How to use paid media as part of an integrated PESO campaign

How to use paid media as part of an integrated PESO campaign

Paid media is an important element of the integrated paid, earned, shared and owned (PESO) model but it’s the least understood.

Internet-driven forms of digital media have led to the use of an integrated media model. This includes paid, earned, shared and owned (PESO) media.

In a previous article I explored the use of the PESO model in modern marketing and public relations campaigns. Gini Dietrich first described the relationship between different forms of media as four overlapping circles in 2014 in her book Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age. Its simplicity is compelling.

Paid media combined with other forms of media optimises targeting, amplification and scale. Execution takes many forms. It reflects the innovation in digital media over the last 20 years driven by Facebook and Google. Platform selection should be undertaken on the basis of the target audience and objectives of the campaign. The good news for practitioners is that each of the digital platforms provide self-service planning and management tools to help plan and manage campaigns.

Facebook Ad Planner

The Facebook Ad Planner is also used for campaigns on Instagram. Select Instagram in the ad placement options

Google Keyword Planner

LinkedIn Campaign Manager

Pinterest Promoted Pins

Snap Ad Manager

Twitter Ads

Google Reach Planner

Table: Planning tools for technology platforms

Audience identification for a campaign is based on demographics and behaviours. The output of a campaign is predicted based on investment. It’s as close to assuring the outcome of a marketing or public relations campaign in terms of achieving eyeballs as is possible, although how your content will resonate is a different story.

The strategic use of paid media and real time campaign management is a discipline called performance marketing. Here the results of a campaign are tracked in real time. Changes are made either automatically or manually to refine targeting or ad creative.

Public relations has an uneasy relationship with paid media because it has traditionally been an earned discipline. In the same way marketing has avoided the use of earned media. Both approaches fail to optimise the potential of a campaign. PESO campaigns which integrate different forms of media make budgets work harder and maximise return on investment.

Paid media execution on digital platforms uses an auction model. Brands bid against peers targeting the same behaviour, demographic or keywords. A bidding strategy is critical to balancing a cost-effective price with ensuring that ads are served. If a brand bids too much it will over pay for a campaign. If it bids too little its content won’t be served.

Timing and seasonality are also a factor that needs to be considered as part of a paid campaign. Competition and pricing are strongest at a peak time in any calendar or market. For example, there’s high competition for holiday ads in December and house searches peak in Spring.

Planning a paid campaign

If you’re planning paid activity as part of a PESO campaign here’s what you need to consider.


Why are you using paid activity as part of a campaign? Do you want to amplify your PESO content, or increase its reach?


Who are you trying to reach as part of your paid activity? Pick your platform and ad or sponsored content solution accordingly.

Earned and social leads PESO
Follow your audience and use your earned activity to inform your paid approach. Consider using lookalike profiles.

Paid ad or promoted content format

Design for mobile and follow the best practice guidelines for the platform that you’ve selected.


Online ad campaigns are based on an auction model. Timing and investment are key factors in determining the budget for a campaign.

Who do want to reach?

Time spent profiling your audience is time well spent. Social media platforms allow huge granularity in behaviour and demographics.

Test and learn

Make your campaigns work hard by evaluating the results daily and optimising your targeting, creative and copy. This is the basis of performance marketing.


Measure and benchmark the results of your campaign based on your goal. Cost per outcome is a popular metric for paid activity.

Table: Workflow for planning a PESO campaign

Paying to play

In the next section we’ll look at different forms of paid media execution. These are set out below:

Paid media


Native advertising

Content published alongside earned media

Content syndication

Content distributed alongside earned media


Content co-created with an individual with a relevant social media profile


Keywords ads

Social media

Ads or promoted PESO content

Table: Different forms of paid media execution as part of a PESO campaign

Native advertising or sponsored content

Public relations practitioners have always worked with paid forms of media even if they didn’t recognise it as such. Native advertising and sponsored content are a form of media that publishers have relied on as a revenue stream. It’s a commonplace media format in business-to-business and regional media.

Native advertising is so-called because content has the look and feel of earned editorial albeit with a subtle disclosure. It's often used for special editions produced for a conference or event. Content is written by journalists and signed off by the advertiser or supplied as a piece of owned content.

Native advertising is favoured by advertisers because they have control over the content and its offers guaranteed placement. Media organisations enjoy an additional income stream. The critical governance issue for marketing and public relations practitioners is that content is disclosed as advertising and that readers understand it has been bought.

