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Traditional vs digital PR: the evolving role

By Rumble Romagnoli, President



Opinion article

November 6, 2019 | 9 min read

Traditional PR v digital PR? That's the question on many marketers’ lips. Public relations has gone through a dramatic change over the last decade due to the ongoing evolution of digital marketing.

Digital PR laptop

Today’s most successful PRs have embraced savvy and key digital PR strategies to attain a much broader audience that can’t be reached with traditional offline tactics.

When considering the value of traditional PR versus digital PR it’s important to note that digital PR professionals are a powerful force in a brand’s marketing team, able to effectively improve online presence and visibility by connecting with a qualified audience to spread news and information much more rapidly than traditional offline strategies.

Traditional PR versus digital PR

To truly understand what digital PR is, let's examine the difference between online PR and traditional PR.

Traditional PR is typically used to describe strategies that gain brand coverage in print, including newspapers and industry-specific magazines, as well as on traditional broadcasting channels such as TV and radio. Digital PR, by contrast, encompasses online marketing strategies to boost a brand’s presence and visibility.

Both traditional and digital PRs cover crisis, brand awareness, reputation management and advocacy, but the way in which traditional PR versus digital PRs approach these aspects will likely differ. Digital PR in its truest sense, is an evolved form of PR, using tried-and-true PR strategies tailored to a digital world.

Digital PRs not only bring an excellent grounding in traditional PR disciplines, but they bring a wealth of digital expertise too. They need to not only understand how a client’s targeted audience is using online platforms, but they need to have an excellent understanding as to the nuances of each of them and how to utilise each to the benefit of their client. Indeed, digital PRs need to understand Google’s guidelines, and be able to efficiently work alongside SEO specialists, content marketers, and social media experts.

Additionally, a major benefit and difference between online PR and traditional PR is that the impact of campaigns can much easier be measured through digital PR techniques. Indeed, digital campaigns can be effectively tracked, monitored, and then measured, enabling for clear reporting that clearly demonstrates the exact value a campaign has added.

In order to create truly spectacular campaigns digital PRs rely on a suite of internet-based strategies, including link building to support SEO strategies, content marketing, influencer outreach, and social media.

Here are some of the top digital PR tactics that highlight the difference between online PR and traditional PR.

Quality backlinks that drive qualified traffic

Gaining quality backlinks is a tried and tested digital PR strategy that can also boost your SEO strategy and is a key difference between online PR and traditional PR.

By publishing high quality and interesting articles that link to a brand’s site a digital PR can generate traffic from a qualified audience, while also helping to boost rankings on search engine pages. Quality backlinks can also be gained through targeted networking with influencers, editors and journalists.

Indeed, link building by obtaining links from relevant influential and authoritative websites is a crucial part of improving organic search engine rankings. Editorial links are highly valued as they are viewed favourably in the eyes of search engines like Google, especially if they come from a high authority website that creates high quality content that resonates with the target audience. Indeed, this practice is actually recommended and encouraged by Google, so should be central to any digital PR strategy. Backlinks are also one of the factors that determine a website’s domain authority, making link building an essential component to digital PR.

There are numerous ways in which digital PRs build backlinks, from guest posting to tactical link audits and on-site asset creation. One of the main ways to successfully achieve backlinks is by giving a reason to direct reader’s back to your client’s website. Tactics can include citing a source of facts and figures, linking to something visual that the audience will find interesting or useful, or linking to more in-depth information.

Story-focused content that people want to share

Content marketing is a pivotal part of a digital PR campaign. The days of simply advertising your product and then expecting sales to come in have long gone. Today’s savvy consumers have more choice than ever before and brands that are able to connect with them in a meaningful way are far more likely to be successful. Indeed, content marketing is a central difference when considering traditional PR versus digital PR strategies.

This is when the expertise of digital PRs come into play by working with experienced content creators to craft a compelling story around a brand that resonates with its customers. Indeed, digital PRs will be on top of the latest trends and will have a unique understanding of content that gains backlinks, and content that doesn’t.

To gain the interest of a brand’s target audience it needs a strong narrative to truly stick in people’s minds. Digital PRs need to therefore be clever storytellers. Whether it’s a creative meme that generates clicks and shares, or a piece of compelling content that answers people’s questions, story-focused content is a must.

Influencer-led strategies that speak to your audience

A major difference between online PR and traditional PR is the role of the influencer, which forms a key part of a digital PR’s arsenal. Influencers have the power to make or break a brand with a simple post, so forging relationships with the right influencers is key.

For example, at Relevance we regularly work with select influencers who are followed by some of the most affluent people in the world to help our client’s reach this highly elite audience. Through years of extensive research, we know which influencers ultra-high-net-worth-individuals are following and have developed close working relationships with them over the years to further benefit our portfolio of clients.

Indeed, finding the right influencer to connect with your target audience is of paramount importance. You need to work with an influencer who is not only passionate about the brand you want to promote, but one who also has the knowledge and know-how to authentically showcase the brand in a way that sparks conversation. Of course, they also need to share the brand’s vision and values.

Savvy social media that sparks dialogue

Digital PRs are fluent in social media and will be able to work alongside dedicated social media managers to harness the power of these platforms. Through social media, digital PRs can connect with customers and influencers, sparking dialogue and excitement around a brand. Indeed, effective social media campaigns have the power to subtly persuade and influence a qualified audience through well-crafted posts, a key area to consider when examining the benefits of traditional PR versus digital PR.

A savvy digital PR will not only use social media to capture their target audience’s interest, but also to listen to them too. By studying comments and tracking engagement, a digital PR will be able to see what is successful, and what isn’t, tailoring their campaigns accordingly. Importantly, comments should be responded to, sparking conversation and a community around the brand.

At Relevance we employ expert digital PRs and social media strategist that work in harmony together. Our team of digital experts have executed numerous social media campaigns that have effectively reached some of the world’s most elite audiences. We understand the importance of social media and know which platform your qualified audience is likely to be on, enabling us to create highly targeted campaigns. For example, LinkedIn is a powerful platform when you have an audience in mind based on job roles and industry sectors, whereas Instagram and Facebook work best for brands that are much more visual, such as luxury resorts and superyachts.

Choosing your tools

While digital PR is becoming increasingly popular as online media rapidly overtakes traditional print media, understand that there is still a place for traditional PR strategies. You should regularly scrutinise the differences between traditional PR versus digital PR to ensure you're utilising each to their full advantage.

Indeed, we still call on traditional PR tactics when required, including arranging press trips for select journalists from handpicked top-tier print publications to help our clients gain fantastic coverage at a global level.

Digital PR can be hugely beneficial to a brand, however, remember that in a digital world, where brands are more transparent than ever, reputational damage can just be one simple click away.

To find out how Rumble and his team of experts at Relevance can help power up your digital PR strategy, visit Relevance.


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Relevance is a strategic and creative digital marketing agency specialising in profiling and targeting Ultra-High-Net-Worth-Individuals for the world's most exclusive...

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