PR Training Thought Leadership

Integrating Owned and Earned Media

earned media

When communicators discuss where to start a PESO Model program, it’s often fraught with how and where to start. Because the acronym begins with P (or paid media), everyone assumes that’s where a communications program grounded in the PESO Model begins. Not so!

There are certainly exceptions to the rule but, in most cases, you want to begin with owned media, which is the cornerstone of your efforts. Without it, you have nothing to share on social media, nothing to amplify with paid and nothing to gain credibility for with earned. When you combine it with earned media, however, it enhances both your expertise and your search engine results.

While each element of the PESO Model can — and oftentimes does — work in silos, the real power is when you integrate them as one. To get started on the foundation of your program, think about how to integrate owned and earned media — and how to get the most out of both. Because, when you combine the two media types, you build authority both online and off. 

To do that, though, you have to think about how to use your content and media contacts to help your website rank on the first page of Google results.

Start off by choosing a keyword. Just one. I’ll use “PR metrics” as an example. When we started talking about metrics communicators can use in their reporting, no one searched on the topic and there wasn’t any competition. But it was important to us that we begin that conversation and show the industry that we can attribute the work we do to real business results.

While there wasn’t any search volume yet, we looked at it as if we were launching a new industry category. When you focus on one keyword at a time, it allows you to put all of your time and energy behind one topic for your owned media. This comes in handy as you start to integrate earned media.

Once you’ve chosen your keyword, brainstorm different topic ideas using that one word or phrase. For instance:

  • What are the PR metrics executives should lean on communicators for?
  • Are vanity PR metrics applicable in communications campaigns?

If you need help thinking this through, this article will help you step-by-step. You can also join me on May 18 and 25 for a PRSA workshop on how to integrate the two… more on that in a bit.

Once you’ve brainstormed all of your ideas, divide your list in half. Which topics do you want to own — or keep on your own website or blog — and which ones are you going to use for contributed content — or use in your earned media efforts? 

There are many benefits to dividing it up this way, but the biggest is so you can earn a valuable link to your keyword-focused content on the website from a high domain authority site, such as a newspaper or magazine. This is one of the factors that Google uses in determining your search results and if a newspaper or magazine says you’re an expert on any given topic — which is indicated by the link to your site — then Google gives you a gold star. Just like in school, gold stars are good!

To see how well this works in real life, Google “PR metrics.” You’ll see Spin Sucks is on the first page of results — and that we’ve encouraged others to write about it. It’s a discussion we have almost daily in the Spin Sucks Community. It’s not going away and we’d like to be part of the important conversation. 

It can be pretty easy to imagine keeping all of your hard work to yourself and not pitching contributed content at all. But that will end up hurting you in the long run. You need to do both — have content on your website and provide contributed content to your targeted media outlets and blogs. You also need to understand how to use your journalist and blogger relationships to earn a link from their site to your own.  

During PRSA’s How to Maximize Owned and Earned Media to Garner (Real) Results in May, I will teach you exactly how to do this — and how to build your foundation to add in shared and paid media so you have a fully functioning PESO Model program that delivers results your executives or clients care about.


Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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Gini Dietrich

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