PESO 2.0… what’s new in the world of integrated media models

Influencer Strategy

Back in 2014, Gini Dietrich released her book, Spin Sucks. Within it, she outlined the first iteration of the PESO model. Something that would, over the following years, evolve and re-shape into one of the most widely adopted and consistently applicable PR and comms frameworks.

There’s a reason why the PESO model has stuck around. It works.

As a framework, it’s simple enough so as to not be alienating or outright confusing. It’s versatile and if needed can be packed with detail to enrich the overall model.

So, it’s been ten years since Gini changed the game… now she’s back with a revised and updated look at the PESO model. Which we’re going to break down, section by section.


The Paid

Where Gini has adapted the model, is more so in the areas of intersection.

For instance, marketing communications has been adapted to sit at the junction between paid and owned. This accounts for the fact that while the output itself is an earned action, certain marketing tools or tactics may have a cost implication associated with them.

This is a logical expansion. So too is the introduction of marketing comms tactics such as influencer and event marketing being intersected across multiple PESO vectors.

But perhaps one of the biggest changes, not just to the PESO model but to the wider industry, was the mass layoffs in journalism. 

This strains the earned, purely by having fewer boots on the ground on newsdesks and newsrooms. Fewer people to pitch to, with tighter editorial deadlines and resources than ever before. Combined with commercial pressures outlet side, to hit revenue goals and targets, means pay-to-play is only becoming more prevalent.


The Earned

You may think that mass journalist layoffs would shrink the space. But the earned category is broadening and presenting new opportunities for earned media. 

Gini rightly points to the likes of Tik Tok and influencer relations having the potential to fall under earned. Gini also includes engaging with journalists – we’d also extend that definition out to influencers, analysts and such – on platforms such as Reddit, X and even review sites.

The natural growth and expansion of these kinds of engagements are adding more options and tools to the PR’s arsenal. But with this, Gini also leans into the importance of community, and that community building is predominantly an earned task – though it can be enhanced with paid.

The earned vector now also sees amplified importance around SEO – which there will be more of in later categories. 

In this case, Gini places the importance of SEO and earned around backlinks.

Now, practically speaking, purely earned backlinks are something of a rarity. They’re not an absolute guarantee and in a lot of cases, webmasters from higher DA sites will grant nofollow backlinks, which in the grand scale of DA building won’t push the dial.

Where PR practitioners can add value and quality in SEO, is by offering up, as part of their pitch, assurance that the copy they have written and provided to journalists has been keyword optimised.

This could be a big part of earned as search becomes more and more competitive, news titles jockeying for position in the SERPs will need their content to be running at optimum, all the time. 


The Shared 

The evolution of shared media has been one of the fastest and most dramatic since the original PESO model. Channels and platforms have come and gone in that time. Some have even been resurrected from the ashes… we’re looking at you Snapchat.        

Gini adds the actual act of how you take content out from your own channels, out into shared media. There’s another intersection with paid and even earned here. But Gini makes a point, which needs a little unpacking.

“It was important to add that distinction because, as I’m sure you have experienced, organic reach alone can no longer reach your fans and followers.”

There are a lot of shades of grey to this statement.

From an outright, traditional media perspective, this sentiment holds up. Circulations and reach figures are generally down across the board. People are migrating away, so this kind of traditional organic reach is shrinking.

But if we put this behind the lens of owned content. It doesn’t quite cover the bigger picture.

Winning content strategies use organic owned content to keep their existing audiences engaged, entertained and coming back for more.  But they also leverage into shared and maybe even paid at times to break into new audiences. 

But if your organic reach is no longer reaching your fans and followers, PESO isn’t going to fix that. Because you’ve got a deeper content problem.


The Owned

Gini’s right, our owned content options are huge now. 

Want to do your own podcast series, it’s never been easier or more accessible. Video projects, why not!  White Papers, site news, blogs and internal comms; all fall under the owned category. 

While there aren’t any huge changes or updates to the Owned category, beyond the changing and updating of formats at our fingertips. Gini has tweaked the model more at its intersections of owned and paid, drawing focus onto the likes of brand ambassador and affiliate programmes, native advertising, lead gen and email marketing. 



This is a big one. Because Google has been on a huge pivot ripping out what it perceives as low-quality content from SERP. This makes room for content that offers experience, expertise, authority and trust – hence E-E-A-T.

Now when a PESO model is properly overlaid with E-E-A-T frameworks it can enhance your overall offering. 

With written content, for instance, utilising backlinks to verified and trusted external sources will give you a big E-E-A-T boost. Over time this can increase your overall authority and push you up the search rankings. 

But there are some things, deemed as black hat SEO tactics that are best left alone. For instance, using paid budget for coverage, that’s fine. But using paid budget to pay for backlinks is not an advisable strategy in the short or long term. 

Where PR needs to also be careful with E-E-A-T and particularly earned media, is in the verticals.

To put it as simply as possible, when pitching stories you need to take care that you’re pitching into the right sector and vertical media. This can offer its challenges, particularly for a business looking to break into a new sector. Because E-E-A-T is built around relativity.  

This is where owned becomes very important, particularly the building up of an owned bank of visible online content to act as a backup to your earned. 


Other notable mentions 

AI gets a big mention, of course. But more as a ‘one to watch.’

Now AI is an interesting one, particularly when we look at it through the lens of owned and E-E-A-T. Google has recently stated that it will start flagging AI-generated pages that it deems to be of low quality, spammy or deceptive.

Now, the big question is, can it and will it do that for content spun up through Gemini? Could we end up in a somewhat ethical quandary a few years down the line, where Google is flagging content from LLMs other than its own? 

What isn’t mentioned, is Google’s pulling of third-party cookies. From a marketing and content perspective that’s arguably going to have a huge effect. 

More likely than not, this change will see paid efforts shrink back, placing more importance and prevalence on owned activities. Perhaps, once Google has fully removed third party entirely and we know more about the ‘new normal’ of cookie function, we’ll see a revision on this revision. 

It’s also great to see Gini doubling down on the importance of authenticity. As we’re seeing consumer behaviours and patterns shift towards more ethically focused patterns, the need for businesses to have honesty and authenticity running through comms is paramount. 

All being said, there’s a lot to take away from this. The agility of this revised model is most welcome and gives us a lot of food for thought during a period of quite significant upheaval.