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The Two Faces of PR: Traditional vs. Digital

Fifteen years ago we had never heard of digital PR.

How the landscape has changed. In the intervening years, digital PR has introduced a huge transformation to the PR industry via a raft of new trends and methods of working. These developments have been responsible for totally changing companies’ marketing strategies and plans.

Today’s PR market is characterised by evolution taking place at breakneck speed. SEO and social media are now a standard inclusion in every effective PR toolkit. PR professionals fully accept that digital channels are an essential component of an impactful PR campaign and their clients now expect their promotions to include comprehensive digital outreach as a matter of course.


Digital PR vs. Traditional PR

Digital PR is concerned with combining traditional PR with content marketing, social media and search. It transforms company/brand news into conversations to speak directly to the target audience online, getting their immediate feedback and increasing engagement. It focuses on online visibility, which means working with Google and other search engines to ensure that a client’s website ranks highly in online searches. It involves generating high quality links to a client’s website from each piece of digital content, as well as optimising the website’s functionality itself.

Traditional PR’s focus is offline visibility involving the production of press releases to send to the media, the organisation of press conferences and the staging of events. It conveys information to a wide audience with the communication very much one-way and feedback limited. Traditional PR has benefitted from the advances in speed of communication since the advent of the Internet, but it relies on non-digital information in the form of text and image attachments. It also involves a greater degree of interaction with the media through one-to-one, personal communication through follow ups and pitches.


Key differences

  1. PR agencies have adapted to meet the needs of clients whose target audiences now consume the majority of their information online
  2. It is much harder to measure traditional PR activity than digital PR activity
  3. Digital agencies operate in the space where people consume information and therefore, almost by default, are ‘running away with the prize.’ Importantly they understand this online space and its ever-changing rules
  4. Digital PR is data-led, which means it is informed, targeted and ultimately more effective in reaching key audiences. Consequently, it has more impact in raising a brand’s visibility
  5. Digital PR is not something you can simply add on to a traditional PR strategy. It is now a platform that is fundamental to the success of any PR campaign


We can say it now!

I would like to conclude with the exhortation: ‘we can say it now!’ Digital PR is more than a tool that is an adjunct to traditional PR. It is an essential stand-alone component that can make a campaign or break it if not utilised to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital sphere. In short, digital PR is an essential element in its own right, not just a valued add-on.