Traditional PR vs. Digital PR: What is the Difference!?

In the world of digital marketing, there are a lot of crossovers.

Public relations was once largely in its domain. Its impact and influence affect everything from social media to search engine optimization. 

So now the question becomes: is traditional PR a thing of the past? 

Let’s look at what many deem traditional PR and see how it differs from what many now call digital PR.

With traditional PR, publicists develop relationships with and pitch story ideas to journalists to secure coverage for their clients in print, digital and broadcast media. 

With increasing online marketing, web-based media placements can be incredibly influential to both social media and SEO tactics. 

What is Traditional PR?

The focus of many “traditional’ PR activities involves the production of content, specifically press releases and pitch angles for media.

Publicists may organize press events and conferences and pitch their clients for thought leadership opportunities in IRL events. 

Traditional PR firms deliver information to various audiences, but the work is often siloed. 

The focus or key message of the client or company is covered in a press release or PR campaign, but its impact on the client’s other marketing channels is often not considered. Typically, the pitch of a Traditional PR agency involves selling the written press release over a phone call or via email.

Sadly though, there is not much opportunity for involvement with the target audience with this kind of PR material. It isn't easy to know who a particular release reached and whether it has positively affected sales. In other words, the impact of this kind of material is quite difficult to gauge. Yes, a press release may have been published in the desired print media, but the number of people who have actually read it is immeasurable. This also does not account for whether the masses have acted upon what they have just read.

And this is an all-too-common pain point for publicists and their clients: the immeasurable value of PR. 

What is Digital PR?

Contrary to more traditional PR activities, the focus of digital PR practitioners is found at the intersection of coverage and analytics. Much of the work focuses on online authority, backlinks, and relevant website traffic. This means digital PR practitioners have a concrete understanding of technical SEO and how backlinks from authoritative sites can increase their client’s rankings and bring more qualified buyers to a client’s website. 

This expertise is most effective when used to develop content and influential mediums and personalities within an industry. This not only helps promote awareness of the brand but also helps in increasing online visibility. For example, when planning to create an infographic, Digital PR agencies can look at social data and research. This then informs the content that is included on said graphic and the format in which it should be presented. 

This research and work can be done through Google's keyword-planning tools and platforms. Ubersuggest is another tool PR practitioners can use to find the appropriate trends and topics discussed at great volume. 

In connection to digital PR, social media plays a vital role in content creation. Social data lets digital PR practitioners further understand the interests and demographics of their target customers, again presenting information about the content being produced. Social media is also an incredible amplification tool for PR placements.  

How to Choose Between the Two 

Choosing between traditional and Digital PR can be challenging. While the latter is more effective regarding measurement and ROI, practitioners should not totally neglect traditional PR practices. 

Deciding on the strategy to use still depends on the promotional needs and preferences of the client. This means considering the best strategy for B2B marketing versus a B2C campaign. Determinations can also be industry-specific. For example, a solar marketing campaign might require a different approach than marketing for a credit union

In short, branding and PR firms must adapt to deliver the results their clients seek. 

It isn't easy to gauge the activity of traditional PR when compared to the activity done by a digital PR firm. They significantly have a better understanding of online space and it's continually changing rules and algorithms. 

Lastly, Digital PR is led by data, meaning it is targeted and informed and eventually more efficient in reaching important audiences and increasing a brand's visibility. 

Digital PR is not a method an agency can add to traditional tactics. It is now essential to the success of every PR campaign.