To boost your online visibility: the PESO model

, 23 July 2018

There are a lot of ways to achieve media visibility and a common mistake is not to activate all of them as part of a marketing plan. Using the PESO model means you won’t forget any of them. The method is inherited from the world of Press Relations (PR) but it’s amazingly effective for any online marketing professional.

Marketing & PR: the end of the cordon sanitaire

Marketing and PR have long been different departments within the company. The levers used were distinct; indeed, even PR agencies differed from communication agencies. Advertising and content writing were two separate worlds, two different levers, separated by a sort of cordon sanitaire.

Then came the generalization of content marketing on one side, and native advertising on the other. The boundaries between marketing and PR then faded. Today, any relevant marketing strategy must take into account these new realities:

  • Businesses and advertisers are now able to publish content and promote it directly on social networks, in an organic or paid way, becoming almost a fully-fledged media themselves.
  • Online media sell visibility in their editorial content, in the form of advertorials or more frequently sponsored articles.
  • A third form of content has emerged, that created or relayed by Internet users, without the companies knowing very well whom to assign the strategy to in order to boost visibility (PR or marketing).

Formerly working in silos, PR and marketing departments are now called upon to work closely together to optimize media visibility. (Photo source: Rawpixel, Unsplash)

In 2014, the digital marketing expert Gini Dietrich published a book called Spin Sucks in which he proposed the “PESO”. The model was quickly welcomed by PR professionals and adopted massively, while marketing departments were slower to adopt, despite its relevance.

What is the PESO model?

The initials PESO correspond to the adjectives Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned. It makes it possible to segment the online visibility necessary for the success of a marketing campaign, and to plan actions to guarantee or optimize each of them. It’s more comprehensive than the POEM model that we already talked about.

Let’s elaborate on each of the visibilities and come back (at last!) to the heart of the subject:

1- Paid. Paid visibility, mainly on social networks. Boosted Facebook posts, sponsored tweets, or lead generation campaigns typically fall into this segment.

2- Shared. Shared visibility, when your own audience amplifies the reach of your content, via the usual social networks.

3- Owned. Your own content, distributed for example via your blog or organically on social networks. It can be written using your own resources, or consist of guest posts.

4- Earned. Free visibility from independent media, thanks to your PR efforts.

The model is brilliantly summarized by this graph from Dietrich’s book (the author, not the dishwashers). Credit: Gini Dietrich, Spin Sucks

As you can see from this graph, there are visibilities at the intersections, proof that this segmentation is fluid, flexible, and scalable. Thus, we find the all-powerful native advertising between the Paid and the Owned. For example, sponsored articles are typical of media produced by the company (Owned) and posted, for a fee, on external media (Paid). Partnerships between two brands, such as co-marketing, are naturally found between Earned and Shared.

Strengths and weaknesses of each segment

Each segment has its strengths and its weaknesses. You must activate them whiles being fully aware of them. Here is a summary:


  • Guaranteed visibility, scalable (the more you pay the more your content is visible).
  • But … there’s a cost, by definition. Once you cut the spending, the visibility disappears immediately! In addition, Internet users know that the content is sponsored and may tend to be suspicious of its credibility.


  • A guarantee of credibility, because it’s an external authority that provides the media visibility here. The advantages are long term, including for SEO.
  • However, there’s a lot of uncertainty: you can never predict or guarantee that you’ll obtain visibility, as it is in the hands of an outside entity. Whats more, the strategy requires heavy investment in PR.


  • Total confidence! Internet users have the most confidence in recommendations coming from their entourage. In addition, this visibility is free.
  • Again, a lot of uncertainty, the virality of your content being literally impossible to predict in advance. And you also need to have an audience already.


  • You set the rules if you post your content on your own platform. It is a long-term investment, an effort whose fruits will grow in a progressive way.
  • Like any long-term strategy, it takes time to bear fruit. In addition, it’s increasingly dependent on investment. The content can’t be distributed if you don’t promote it, at least a little… Which brings us back to Paid.

The PESO model allows you to assemble your marketing strategy without forgetting any piece of the puzzle. (Photo credit: RawPixel, Pexels)

No segment is perfect or free of any weakness. In concrete terms, this means that a marketing strategy must include actions in all those segments, in order to limit risks, guarantee short-term results, and invest in the long term.

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