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

Ask any marketer about digital marketing; the first things that will come to mind are SEO and PPC. However, there are so many more forms of digital media. In this article, we’ll explain everything there is to know about the PESO model in PR, how it is used, and how you can incorporate paid, earned, shared, and owned media into your digital marketing strategy.

published: September 10, 2023
updated: June 26, 2024

What is the PESO model, and why is it important in PR?

The acronym PESO refers to paid, earned, shared, and owned (media). Gini Dietrich first used the term in her 2014 PR book “Spin Sucks,” which advocated for honest and open communications within public relations.

With the advent of digital marketing, many in the industry used this new framework to implement and coordinate their marketing activities. The model has enjoyed use ever since.

Before this, paid media was the focal point of advertising, and earned media was the focus of PR. Owned and shared did not factor into the equation until recently.

As a high-level overview of the different media types, Paid refers to paying for an ad, such as PPC. Earned can be any exposure gained through winning trust, such as getting a backlink to your website or using SEO link acquisition tactics like HARO. Shared is when a third party shares your contribution on a topic (on their social channels, for example). Owned is the media you own (your social media, website, etc.). While they may differ, all play a valuable role in your digital marketing strategy.

The PESO model effectively sells and promotes your thought leadership capabilities and increases brand awareness.

PESO model

1. What is paid media?

As the name suggests, paid media is when you pay for media exposure on a platform or space owned by another company. This can be good if you want to control when, where, and how your product or service gets seen by people. This form of media can get you in front of a bigger audience who will become aware of your offering and may, over time, adopt it.

Paid media can be super effective, particularly if well-timed, but it can just as well not be. Paid ads do not guarantee success. They do guarantee you spend money, though. Without a carefully planned strategy, it could waste valuable resources.

Another drawback is that audiences are now all too aware of how advertising works and that you paid for your product to appear on a certain channel or website. Some websites, such as Forbes, display banners stating that an ad is paid for. This can reduce its trustworthiness and authenticity in the eyes of some and is something you need to consider if you decide on this route.

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Examples of paid media

Traditional methods previously focused on TV, radio, billboards, and newspaper ads. But as the digital sphere has evolved, so have the options for paid media. This list now includes social media ads, SEO, banners on third-party websites, lead generation, and sponsored posts. Here are some further examples:

Native advertising & contextual advertising

Native and contextual advertising are sometimes used interchangeably. However, there are a few differences in how you advertise on a website based on the content on the page. A page's ad and content should complement each other.

For example, if you're reading an article about the advantages of outdoor calisthenic exercises over regular gym membership, you might see an advertisement for gym resistance bands on the same website. This type of advertising focuses on where the user is now rather than where they were before.

Native is a specialized form of contextual advertising in which the ads are designed to look like the content on the website the viewer is viewing.

Therefore, your ad appears to naturally fit in with the existing content. They can appear as recommended content on a webpage or social media feed. While reading an article, you may see a native ad below the text. By using this type of advertising, your brand fits into the user's current experience and doesn't differ from it.

The beauty of native advertising is there is a natural flow of information, and the person reading the original content is probably already interested in the topic. It avoids banners or annoying pop-ups and is a more discreet way to advertise.

PPC, pay-per-click, sometimes called search engine advertising (SEA)

Using paid (not organic) search can help businesses generate traffic by analyzing what their target market is searching for online. How? Well, paid search can help you outrank the competition by targeting relevant keywords.

Unsurprisingly, the price increases with the demand for a particular keyword. However, demand isn’t the only factor; the relevancy of your ad to the customer query is important, so the landing page must convince them to stay.

Paid social media campaigns

Chances are you don’t know anyone not on social media. It is one of the few places almost everyone goes. Paid social media provides a huge opportunity for extending your brand’s reach and business growth opportunities.

Facebook and Instagram offer campaigns that allow the advertiser to target the customer's location, age, and personal data, making the platform very effective for targeting your audience. Also, most ads work like native advertising and appear based on the user’s page based on their interests and personal user experience.


