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Traditional PR vs Digital PR: The Benefits and Differences

What do all businesses, big and small, have in common? They all need PR. Every business succeeds based on their ability to command the attention of their target audience. PR’s role in a business is to maximize brand awareness, build a profile, and foster a positive impression of your brand and business is a key piece of running a successful business.

By far the best way to guarantee this is with a successful PR campaign. There are more ways of making the most of PR than ever before. These days, most PR falls into one of two categories. These are traditional PR and digital PR. In this article, we’re explaining digital PR and traditional PR, and how these two different ways of pursuing the same goal, that is, boosting your business profile and brand awareness.

What is Traditional PR?

Traditional public relations is how things were done before the digital age. It’s an old-school approach to public relations that typically relies on traditional print media, TV, radio, and in-person events and interaction to drive results.

The world might seem totally digital in 2022, but the reality is that millions of us still engage with the world through offline traditional methods. People still watch TV. People still read the paper. People still listen to the radio as they’re driving to work. Of course many of us have moved online, especially in the past fifteen years, but very few people exist solely in the digital realm. The reality is that we’re all still living in the physical, tangible world, so traditional public relations remains a powerful tool in the 21st century.

What is Digital PR?

Digital public relations, as the name suggests, is a more modern approach where running a PR campaign uses digital channels to drive public opinion. That means, for the most part, websites, social media channels, link building, and SEO strategies.

An online PR strategy still relies on building relationships with key figures like influencers and journalists. Digital PR is all about how powerful the digital world can be for expanding your reach. Typically, digital PR seeks to attain brand coverage across a variety of digital channels, including online media, effective social media campaigns, blogs, a brand’s site, and influencers.

Critically, digital PR is often more subtle than traditional public relations. It relies heavily on a less direct approach to influencing public opinion, and sometimes will result in impressing your customers entirely.

A major difference between traditional and digital PR is that digital marketing strategies will often aim to impress the almighty algorithms of Facebook and Google over impressing customers directly. A digital public relations campaign can focus on optimizing your online presence to appear on the first page of Google results, thereby massively boosting your profile.

However, digital PR is not totally separate from traditional PR. Successful PR campaigns in either category often incorporate principles and strategies from the other.

What are the Differences Between Traditional and Digital PR?

Measuring Success

One key feature of digital PR is how much easier it is to measure success and outcomes compared with traditional public relations, where ROI of PR can be harder to gauge.

It’s almost impossible to track your precise levels of engagement with traditional PR. How could you count the number of unique views a television placement earned? How could you track the readership of your latest newspaper article? Typically, you can make an educated guess based on the average readership or viewership of your placement, but the data you get from this method is not very precise. You can still get great results, but it will be harder to track.

Digital PR campaigns, on the other hand, allow you to clearly and precisely track and measure your success. Digital PR offers plenty of different metrics for measuring your campaign’s success. You can accurately track your views, shares, and engagement levels. Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful tool. It’s also easier to see, in real time, the responses your content is getting online. You can tweak your content based on your real-time results, allowing you to use a tested digital PR strategy before your first campaign is over.

Traditional PR often measures success in terms of your business goals. Increases in sales volume is one useful measurement. Digital PR can measure success in terms of campaign reach.

Interaction

Traditional PR often lacks interaction. It’s all one-way. You can read articles, look at adverts, or hear something on the radio, but you can’t talk back. It’s a single-channel means of communication that does not allow the receiver to reply or engage in their own way. A traditional PR strategy lacks the capacity for customers to react or interact with the business.

Digital PR allows audiences to interact with businesses and content creators all the time. Online brand activities encourage and foster instant engagement and interaction. Your brand’s followers can like, share, and comment on your social media presence very easily. For brands where a personal, approachable brand identity is of critical value, this can be a hugely influential piece of the PR puzzle.

Content

Subtlety is the name of the game for digital PR. Today’s savvy consumers are very wary of being sold to online. People easily scroll past blatant ads in their news feed. On the other hand, traditional PR allows for a more openly sales-heavy approach.

A digital PR campaign relies so heavily on a social media presence that creating quality content relevant to your niche is the highest priority. Most internet users are still accustomed to interacting with the digital world as if they’re interacting with their friends and family. Only personable, quality content gets shared and interacted with, and receives the associated boost in positioning on the digital platform in question.

However, in the physical realm, brands can behave like brands, not like people. Traditional PR campaigns can be direct. Traditional PR can include event planning, press releases, and blatant advertising.

Longevity

Another key difference between traditional PR and digital PR approaches is the potential longevity of a successful campaign.

If you run a newspaper article, it will circulate throughout the paper’s usual channels, and be gone by the time the next edition is out. Ad campaigns can last a little longer, but they, too, are ultimately finite.

Great digital content, on the other hand, can theoretically run forever. Evergreen content, as it’s known, will persist, and continue to be shared and engaged with, long after your campaign launch.

It’s worth noting, however, that lower-quality digital content disappears from public consciousness in a flash. It takes a fraction of a second to scroll past an ad that doesn’t interest you.

Which is Better Between Digital and Traditional PR?

A better question might be “which is better for me?”

Ultimately, your choice of PR approach comes down to what you’re looking for. If you want to increase brand awareness within your industry and get your brand before potential customers is a great goal for traditional PR. If you want widespread attention quickly, it might be best to consider a digital marketing strategy.

Traditional PR truly does benefit enormously from being a one-way, direct communication channel. You can tightly control and target your messaging, making it more likely to reach your relevant audiences. Traditional PR does not have nearly as many other voices competing for your audience’s attention as digital PR. It’s easy for your audience to miss your message on social media, which is a very noisy marketplace.

Traditional media also benefits from recognisability and a sense of legitimacy. Many people still trust the local newspaper they’ve been buying for decades over a blog post from a site they’ve never heard of.

On the other hand, digital PR, when successful, can have a broader reach, and potentially open your brand to a far broader online audience than traditional PR tactics. Digital PR is also more easily measurable, allowing you to tweak your wider online strategy in real time to maximize your chances of success. Building brand awareness through your brand’s online reputation helps to boost your credibility, too, especially if you follow a strong SEO and link building strategy.

Can Digital and Traditional PR Work Together?

It might be tempting to think that, in an increasingly digital world, you should direct your focus totally to digital PR. However, traditional PR strategies remain viable, and most of the time a combination of the two approaches will be the most successful.

This is because using both approaches allows you to reach a broader audience while still benefiting from the precision of measurement afforded by digital PR. You can target different types of audiences with different offline and online methods.

Conclusion

PR is phenomenally helpful for many brands and businesses. Choosing the right PR approach, and the right combination of digital and traditional factors, is a critical step in expanding your audience.

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