When earned is shared, shared is earned and nothing is quite what it seems

Posted: Thursday 01st March 2018

Author: Jonathon Barnes


Different industries have their own terms, abbreviations and acronyms. These may well make perfect sense to those within those industries, but can confuse and baffle those without. PSPs (sorry, Print Service Providers) know that C1S refers to “Coated One Sided” paper, which is used in the production of postcards, covers and fliers. For many, CGI is seen mainly in films as it refers to Computer Generated Imagery. However, CGI is also used by web developers when building certain pages such as email forms, gated content or guest books. They refer to a “Common Gateway Interface”, so don’t ask a web developer for some CGI and expect to see impressively rendered film footage.

Just because you know what are talking about doesn’t mean someone else will. That might cause a problem, especially when discussing marketing, PR (we’re all comfortable with that one, yes?) and digital strategy. This happened within our own agency when the social team got tangled up with the PESO model.

What is PESO?

Well, as an acronym, PESO explains an integrated approach to public relations across four distinct categories: Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned. It is credited to Gini Dietrich who created it in her 2014 book: ‘Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age’.

P = Paid.

This covers any form of marketing that is paid for, such as email marketing, digital ads, print ads and also paid social media. It’s everything paid.

E = Earned.

In an integrated sense, earned media refers to editorial coverage and mentions in print, online and broadcast media. If a journalist, blogger or reporter writes about you- and you did not pay them to- then it is earned.

S = Shared.

In the PESO model, shared media is any social media, that is not paid for.

O = Owned.

Owned media involves the publication of content you own on a platform you own, the best example being your website. You own it, you control what appears on it.

While this model makes sense in an integrated approach, social media professionals have a different understanding of the terms. This became apparent when two of us were preparing a piece of content about PESO, but were actually talking it from a social media perspective. We got tangled.

Social uses the terms Earned, Owned and Paid. Although these are all found within the PESO model, they actually refer to different things. See, it can be confusing.

Earned = In social media, if your content earns a form of engagement, such as a like, a share or a comment, then it has “earned” it. This is the goal of content, to be interesting, to receive likes and comments and to impact the users who see it and who may, just may- then share it with their own community. You will notice the word “share” in the previous sentence. In the PESO model, “share” refers to social media, but to social media specialists, a “share” is considered “earned” media.

Owned = Content that you own and post on your own accounts. A video, a Tweet, a Facebook or LinkedIn post, anything you post to own(ed) social media accounts.

Paid = Paid in the social model refers to paid activity. Well that’s the same as PESO, but in social it, of course, only refers to social paid. Boosting posts and targeted posts are “paid”. Anything that you have pay for to have served to users is paid. To recap, in our social model, this only refers to social activity and not to other forms of marketing.

So the main point of difference is between “earned” and “shared”, where in social a “share” contributes to “earned” media and in PESO, “shared” is social media content, (which of course in social is “owned”). Got it?

The main lesson is to identify what you are doing- are you focusing on social or a wider integrated campaign? When discussing strategy and the campaign, focus on what you are trying to say. Pick on a suitable model and stick to it. Keep it simple and make sure your message doesn’t get lost among the acronyms and go AWOL.

Remember it is also easy to get caught out. When discussing PESO, don’t confuse it with PESA, which is “Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration” and refers to something very different! PESA is also a 1996 act passed in India regarding self-rule for certain tribal groups. Neither have anything to do marketing.

If you would like to explore how we can help you, either on a social model or using PESO, then please get in touch. We do both, but we won’t talk about them at the same time.

Photo credit - Photo by Nick Tiemeyer on Unsplash


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