This practice lets you retarget visitors even after they’ve left your website. When someone visits your website only to leave again, a retargeting campaign can drive them back. It uses cookies that remember users who came to your site. Those users will then see another ad of yours on a separate website and potentially click on it and return to yours.

It can be highly cost-effective since it focuses on those who have seen and shown a recent interest in your brand. Retargeting is often used in conjunction with contextual advertising.

Affiliate marketing

Purchasing leads is called affiliate marketing. Often, affiliates use search engine advertising (pay-per-click) to capture the lead. You can generate a lot of sales quickly using this approach and control your advertising's KPIs by paying only for leads instead of a click.

2. What is earned media?

Earned media is any form of media exposure for your business that your business doesn’t pay for.

It comes from third parties. Examples could be customer reviews, published press releases, and backlinks to your webpage. In earned media, third parties publish information voluntarily. And without payment.

When it comes to media types, earned is the holy grail. It offers social proof to potential customers and can ease their anxiety. You may have a great product that solves a customer's need or pain point, but your mission is to get someone else to say this. Nothing is more authentic than someone else saying nice things about your brand. Nothing hits quite like an authentic review. Reviews can go a long way in increasing trust in you and solidifying your reputation. These are key components within PR. Once achieved, you can leverage it on your media to amplify your authority.

There are some things to be aware of, however. The lack of control over what is said can mean misinterpretations or incorrect information in the public domain. It’s also very hard to attribute the results of this to your marketing strategy.

Examples of earned media

Earned media can be very effective in garnering attention and increasing sales. It covers various platforms, such as online, print, and social media.

PR coverage

If a journalist or output picks up on your company and writes a piece about it or a topic that links to you, and they mention you, then this counts as earned. It could be a general-interest article or an industry-specific one.

Media coverage can reach audiences you might otherwise struggle to reach relying just on owned media.

This also includes press releases (owned media) that get picked up and published (earned media). If a journalist adds a link to your website, or even better, your product page, then this is the strongest signal of authenticity and trust.

Organic influencer review

In the age of YouTube and TikTok, influencers can be useful agents for promoting your brand. They also don’t always need to be paid. Very often, they will do this organically. This is important as for many consumers in specific age demographics, influencer ‘influence’ is very high. Having them speak positively about your brand to their audience can be a great way to raise brand visibility and credibility.

Customer reviews

A genuine customer review is another example of earned media, but it can be a double-edged sword. While good reviews can bolster your credibility, a negative review can do the opposite - and then some more. People write reviews when they’re either really happy or disappointed.

Several famous review sites now exist, allowing people to share their personal experiences of a product with everyone. It's important to note that these generally aren’t checked for authenticity, and many people don’t trust them.


As it implies, this refers to personal recommendations made by people during normal conversations with friends or by mentions on social media. A consistently good customer service experience can lead to word-of-mouth referrals and online traffic as word spreads about your product.

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3. What is shared media?

Shared media is media content that is distributed across social media platforms.

This could be from individuals, outlets, or other brands.

Because the shared content is yours, the definition blends into owned media somewhat. You can increase your brand awareness and website traffic by purposefully creating insightful and useful content that is easily digestible and shareable. It's also a great way to stick your head above the sand as an important contributor to your industry. It can make you a go-to source of information and give you credibility and much needed trust.

However, like earned media, there is little control over how or where it is shared. However, another plus is that there are tools for measuring how often your content is shared, helping you fully realize the effectiveness of your content and its ROI and inform future strategy.

Examples of shared media

The shared content could be social media posts, user-generated content (UGC), or any other content, such as webinars. Here is more about the examples:

Social media

This can also relate to comments, discussions, and interactions with the public. Likes, comments, and retweets still go a long way to getting brand exposure. This can also humanize your brand and make you seem more open. It can create a dialogue between you and your audience.


You can create shareable, helpful material, such as videos and infographics, for a low investment. Someone in the company can also produce charts or graphs that emphasize a key point you’re trying to make. Visual elements such as multimedia add to overall readability.


