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Optimized. Aligned. Synchronized. Effective. Those are the words that come to mind when I think about integrated communications. While the title of this article references the future, at Franco we fundamentally believe integrated communications isn’t just the future – it’s the present. It’s now.

The definition of public relations and what it means to be a PR practitioner has morphed over the past decade. Creating and implementing an earned media/PR strategy is no longer effective if those efforts live in a silo – or if you are solely relying on third party outlets to help you achieve your business goals.

A big part of this factor is the changing media landscape. According to a UNC School of Media & Journalism Study, 20% of all metro and community newspapers in the U.S. have gone out of business or merged since 2004.

Is media relations still important? 100% yes. Should you put all your eggs into the media relations basket? 100% no.

Enter: integrated communications.

What is integrated communications?

Before we dig deeper, let’s define integrated communications. To put it simply, integrated communications is aligning your messaging across all channels. While the specific tactics and delivery can (and likely will) look a bit different, the message is consistent. And that consistent messaging must ladder up to business goals.

Along with consistent messaging, there are several other reasons why you need an integrated communications program, including creating a seamless user experience and building brand authority.

Imagine you’re the communications director for a company that has separate teams for PR/communications (your team), marketing, social media and digital advertising. While there’s a lot of crossover between the work these teams are doing, there’s no real alignment.

When the advertising team plans a campaign, they may come to the communications team for messaging support, but not always. When the digital advertising team is ready to launch a new paid campaign, they may come to marketing to see if that team is running similar campaigns on other channels, but not every time.

Does this sound like an effective process?

With so much crossover between PR, marketing, social media and digital today, you may think it’s crazy that teams can continue to operate independently. But while we’ve made a lot of progress on the integration of these teams and their respective work, the siloed approach still exists.

In a recent survey by Intrado Digital Media and PRWeek, more than half of respondents said their brand’s marketing and PR departments still operate independently from one another, at least organizationally.

We can, and must, do better. The way to do better is by embracing integrated communications.

Integrated communications = the PESO model

The best graphic representation of integrated communications is the PESO model, founded by Gini Dietrich and her team at Spin Sucks. PESO stands for paid, earned, shared and owned. You can see from the graphic how the tactics in each bucket are unique, yet they’re all related. That sweet spot in the middle when paid, earned, shared and owned are working together beautifully is where integrated communications lives. It’s what breeds reputation, credibility, trust, thought leadership and authority.

I recently earned my PESO Model Certification through Spin Sucks and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. It was intense (I had homework…and a lot of it!), but I learned a ton. The certification material also validated the work we’ve been doing at Franco for several years, and it gave me some new ideas to strengthen our recommendations and approach to integrated communications.

It’s hard to drill down and choose my top takeaways, but if I had to choose one, it would be this (and if you remember only one thing from this post, etch this into your brain): Start with owned media.

Just because the acronym starts with “p” for paid doesn’t mean paid is the most important piece of the puzzle. It’s owned.

Why is owned media so important? Owned media is your own content. This includes your blog, email and e-newsletters, videos, webinars, podcasts, etc. Content is the crux of the PESO model because it fuels what lives under the P, E and S buckets.

It begs repeating: Start with owned when building an integrated communications strategy.

How to get started with integrated communications

With the end of the year looming ahead, now is the perfect time to commit to an integrated communications program in 2021…and hopefully forever! But I have to tell you, this approach requires a lot of work and commitment from leadership – from the heads of each department that oversee paid, earned, shared and owned all the way to executives.

And if you rely on an agency to support any (or all) PESO elements, make sure they truly embrace, understand and employ an integrated communications model.

Let’s recap. What’s the importance of integrated communications? When PR, marketing, social media and digital (the list can go on to include event planning, internal communications, etc.) teams work in harmonious unison, that’s when the true magic happens. And by “magic,” I mean real results that help your business grow and succeed.

This post originally appeared on

Nikki Little is Franco’s VP of strategy. Connect with her on LinkedIn.