Recently, Gov. Dunleavy launched a new weekly newsletter and podcast. The format was what you’d expect, with summaries of the week’s press releases, photos of him at various events, and interviews in which he explains or elaborates on various public policy issues. 

Predictably, it took all of five minutes before criticism of “state propaganda” and “misuse of public dollars” emerged on social media. Politics being what it is these days (read: vicious and awful), this came as no surprise. What did surprise me, however, was how few people failed to acknowledge or perhaps understand the governor’s use of basic tools included in the now industry-standard PESO model. In other words, why all the fuss?

What is the PESO model? 

To answer that question, let’s first describe what is the PESO model

PESO is an acronym for the various media sources a company or organization has access to: Paid, earned, shared, and owned. The concept was developed by Spin Sucks author Gini Dietrich, and is copyrighted. Let’s further define each category. 

Paid media: This is another term for advertising, or media you can purchase. 100% of paid media is controlled by whomever pays for it. In PR, most paid media is made up of boosted social posts, digital ads, sponsored content, and others, not necessarily big, splashy TV ads.

Earned media: This is media you earn, and refers to coverage in the press, like newspapers, TV, radio, and certain blogs. Earned media is 100% uncontrolled, meaning you cannot dictate what is said about you in an article or story. Earned media at its core is traditional journalism. 

Shared media: This category is straightforward. Shared media means organic (unpaid) content on social media channels, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, twitter, etc. 

Owned media: This is media you create and own. Examples include websites, blog posts, podcasts, newsletters, webinars, and more. Here, too, an organization or company can control what information is disseminated. They also literally own it. 

The PESO model is all about balance 

These days, any company, organization, elected official, advocacy group or, really, anyone desiring to communicate well should use each part of the PESO model to reach more people. There are limits, of course; a public official should not communicate entirely using paid advertising, just like an advocacy group wanting to be viewed credibly should not simply publish self-serving blog posts while refusing to interact with the press. The key here is balance, and using the tools in a way that complement each other. 

PESO should incorporate a strategy 

Ideally, a company or organization outlines a communications strategy, then decides how and when to utilize some or all the PESO model. They key is to be strategic about whom you’re trying to reach, and where they get their information. Today, a comprehensive communications approach should take full advantage of the suite of tools spelled out in the PESO model. Failing to do so can create gaps in information and understanding. 

Embrace PESO for best results

In summary, my reaction to the governor’s use of owned media was, well, that makes perfect sense. He and his communications team are utilizing the tools available to them to reach more Alaskans with different points of view. So long as he still talks with reporters a reasonable amount and meets with groups and organizations that don’t always agree with him, that’s fine. There’s no question an elected official’s view on an issue will be presented differently in a newspaper article than on his/her own podcast. The point is for individuals and organizations to disseminate information in a variety of ways. The PESO model tells us how to do that successfully, whether you’re the governor or a small business owner. Learn it, live it.