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April 6, 2022 // Julia Palomino + Sarah Natoli // Opinion  //       //  Opinion

PESO, PESO, PESO: Looking Beyond Earned to Elevate Health Tech

Our health tech clients come to us for help attracting media attention some seek publicity related to funding, others want to break into new markets and still others try to drive sales but all have their eyes on earned, as they should 

The rub is that in today’s oceans of content, it’s become harder to be heard. Journalists feel the squeeze too, as they are stretched to cover more beats, asked to create content for more channels and receive more pitches than they can respond to. Some editors even swoop in at the 11th hour and update articles with clickbait headlines to boost page views (yes, this has actually happened to our clients, and it’s maddening!).  

This new normal is especially challenging for health tech companies. They’re in a highly regulated industry and compete for airtime with COVID-19, on top of navigating a “gold rush” environment where VCs deploy investment dollars faster than ever and health tech startups are often (unfairly) viewed as a dime a dozen.   

So, what do we do to help them? Yes, we work hard to get them earned. But on top of that, we leverage the tools that work together with earned to help these brands break through (i.e., the “P,” “S,” and “O” in PESO).  

Health tech needs earned. But not by itself. 

Earned media has tremendous value in terms of establishing credibility and enhancing a company’s visibility, but recently our clients have seen great success with audience-first, omnichannel content strategies. That means putting as much thought into where they communicate as who they communicate with. This approach is especially valuable given the industry’s numerous stakeholders and their diverse interests (a PCP, for example, isn’t focused on the same issues as a specialist, and a consumer has clearly different priorities than a payer).  

Today key audiences — including HCPs — are just as likely to browse Twitter (or even TikTok) as read the The Wall Street Journal or health tech trades. In this digital age, social media has created infinite platforms for individuals and brands alike.  

We hate to see health tech companies confine themselves to earned media because we never want our client to miss out on any storytelling opportunities. Depending on company goals, pulling the other levers in the PESO model can absolutely deliver additional bang for the buck. 

So what’s the strategic mix of “P,” “E,” “S” and “O” that best serves these businesses? 

The following three scenarios are the most common among our health tech clients, and we’re sharing our recommendations for each to help all the other promising companies in the space we haven’t (yet!) had the chance to partner with.   

Emerging brands looking to build awareness   

For brand new health tech brands, communication goals focus on building awareness and introducing the company to the market. In the early days, target customers, future investors and media reporters may not know a startup exists, let alone the value it provides. One of our past clients used first-of-its-kind automation to address an issue at a key point in the in vitro fertilization (IVF) journey —but when we started working with them, customers had no awareness of the problem, let alone this company and its solution.  

Companies in this situation need to prioritize building a repository of high-quality owned content. A library of search engine optimization-friendly posts and resources raises awareness and validates a nascent brand and its solutions. When reporters search for a company they’re considering profiling, it’s critical the return results convince them to dig further. That’s the ultimate motivator for sharing their platform with a company’s spokespeople; in other words, this is how companies in this situation elevate their executives and become true thought leaders — not to mention demonstrate their value to VCs. One final note here; a smattering of paid plays and partnerships can enhance owned content and accelerate the path to securing earned.  

Growing companies tasked with driving sales and boosting revenue 

For later stage health techs feeling pressure to increase revenue, generating leads and boosting sales is the primary focus. If there was ever a use case for the “P” in PESO, this is it! We’ve watched some clients strike out over and over with earned but reap real dividends with paid plays. Whether it’s a paid social campaign, a banner ad in a publication read by HCPs or a health tech conference sponsorship (yes, events count as content too — read all about that in our recent blog on SXSW!), paid media, along with owned content like blogs and newsletters, gets the word out and allows these companies to target specialized audiences with highly personalized content.   

That doesn’t mean these brands shouldn’t chase earned. Quite the contrary, one of our medtech clients that had all but given up on top-tier earned recently landed an interview for one of its executives with a key healthcare publication — but only after months of contracting with key opinion leaders in their space and amplifying that KOL content through paid campaigns. Never say never when it comes to earned — we certainly don’t. (But we do continue to chant PESO, PESO, PESO!) 

Companies breaking into new markets 

Last but not least, some health tech clients come to us seeking national earned media coverage when their products or services are still only available in select markets. Our first piece of counsel is to step back and reevaluate the media strategy to ensure regional markets are not overlooked. In some cases, we want to wait to place pieces with national outlets, because we’re walking a fine line when we generate demand for services not yet available in all markets.   

Our strategic counsel is  straight forward for these clients — layer in local. We help our clients make an impact in the areas where their product or service is available. We want to generate buzz right before they launch in a new market. To do this, we need to pull all the levers of the PESO model. That means finding patients, partners and other key spokespeople to vouch for the product or service in these new markets. If that’s not enough to break into the local news cycle, and sometimes it isn’t with products, we might advise them to execute a media buy with a regional news outlet. We also tell these clients to write blogs and LinkedIn articles and promote them with paid social, which allows for geotargeting and campaign personalization. We ask if they have newsletters or email marketing campaigns, and we encourage them to deploy those owned assets as well.  

Consider PESO as part of the path forward  

It comes down to this. The lines between paid, owned, shared and earned are blurred like never before. Whether a company sits in health tech or another industry, taking strategic advantage of all these content types, and adding complements to earned, can mean the difference between your company surviving versus thriving when it comes to communications and storytelling.  

Julia comes to Allison+Partners from University of Kentucky HealthCare, where she led integrated communication campaigns for corporate and community members for multiple patient care and research entities. Career accomplishments include developing communications campaigns for Fortune 500 corporate leadership about hospital initiatives and coordinating with hospital leadership to establish engaging communication about provider and patient needs during COVID-19. She is passionate about healthcare research and access and is experienced in writing, content development, strategic planning and community engagement. 

Sarah is a seasoned content and communications strategist with deep experience in the healthcare industry. At Allison+Partners, she serves as the Health Practice’s “Storyteller-in-Chief,” counseling clients on the most effective narratives and messages for their businesses, as well as advising on the appropriate channels to leverage for maximum impact. Prior to joining the agency, Sarah worked at Revive, a Nashville-based healthcare agency that sits within the Weber/IPG ecosystem. Her clients there included the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, several large hospitals and health systems, and in the health tech space, Lumeris and Omnicell. Sarah also ran Revive’s “Uncovered” sub-brand, a thought leadership platform that examines payer trends. Prior to joining the agency world, she worked as an in-house content marketer primarily in health tech. 


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