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Digital PR vs Traditional PR: Is There a Clear Winner?

Digital PR vs Traditional PR: Is There a Clear Winner?

When looking at digital PR vs traditional PR, SEOs and business owners should be paying more attention to strategy. Many of the benefits look the same but the long-term impact on a company, and the strategies used, can be vastly different.

The role of traditional public relations is to increase awareness, streamline communication, and perfect the brand voice, but what are the other benefits of a more modern take on PR?

In this guide, we’re going to look at the pros and cons of traditional vs digital PR, and better understand why a diverse strategy that properly utilises both is important for aspirational businesses who want to reach a bigger, more engaged audience.

What is PR?

Public relations (PR), in its most basic form, is the management of communication channels between a business and its many stakeholders. This can be customers, partners, investors, or even suppliers. 

This communication management aims to shape and improve the image of the business in the eyes of all of these important parties.

Traditional channels for this can include newspapers, television, and radio, whilst digital channels cover websites and things like social media.

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, businesses must begin to properly utilise online channels for improved reach and engagement.

Traditional PR, whilst not redundant, is now very much a part of a wider strategy that fully utilises the potential of digital spaces.

What is PR in digital media?

Digital PR is an excellent tool for businesses who see the value in traditional PR tactics and want to maximise its impact with a digital presence. It’s an evolution of tried and tested strategies that aims to fully utilise newer, more engaging digital channels and take advantage of their other benefits.

Digital PR Strategies

Potential for growth with digital PR is huge. Not only will a campaign benefit brand awareness, but when properly executed, it will also help with SEO and link building.

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We specialize in high-velocity Digital PR Link Building.

Digital strategies for PR can be diverse in approach and format and often run concurrently. It’s important to understand that these campaigns that involve outreach, guest posting and large-scale content creation can have a huge non-monetary cost to businesses. For this reason, many turn to freelancers and external digital PR agencies for guidance.

Content Creation

Compelling and engaging digital content creation is vital for digital PR. Businesses are able to craft high-quality content like blogs, articles and even videos to fully utilise the digital space.

Digital PR content creation has several benefits for a business, including SEO and link-building potential. Articles and features help businesses establish authority in their industry and contribute to website health and discoverability. Outreach and press releases help businesses to take advantage of already established sites with an engaged audience.

Social Media

Social media is an underutilised digital public relations tool. Not only is it the perfect option for distributing content, but it also allows businesses to gather feedback and engage with an active online audience. Digital strategies encourage interaction and foster ongoing relationships between potential customers and the business.

News Outlets

With digital media now being so accessible, it’s no real surprise that half of all adults in the UK look to online publications and digital channels for news. Online sources are second only to traditional broadcast media. 

Businesses can take advantage of these platforms in the same way they might have done traditional media. In fact, with more niche publications now present online, there are even more opportunities to make an impression. 

Digital PR tools like HARO have made outreach and relationship building more accessible for smaller businesses.

Reputation and Crisis Management

Traditional PR has always been key for crisis management and general reputation management. Digital spaces are no different.

Online perception of a business is important and digital PR can be a simple way to track conversations and potential issues before they escalate. Quick responses, transparent communication and engagement online can help businesses to handle any potential problems.

It’s possible for businesses to perform simple online searches to find mentions, queries and even criticisms relating to their business. Crisis management in a digital space, where anyone and everyone can vocalise opinions, is difficult but important. 

The Role Of Digital PR in SEO

Digital PR isn’t just used for communication and awareness, it can have a significant impact on SEO and discoverability online. 

Link Building

Link building at scale is an important part of a business's digital strategy. Developing high-quality links from trusted sources is beneficial for website SEO and generating valuable new traffic channels.

Case Study DPR

Landing coverage with reputable digital media outlets should be an important goal for businesses looking to prioritise digital PR. Not only do these outlets receive a huge amount of digital traffic, but they help to evidence authority and knowledge.

Keyword Targeting

Digital PR can be valuable for visibility. A business that has a good understanding of search intent and keyword placement will have an advantage when it comes to creating good digital content. Digital PR should answer questions, offer insights and provide value.

By prioritising digital PR with an understanding of all of its SEO benefits, businesses can properly utilise resources to maximise reach each and every time content is created.

What is Traditional PR?

Traditional PR, whilst no longer central to all modern PR strategies, remains an important part of the PR puzzle.

Traditional PR Strategies

Traditional PR strategies have a number of benefits for businesses of all sizes. Depending on budget, goals and strategy, even smaller businesses can benefit from traditional PR despite the fairly large initial costs for advertising and print campaigns.

Press Releases

Press releases are perhaps the most recognised format for traditional PR. They’re used for announcing newsworthy events, promotions and insights.

Press releases aren’t only for print media. Digital press releases allow businesses to build high-quality links to their own site as well as reach more niche audiences that may not have specialised print publications.

Crisis Management

Crisis management for traditional PR involves creating a plan and implementing protocols to deal with PR problems.  It’s important to have pre-established guidance that helps to rectify any issues that may occur. This includes identifying any priority communication channels and stakeholders that may be important in a crisis.

