October 5, 2022

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

How are changes to social and earned media affecting the PESO Model?

How are changes to social and earned media affecting the PESO Model?

It seems like every other day, we’re hearing some report of social networks making changes to their algorithm, post feed, or security features.

What all of these changes boil down to, at least for communicators, is shifts in organic reach.

This matters because communicators often plan their communications around the PESO Model, and the “S” in PESO stands for shared media. Shared media relies on just that, the sharing of social posts. The more social algorithms and news feeds change, the harder it is for communicators to organically reach new audiences.

Also facing some problems: the E of the PESO Model.

With the collapse of trust in the media and concerns over reputation, companies aren’t relying on earned media in the same way they used to.

So what does this mean for communicators’ PESO plans? The four pillars of the PESO Model still matter, but communicators should stay up-to-date with changes and reconsider how they rely on each aspect of the model.

Changes to earned media

The Washington Post recently featured a column by veteran business reporter Steven Pearlstein. Pearlstein explains that he sought to write a pretty standard corporate profile, what he refers to as the bread and butter of business reporting.

Pearlstein selected Clorox, as they are consistently ranked among the top companies to work for and recently won numerous marketing awards. Additionally, he enjoyed the idea of challenging himself to write about a company from a so-called “boring” industry.

After some initial interest from Clorox in his offer to tour a manufacturing plant and fly out to Oakland, California to talk with some top executives, he received a reply from an associate director of corporate communications, declining because their executives were too busy.

According to Pearlstein, this kind of response has become pretty commonplace in corporate media relations. He quotes a peer working at Fortune Magazine as saying, “One, they don’t trust us. And, two, they don’t need us.” Another peer, David Segal of the New York Times told Pearlstein, “There’s no longer any assumption that we are looking for enlightenment or understanding. The hostility is palpable.”

This lack of trust in the media is important to consider. Brands like Clorox are reluctant to work with reporters because they don’t control the message. Unlike owned media, the O in the PESO Model, corporate communicators provide information to reporters, who then have the opportunity to shape the story however they want, which can yield potentially negative, reputation threatening coverage.

Owned media, on the other hand, allows companies to directly communicate with their audience and control the content of those messages.

With business managers barring the media from looking behind the scenes, communicators need to reconsider their PESO plans. Earned media is a massively important part of the PESO plan. It gets brand mentions into reliable, well-read publications, giving the brand access to new consumers.

Additionally, appearing in a higher profile or relevant publication builds trust with a brand’s audience. Seeing a mention of the delicious menu offerings at a new bakery in a food and wine magazine, for example, raises the profile of the company and indicates to customers that it’s a business worth checking out.

What about shared media?

When it comes to shared media, this pillar of the PESO Model isn’t faring much better. Social media platforms make constant changes that affect how users’ content gets shared and seen. Three of the most popular social channels, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, have all made recent updates that affect content on their sites.

In early 2018, Instagram announced that it would update its algorithm to make it more chronological, a welcome change considering the widespread complaints about the jumbled organization of their feed.

They also explained that, with the help of machine learning technology, users’ feeds would be curated based on who they follow and the posts they like. Instagram now prioritizes content that mimics other posts users have liked. This rule could require organizations to reconsider the content they create and whether or not it will appear in their target audience’s feeds. 

In recent months, Facebook also announced algorithm changes that affect the posts users see in their news feed. Mark Zuckerberg announced that it would prioritize content posted by friends and family over content posted by brands. Although Zuckerberg stated that it would promote more meaningful interactions, this prioritization of non-branded content minimizes organic reach of branded posts. If brands want to appear in people’s feeds now, paid promotional posts may be necessary.

Twitter has been taking steps to minimize spam and bots on the platform. One way they’re putting this into effect is with restrictions and new rules governing how users post across various accounts and the content they share on one single account.

Rules introduced in February of this year banned users from posting identical or substantially similar content across multiple owned accounts. Similarly, another rule banned users from posting the same or substantially similar messages multiple times on the same account.

Posting and reposting the same messages has always been a discouraged social tactic, but it is possible this new rule could affect communicators’ automated scheduling. It’s ideal to set and forget social posting days or weeks in advance, but posts could fail to publish if the content is deemed too similar.

PESO Considerations 

With these changes to social platforms, as well as shifting ideals about earned media, communicators must consider how this affects their PESO plans.

It is common to have the PESO Model integrated into a yearly or quarterly communications plan, but with the changes outlined above, this plan needs to be revisited to readjust.

Without consideration of, for example, news feed changes on Facebook, communicators would experience a massive dip in their organic reach, as well as a decrease in traffic and converted goals that can be attributed to Facebook.

As with any communications plan, revisiting and revising is key to ensuring success. If one aspect of the PESO Model yields less effective results, it’s important to consider how tweaking and putting more time into another aspect could boost your results.

Keeping up-to-date with the latest trends and updates will allow communicators to consider how these changes impact their PESO plans and to make the necessary updates to ensure continued communications success.

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About The Author


Jordan Gosselin recently began her career in marketing and communication with CARMA. Her experience includes social and digital work, creative content production, and marketing operations.

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