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David Wilson

What Is The Difference Between Digital PR And Traditional PR?

22nd Oct 2020 Digital PR Blog 4 minutes to read

Digital PR can be an effective way to increase brand visibility and drive more quality traffic to your website or landing page. But just what is digital PR and how does it differ from traditional PR techniques? Here’s an overview of the differences (and similarities).

What Is Digital PR?

If asked for a definition of online public relations or digital PR, you might come up with something along the lines of: ‘a PR strategy that exclusively targets online publications’.

While it’s true that the focus is on online channels, digital PR is much more than this. In fact, digital PR differs from traditional PR in that its focuses on driving traffic to your site through back links. Its core focus is helping your content to rank higher in search engines and building the authority of your website so that it can rank better in search engines.

However, to do this digital PR combines elements of traditional PR, such as developing relationships with influential bloggers and website editors, with online marketing techniques, such as SEO and link building. The overall idea is to increase your brand’s visibility and credibility while promoting positive customer engagement.

Examples of digital PR in action include:

  • Creating PR stories often mainly for the purpose of gaining as many quality back links as possible
  • Prioritising the media you pitch to by the authority of their websites and how often they link to third parties
  • Gaining authoritative back links to your business from a quality online publication
  • Increasing your website’s overall domain authority or the authority of specific pages of content that you want to rank highly
  • Supporting your content to rank higher for keywords through building links to specific pages
  • Achieving a high ranking on Google for one your landing pages
  • Enjoying positive customer interaction on a social media platform

One of the key differences between digital and traditional PR techniques is that the former is more easily measurable through tools such as Google Analytics. Indeed, a digital PR campaign can be based on meeting certain KPIs (key performance indicators), such as domain authority, referring domains, referral traffic and search engine rankings. Digital PR is also concerned with elements like keyword trends and ranking factors and the ways in which they impact brand visibility.

What Is Traditional PR?

Traditional PR promotes influence, reach, brand awareness and reputation management, but does so in different ways to digital PR. In the past, traditional PR focused on the print and broadcast media. However, it increasingly recognises the importance of online publications as a means of developing positive brand visibility and customer engagement.

Examples of traditional PR in action include:

  • PR stories that focus on positioning your product or brand in a specific way that’s favourable to your business
  • Prioritising publications you pitch to by their readership
  • A profile of your business published in a leading magazine
  • Distributing a press release announcing the launch of a new product
  • Sending out a review sample of a new product to influential journalists or bloggers
  • A sponsored blog post on a quality website with lots of traffic

As you can see from these examples, there’s a degree of overlap between traditional and online public relations. Certainly, the last two items on this list focus on influence and authority in the online space. However, traditional PR tends to be more direct. Rather than getting an authority link on a quality website, your PR team might pitch a guest post to a popular trade magazine.

Another difference is that it can be harder to track numbers with many traditional PR techniques, which are more reliant on high circulation figures and readership rates. For example, finding out how many people requested your sales brochure specifically because they read that magazine profile is a lot harder than finding out how many hits you got from a quality back link.

Which Is Best for Your Business?

The answer to this question depends on several different factors and ultimately digital PR and traditional PR can work hand in hand to fulfil different objectives. There’s no reason why you need to pick one over the over, however you may need to run separate strategies/PR stories if your objectives for PR are different (e.g. links or brand awareness).

While nowadays it’s impossible to ignore the power of digital marketing, that does not mean that traditional PR has become obsolete. Indeed, there continues to be great value in building your brand by reaching out to publishers and media outlets.

As we’ve discussed, online public relations techniques have more of a focus on metrics, so if you like seeing the numbers and have a bigger focus on driving traffic than brand positioning, then you might consider digital PR as your main strategy.

Wherever you choose to take your public relations strategy, it’s important to appreciate both traditional and digital PR methods, to build a communications strategy that incorporates elements from both PR practices to differentiate your business from the competition and stay on top of reputation management. As your reach spreads, your ability to control what is being said about you diminishes. It’s also important that your PR team stays abreast of the online influencers in your sector or niche and builds fruitful relationships with any new players.

Need a little help with your strategy? Give our team a call, we’d be happy to help! If you already have your strategy sorted, we have lots of other helpful blogs, such as How To Build A Press Office or How To Craft A Press Release That Will Get Your Story Heard, which may be of interest to you!

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David Wilson

Content & PR Lead

Fountain of all knowledge, David, has a penchant for domestic and EU politics; so much so, in fact, that he did a masters in politics just because he likes it! A lover of street food and food festivals but not so hot on cooking, David also samples cuisines from around the world as he travels a lot for work and pleasure.

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