These offer a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and expertise in a given area. It could be an idea to include a shorter version or a highlight reel on your website that others can easily share and promote on social media. It’s a real plus when others in your industry or a related industry mention you this way. Community sentiment can be very powerful and authoritative. Just think about LinkedIn.

4. What is owned media?

Owned media is media that is yours.

You can include your website, newsletters, and social media accounts in this category.

Unlike paid, which costs money, or earned where you rely on others, you can always create owned content. A downside of this may be audience reach and overall effectiveness. It can take a lot longer to generate an impact.

But it's not all bad. An effective website offers the chance to create long-term relationships and give you the chance to demonstrate your thought leadership in your industry.

Examples of owner media

Owned media is content you can publish at a very low cost or free and covers anything you own or have direct control over. See the examples:


Your website is how you persuade people to use your products and services. Organizations often forget this and fail to see the importance of their words. While you may spend ages picking the perfect logo design, you must think carefully about written content. Without a logo, would people know it was you just from what you say? Ideally, they should be able to.

Many markets provide fierce competition. Your owned media gives you the perfect opportunity to stand out here. Don’t use jargon. Communicate succinctly. Think about the length of any blogs you have.

Social media

Reflect on what people think and feel. Pose questions to them for which you are the answer. Use relevant data. Empathize with and focus on the reader. Think about paragraph and description length. Remember to use images to increase engagement.


You can email people with marketing information, including company newsletters or updates. This reminds them of your company and your services. Similarly, you can create physical newsletters or brochures to provide to people at events such as trade shows or events.

Brand journalism

First introduced in 2004 by McDonald’s to share its brand message, brand journalism works to create content that delivers value to your market. It does this by conveying your company’s brand story and sharing how people use your products or services, but in a wider context so it does not read like an advert. In short, they employ a journalistic approach to talk about the company itself.

What is the difference between paid, earned, shared, and owned media?

Paid is content or an ad that you pay for audiences to see. It could be a written article highlighting your thought leadership on a particular topic that you pay to have included on a website or in a magazine. Earned is content or coverage that others make about you. It could be an outstanding review of your product or a piece they chose to write about your company. Shared content is shared by other parties across any platform/s, such as social media. Owned is anything you create and control, like your social channels, website, or written brochure.

Paid should feed owned media and result in earned media. Paid potentially comes with less credibility. Earned often results from well-planned and timed paid media, has the highest credibility, is more transparent, and ‘lasts.’ However, you exert less control over it. It is also less consistent than the other forms. Shared media relies on owned and paid, as you first need something to share. Owned is built for long-term relationships, old and new. It lasts longer than paid or shared. It is also seen as less credible than earned or shared. Earned, shared, and owned are free. Paid is not.

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Is public relations paid, earned, shared, or owned?

Successful PR (public relations) falls under earned media. This is because it is earned when people pick up on your press release, products or services, thought leadership, or brand. You may pay for PR services but haven’t paid them to do or say these positive things about you or your brand. They did that as a result of your efforts.

Earned media can be achieved through direct outreach to journalists or other media outlets, or a journalist can organically choose to write or create content about your brand. Both count as earned. The lines blur if you get third-party mentions via social media channels, such as posts, content, and people retweeting you. While your social channels are technically owned media, the impact here would be ‘earned.’


Whether paid, owned, earned, or shared, the PESO model offers the foundations for a comprehensive communications strategy. Here, we’ve looked at each model segment, given examples, looked at how they differ, and seen where PR fits into the puzzle.

How much time you devote to one element may depend on your product, goals, or market position. It is important to formulate a detailed strategy to measure your efforts' success and adjust it if needed. Your audience is unique. Test what works for them. There are many other factors to consider, also. You must examine your resources, capabilities, and what will get you the best return on investment (ROI). If you want to begin or reevaluate your existing marketing and PR strategy for your startup or scaleup and need insight on reaching your target audience, check out our PR services for more details and contact us to learn more

September 10, 2023
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