agencies, which is where content has moved to in the last couple of years, and from display [advertising] and from marketing…the one place we’re not buying it from is PR”.
This is telling. Other areas of marketing are comfortable with Paid. So why not PR? Do we think we’re above it?
Whatever you think of Paid, if there’s one thing to note it’s that creativity must always come first. In Danny Whatmough’s words: “Paid media is not an excuse to produce shit content”.
Adopting the PESO Model: Where to Start
The PESO model is not an instant solution to all of your woes. As the actress said to the bishop, you get out what you put in. But it does provide true guidance into how to amplify brand messages and, as such, should be used to build campaigns. It should be used as a framework. Trying to retrofit campaign elements into it will not work.
I’d suggest creating your own version of Gini’s diagram above. Create something proprietary that you’re comfortable with and that is as expansive and detailed as you can cope with. Use it at the point you’ve devised a standout creative idea.
Once you’ve settled on your concept, use your PESO framework to plan and build out the different campaign elements. Use it to define how and where you’re going to distribute your message, and set about creating specific content for each specific channel, whether that be media outreach, video, Google search, influencer outreach, social media…
Sell that plan in to whomever it needs to be sold to, whether that be a client in the case of an agency or an internal stakeholder in the case of an in-house team. Demand the budgets you need to make it work as an integrated programme.
And then measure against all of those elements. Be intelligent about the way you plan and set goals for your activity and suddenly you’re be proving ROI like you’ve never been able to do before.
Success will breed success.
To be clear, you don’t need to know the detail of how to activate all of this stuff yourself. Don’t understand Google Ads? No worries. Don’t know how to put together an SEO strategy? Fine. All I’m saying is, learn the basics and get to grips with what specialists in those areas can do, and then work closely with them to deliver.
Don’t be afraid of this. If you’re tentative about it, so are most others. But the PESO model is a real opportunity for the communications industry to kick-start that evolution.
Why shouldn’t you be at the forefront of it?
If you’d like to catch up on more from the PESO discussion at FutureComms, here it is in all its glory: