Carrie YoungCarrie Young

Admit it: if you’re a healthcare communicator, you know that media planning has never been more confounding. Blame it on social media. Everyone is everywhere, all of the time. And everything is interconnected.

Social media’s quicksilver qualities make the venerable PESO model—thank you, Gini Dietrich—feel static and siloed, just when we need to be fluid. That means being everywhere our stakeholders are and creating consistent customer experience on every platform and channel.

Don’t toss the PESO model just yet, though. In fact, it’s our thinking that needs stretching.

O'Dwyer's Oct. '19 Healthcare & Medical PR PR Magazine
This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Oct. '19 Healthcare & Medical PR Magazine.

Enlightened communicators understand that each channel in the model—paid, earned, shared and owned—has multiple merits and cross-over effects. And each channel can be a hybrid. Think: paid influencers or search engine marketing.

The media streams are all interconnected from our stakeholders’ points of view. And our campaigns and messages should be too.

Take social media. Once simply shared media, social media now includes branded YouTube videos, online-only news media and paid ads, effectively placing it into every section of the PESO model. Creating only a shared-media strategy is impossible. Healthcare communicators must apply a multichannel approach—or miss connecting fully with their audiences.

But let’s back up. Why is this happening? What landscape changes are creating the need for a multichannel approach?

An evolving landscape

When we think of the media, outlets like CNN, Fox News, Modern Healthcare and the New York Times often come to mind. With the digital influx, though, new outlets are popping up and gaining audiences every day.

This trend is shaking up the communication landscape. First, increased competition has driven the need for new revenue streams. We’re seeing media companies lean more heavily into sponsored content, especially as ad blockers become mainstream.

Second, more digital-first outlets mean more opportunities for fake news. Most Americans—86 percent—feel online news websites have reported fake news in the U.S. In response, the days of a single source of news authority are gone. Instead, we’re seeking out multiple experts, platforms and outlets to try to discern fact from fiction.

Digital domination has impacted every quadrant of the PESO model.

Paid: Now that digital is king, paid media is no longer synonymous with print, TV and radio ads. According to eMarketer, digital media buys this year will officially surpass traditional media ad spending.

At the same time, paid search spending accounts for 39 percent of advertisers’ total budgets. The digital revolution of paid media will likely continue in the form of voice search. By 2020, it’s predicted that 50 percent of all online searches will be voice searches, and by 2025, voice is expected to be a $40 billion channel.

Earned: More media outlets, more posts, more chances for your earned content to be missed. As the landscape shifts, earned media should also be amplified through paid social and shared on owned channels to build brand loyalty that leads to advocacy.

Shared: This is the most obvious shift in communication. Social media is where the consumers are and where all brands want to be. With so many users and brands vying for attention, employing a purely organic social strategy means you’re not guaranteed access to your audience. It’s free to sign up but not free to play.

Owned: As digital dominates, organizations need to create relevant content and experiences designed to change based on real-time behavioral analytics. Owned properties like blogs, apps, landing pages, podcasts and video can’t simply be intuitive, they must be built and designed to deliver a personal experience for every stakeholder.

The multichannel approach

To resonate with their audiences, healthcare organizations need to develop content and engage in conversations that provide shared value, and that isn’t happening via a single tactic anymore. Instead, a multichannel approach that considers how paid, earned, shared and owned channels all work hand-in-hand is the key to success.

There’s no perfect multichannel marketing strategy template, but there are some best practices and tips:

Put your audience at the center of your strategy. Regardless of the tactic, good strategy keeps key stakeholders top of mind with every communication. Clearly define your audience before you’re able to figure out what “right channel, right time” means for them.

Remember, digital has changed the content game. When creating content, think digital, or more specifically, mobile-first. Invest in short-form video and light motion graphics as part of your content strategy.

Prioritize paid. Creating owned content? Pay to amplify it. Posting an earned media piece? Put dollars behind it. Search engine marketing and paid social media should be two of your top priorities.

Test and optimize. Today’s media changes daily and the beauty of digital is you can test, learn and adjust in real time.

A multichannel marketing approach takes resources, both human and financial. Healthcare communicators have to navigate through their organization’s silos in order to merge and align marketing, communications, brand, HR and even IT, all with the goal of delivering timely, relevant, audience-appropriate content.


Carrie Young is a Vice President in Padilla’s Health Practice.