The native model has been applied writ large across modern digital media. Unlike print there’s no limit on word or page count and publishers are even keener to generate revenue. The lines have become increasingly blurred as influencers are added to the mix. Disclosure isn’t always clear and remains a work in progress under the scrutiny of advertising and marketing watchdogs.

Content syndication for owned media

Content syndication is a business model that has emerged as a hybrid of editorial and advertising business models. It’s a source of advertising income for publishers in which links to third-party content are promoted alongside editorial content. Outbrain is the market leader in content syndication. It pays publishers to use its related items widget in apps or websites. The widget displays links at the end of articles under headings such as “You May Also Like..." or ‘We Recommend’. The links are served from Outbrain inventory and paid for by advertisers.

Content syndication using networks such as Outbrain provide the means of aligning a brand with a mainstream publisher and piggybacking its reputation and traffic. It is frequently used in consumer categories where knowledge or service is deemed to be a premium such as dating, personal finance, health and travel.

Paying to play influencers

Influencers are another area of PESO execution receiving close attention because of the blurring of paid and earned media. Influencers are typically individuals that have built a significant social media following by creating and sharing content around their niche. They have emerged in almost every market on every form of social media from Snap to Twitter and from Facebook to YouTube. Many influencers work across multiple platforms and as a result have a profile and reach rivalling traditional publishers.

Influencers have recognised the opportunity to monetise their social media profile and following. I explored the challenge of working with paid influencers in a previous article on my blog. There are no benchmarks. Investment and return need to be considered on a campaign by campaign basis.

Paid search to shortcut search rankings

Investment in paid media provides a short cut to the top of search results when people are looking for your product or service. If search is an important part of your customer journey and you’re launching a product or search into a competitive market, an earned approach will take too long to deliver results. You’ll need to buy keywords until such time that you build an organic search profile.

Paid media search is an important tactic in issues and crisis work where there’s a need to quickly rank at the top of search for related keywords. It’s also used in political campaigning although the price of keywords can quickly be inflated as rival campaigns outbid each other. Google provides a planning tool to help understand search behaviour. This should be your start point for both an organic and paid campaign. It provides information on search volumes, related search terms and cost.

Paid promotion on social networks

The advent of technology platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube provided the means for organisations to build their own branded communities or groups. It was initially a low cost and highly engaging form of media by which brands could share owned content and build a relationship with prospects and customers throughout the marketing funnel or lifecycle of a relationship. The platforms were quick to spot the opportunity to participate in the value exchange between brands and their customers. They implemented newsfeed algorithms so that content posted by a brand was only served to a small percentage of its community.

Paid promotion shortcuts the newsfeed algorithm. It enables brands to ensure that content posted in a community or group is served in the newsfeed to followers. Ads are also offered on platforms as an alternative option to the paid promotion of content. These are typically focussed on a specific outcome such as increasing followers, driving traffic to a third-party website or collecting third-party data.

Finding and reaching new audiences using paid social media

The sheer scale and availability of user data on technology platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn make them a cost-effective paid form of media if you’ve a good understanding of your audience. Each platform provides an ad planning toolkit that will give insights into audiences by demographic, location and behaviour, alongside the cost of a campaign and the likely results.

In audience segments where a profile is well-defined, targeting owned content or ads to new audiences can be highly effective. Re-marketing ads at users who have visited a website using a retargeting pixel can also be highly effective as part of a customer journey. However, there’s a thin line between ad targeting and stalking. We’ve all got a story of how an advert has seemingly followed us around the web or how an ad has serendipitously appeared in our newsfeed. That’s just not good practice.

Audience behaviour and demographics are the typical way to define an audience segment on a social media platform. However, there’s a further means of identifying new audiences based on your relationship with existing ones. A lookalike audience is a way to reach new people who are likely to be interested in your brand or business because they're like your existing customers. It can be a highly cost-effective approach as the audience will be unique to your existing audience profile. There’s also the benefit that the platforms do the audience planning work for you.

Facebook enables you to create a lookalike audience based on members of an existing Facebook Page. Twitter enables you to build a tailored audience based on members of a list. Once you’ve used a platform’s tools to identify new lookalike audiences you can use them as the basis of a campaign.

Paid media is an important area of modern campaign planning. It overcomes the weaknesses of other forms of media and enables content to be promoted, amplified and targeted at new audiences based on a variety of audience personas. Technology platforms provide campaign planning and management tools to help build and run campaigns. These should be your start point for exploring the potential of paid media to support your campaign objectives.

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