Digital PR Vs Traditional PR - The relative merits

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Is traditional PR still relevant? This is a question that we, as digital marketers, often get asked by clients and prospects. Unfortunately, there is no straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response to this. If you’re looking for the short answer it is: it depends. In this blog we explore the advantages of digital methods and the position of both types of PR in the marketing mix. Does traditional PR still have a place, or is digital PR simply the evolution of traditional methods?

Spot the difference

So what is the difference between digital and traditional PR?

“It’s all about combining traditional methods with content marketing, social media and search mechanics. It is about making the effort to transform static news into conversations and bypassing media to speak to your target audience directly”.

- Carrie Morgan, Senior Digital PR Consultant

Cut out the middle man

‘It’s not what you know, it’s who’. That old adage used to be applicable if you wanted to share your insights with the world. To a certain extent this is still the case, especially in terms of extending your network of social advocates and site referrals, but in terms of getting content out there the position has changed with digital PR. The internet provides a vehicle for any brand, anywhere to share their thoughts. Having said this, traditional media outlets and publications may have access to an extended readership, so a two-pronged approach will almost certainly reach different audiences.

One way vs. Two way street

Traditional PR, in particular press releases, is often a one way conversation. Imagine standing on a soap-box in Covent Garden on a megaphone shouting ‘look at this great thing we did, aren’t we great’. The digital method is more like presenting something to an individual and asking ‘what do you think of this’. Both convey information, but in very different ways. Online content allows you to discuss the piece in a number of different ways, i.e. by commenting on the piece or starting a conversation on social media. Allowing you to enter into dialogue with others and share their thoughts. It also allows you to gauge the sentiment of a product offering, so digital teasers may be used prior to a formal launch and press conference. 

Think global, act social

Sending out messages on social platforms about your brands vision, values and offering in itself is a form of digital PR. This distribution channel(s) has been an absolute game-changer in terms of engagement and virality of your content. Capitalising on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. is vitally important when trying you get the word out there. Additionally, social media is increasingly being used to help enhance people’s perception of a company, including dealing with customer satisfaction issues. For guidance on social media governance, check out our blog which showcasing Greggs excellent Twitter responses to brand backlash this summer.

The Variety Show

Before the invention of the internet there were a limited number of means to impart a company’s message. This usually relied upon knowing journalists, or having contacts in advertising, so that they could tell your story for you, in text form. The (literal) beauty of content marketing online is that you can display the information in a wide spectrum of mediums.

From email newsletters to portfolio sties, whitepapers to webinars, infographics to podcasts, there are few limitations to connecting with your target audiences. The level of choice may appear initially overwhelming, therefore having a clear vision and understanding of what has worked previously or for your industry when you’re planning your content deliverables is strongly advised. If you don’t have the creative resources in house to craft this, consider outsourcing this activity so that you can focus on the strategic and promotional elements.  

Video killed the radio star

We are living in the YouTube generation. Successful PR stunts and marketing campaigns often hinge on having a snappy story told through the visual media of video. There must’ve been high fives all-round the office when 3 mobile came up with the #DancePonyDance campaign featuring a video of a moon-walking Shetland pony and Fleetwood Mac:

Hailed as one of the most successful campaigns of 2013, the video is still clocking up impressive views, comments and shares on social media. This type of irreverence simply wouldn’t fly via traditional static press.

Engagement is awesome, but it is not going to happen automatically. The tricky issue with digital content is that the internet is full of ‘noise’. How do you separate out your piece and get noticed when a myriad of others just like you are fighting for the same space? Great content is a combination of creative and technical. Crafting unique content requires a consideration for SEO. Knowledge of search keywords and the use of link bait will help ensure that your content is found. Increasing the number of links to it from other sites and social media will extend this reach further as search engines will see the piece as authoritative.

Furthermore, traditional PR calls to action are passive. They require going to your device and typing in the URL. Digital content has the links embedded in the piece itself allowing you to answer any questions and gain further context and knowledge in an active environment.



Image Source: BBC America 

Traditional PR is stereotyped with connotations of Eddy and Patsy rolling out of The Dorchester after schmoozing their contacts for placements. There remains a call for this for some major placements, however building up a network of editors is now more likely to be via email or Skype than in person. This is not only due to the fact that these digital communication channels exist, but they allow brands to extend their reach beyond their locality. Content that you have written can be immediately uploaded, shared, commented on. With no middle man. In terms of ease of distribution and cost effectiveness, digital has the upper hand.

Where next?

Digital PR is like upcycling a piece of furniture, reinventing something that has solid foundations, yet is a little tired. Sometimes the best way forward is to take complements from both. If you’re looking for insights into how to revitalise your PR strategy combining the best of old and new techniques, drop us a line and we’ll have a chat.

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