Last month, my husband and I bounced around four national parks. I was struck by the National Park Service’s (NPS) communication efforts and was curious to learn more about its 100th anniversary campaign.
Whether purposefully executed or not, it became evident the NPS successfully implemented the PESO model.
Let’s take a look.
What is the PESO Model?
For those unfamiliar, the PESO model is an integrated communications model developed by Gini Dietrich. Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned tactics are implemented in an integrated manner to amplify a message and reach different audiences.
Here is a helpful visual developed by Spin Sucks.
The PESO Model in Action
The NPS is notoriously underfunded. Therefore, the main business goals of the centennial Find Your Park Campaign were to increase the number and diversity of visitors, and thereby increase donations. The Millennial generation was the main target audience.
The NPS and National Park Foundation used a well-executed integrated communications campaign to achieve its objectives.
PESO Model: Paid Media
Paid media is what you pay for (surprise!). Examples include online ads, print ads, sponsorships, billboards, etc.
NPS clarifies that the National Park Foundation (NPF) underwrote initial costs and recruited corporate sponsors to fund paid media efforts. No taxpayer dollars were used to fund the awareness campaign.
With the help of Grey, a NY based advertising agency, print ads, billboards and videos highlighted the approachability of the parks.
Brand ambassadors gave the Find Your Park campaign legs and infused owned and shared media tactics.
Bill Nye, a recognizable face among Millennials, was featured in videos, a Facebook Live event and media partnerships. Some other ambassadors included former First Lady Michelle Obama, Bella Thorne, Roselyn Sánchez, Terrence J and Mary Lambert.
PESO Model: Earned Media
Earned media simply defined is publicity.
Co-branding partnerships fall between earned and shared media tactics. Corporate partners, such as American Express, Humana, REI and Subaru supported the Find Your Park campaign with co-branded marketing.
Being a Subaru owner and REI member myself, they clearly partnered with the right corporate sponsors to reach their target audience.
PESO Model: Shared Media
Shared media involves the use of social channels to engage directly with a specific audience group.
In attempt to connect with Millennials, the centennial campaign encouraged park visitors to share their national park stories using #FindYourPark.
NPS, NPF, brand ambassadors and corporate sponsors regularly used and promoted the hashtag.
A YouTube channel was established to house ambassador videos.
PESO Model: Owned Media
The media you control, such as website or blog, falls in the owned media category. The NPS used owned media to reach audience groups with different media preferences.
A dedicated Find Your Park website was established to help people find nearby parks and provided resources to plan their trip. A printed newspaper found in park offices and online features 100th anniversary events, in addition to park information.
The Future of the Find Your Park Campaign
The Find Your Park Campaign offers a complete example of how the PESO model can be used to strategically implement an integrated communications campaign.
Unfortunately I don’t have access to its analytics, but from a zoomed out perspective it appears the campaign was successful.
The National Park Service reported 331 million visits in 2016 – up 7.7 percent from 2015. Mike Reynolds, acting director of the National Park Service said he believes the campaign “reached new audiences.”
Now with proposed legislation threatening to cut funding to “America’s Best Idea,” the NPS will to have to ramp up its efforts, and advocates will have to respond in full force. Advocates are already taking a stand with rogue social media accounts.
As the campaign reminds us- there is a park for everyone. From the Redwood Forest, to the watery Everglades, “this land was made for you and me.”
If you feel so inclined, give the national parks some love. Our support will help them stick around.