Many businesses build and maintain relationships with media outlets and journalists to be able to provide quick and professional responses in an emergency. Larger businesses may have a designated PR expert or agency that they work alongside to manage this.

Events

Events such as press days, trade shows and product launches can all be classified as traditional PR. Any event that involves inviting interested parties to attend and cover company activities or products could fall under this umbrella. 

Sponsorship

Traditional PR specialists often identify opportunities to sponsor events or individuals who share the brand's values. 

Strategic sponsorship can help certain businesses to reach a specific audience that aligns with their own public image. 

It’s important to remember that attaching your company name to an event or individual that you have little control over comes with its own risks. 

Digital vs Traditional PR Pros and Cons

There are pros and cons for both digital PR and traditional PR, although most modern businesses do tend to favour digital PR strategies. For businesses who want to take their PR seriously, there is a lot of potential in using a combination approach. 

traditional pr vs digital pr

Here are the pros and cons of traditional PR vs digital PR.

Digital PR Pros

  • Specific Targeting - If you have a niche audience, or a limited amount of resources, then digital public relations might be the right route. 

It allows for more precise targeting based on demographics, interests, and general online behaviour, meaning less wasted time and effort.

Messaging can be more easily customised and the tone and style of content can be tailored to appeal more to a business’s specific target demographic.

  • Metrics - Businesses can fully utilise tracking and metrics with digital PR to measure campaign success and highlight PR KPIs.

This can allow businesses to more effectively build PR into their wider marketing strategy.

  • Real-Time Engagement - Businesses can get an immediate and engaged response from their audience with digital content. Whether it’s in the form of comments, mentions or shares, digital content has huge viral potential and often generates honest and useful feedback.
  • Affordability - Some digital PR strategies can be more affordable than their traditional counterparts. There is often a resource cost for creating content but there are affordable options out there for smaller or less established businesses.

Digital PR Cons

  • Saturated Markets - Digital content is a saturated market and without the help of digital PR experts, it can be difficult to establish relationships and find high-quality placements for content.
  • Visible Negative Feedback - Visibility is a huge benefit of digital PR, but there is a negative side to it. Just as an audience can leave positive feedback, they can leave negative comments. In most cases, this isn’t a huge concern, but it might be worth considering a crisis management strategy alongside any digital content just in case you need it.
  • Reliance On Technology - When you rely exclusively on digital PR you are trusting that the websites and tools you use to share your content will continue to be active and positive for your business. Any server downtime or links shared in questionable locations can impact public image negatively.

Traditional PR Pros

  • Credible Distribution Channels - Many traditional media channels are household names. Whilst there is some scepticism about things like print media, there is an acceptance that content has been checked and professionally delivered when it comes from a familiar channel. Many of these channels also have digital platforms.
  • Visible Presence - Many traditional PR channels don’t not allow for specific targeting, but can reach a wider audience. This can help businesses to identify potential markets that they might not have considered or targeted before.
  • Differentiation - With digital PR being so popular, traditional PR can offer opportunities in industries where competitors are already actively taking advantage of digital channels. Sometimes it pays to trial channels that are noticeably different.

Traditional PR Cons

  • Cost - Traditional PR can be expensive, particularly if you don’t completely nail your strategy or audience. 
  • Lead Times - There may be a long wait for print or for an event to come around with traditional PR. In that time the communication could be dated or not as relevant. Digital PR is much faster and often articles or placements run within a couple of days.
  • Difficulty Measuring ROI - It can be difficult to track return on investment (ROI) in non-digital spaces. Media impressions and brand mentions only provide a limited picture of a campaign’s success.
  • Reach Limitations - Traditional PR can have reach limitations, particularly for more niche audiences where there are fewer available distribution channels.
  • Limited Targeting - Similarly, it can be difficult to properly target audience segments using traditional channels. This can limit what is possible through outreach and mean a campaign is much less appealing to its intended audience.

Finding Success With Digital PR vs Traditional PR

With all of this in mind, how can businesses find success with digital vs traditional PR?

Here are four key takeaways to consider:

  1. First, it’s important to identify whether you have the available resources to dedicate to a PR strategy. Creating good content, building relationships with journalists, and seeking out new opportunities is an incredibly time-consuming task. Many businesses hire in-house PR specialists or rely on partners like Cupid PR to plan and execute high-quality strategies for them.
  2. Secondly, it’s crucial to identify which channels are most suitable for your business goals. Should you be writing blogs or will you see better results from stories distributed via established news outlets?
  3. Find ways to continuously monitor success with any PR strategy. This is often easier with digital PR but you need to be able to reassess and adapt when an element of your strategy isn’t working. 

Create a plan for crisis management. It’s always best to react quickly and professionally when things go wrong. Preparing removes the guesswork and allows you to create a structured response that positively impacts how your brand appears.

Mark McShane
Mark McShane is the founder of Cupid PR as well as owning multiple affilliate and serviced based websites. He has over 10 years experience in SEO and link building. He is published in some of the worlds most renowned media publications.

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