Traditional PR Vs Digital PR

Araminta Hannah

Araminta Hannah

Public Relations


Public relations is complex, and ever-changing. PR professionals need to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to reputation management.

It is often the case that company stakeholders simply don’t understand what public relations is.

CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) says that every organisation, no matter how large or small, ultimately depends on its reputation for survival and success. It’s an integral part of an organisation; it is responsible for building and managing its reputation.

As publicists, we are the first team stakeholders turn to when there is an external crisis. Many disciplines fit under the responsibility of the department, such as a crisis and reputation management, external communication, press release distribution, communicate of new products and social media management.

CIPR’s definition is my favourite quote to use to explain to those who do not really understand what PR is;

“Public relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you”.

These are three business fundamentals. The most important being ‘what others say about you’. Public relations manages reputation and communication between an organisation and the public.

If executed well, PR can have a huge uplift on your business. A PR strategy employs a range of tactics, using industry best practice and inspiration from the market to gain authority through PR placements via press release creation, product placement, thought leadership interviews, data and market insight, creative campaigns and social media to name just a few.

Whether you have traditional or digital PR, they both have the same objective. Your PR team need to capture your audience; they must understand their behaviour, purchasing habits, decision-making considerations and personality. These understandings will help develop tailored campaigns that are specifically designed to engage and resonate with your target market.

How this is achieved is where the difference comes in.

Traditional Public Relations


My experience in traditional PR, for both in-house and at an agency, was quite different to the PR tactics we use in the digital world today.

Traditionally PR efforts were measured and guided by advertising spend calendar. Brands couldn’t get enough of seeing their product featured on glossy magazines pages or in powerful national newspapers.

Traditional focuses on offline; in my previous PR roles, if you placed an amazing story online for your brand it wasn’t really seen as an achievement unless it was also in print.

Tactics involve outreach and building long term relationships with media outlets such as print magazines. Lead times are lengthy (we were talking Christmas in August!) and they tend to focus on company news, products, interviews, award entries and events.

Traditional PR is facing two problems;

1, print media decline and 2, failure to measure ROI. No doubt getting media coverage is important to influence customers. According to the state of inbound report 2017, 43% of purchasing decisions rely on media articles as part of their buying process. But those placements are more effective online.

Condé Nast recently announced the long-standing monthly women’s magazine Glamour was set to implement a ‘digital-first strategy’. This involved cutting print issues to just twice a year. They comment:

“The editorial and commercial departments will be fully integrated, offering our partners access to the whole team, with a unified and cohesive structure creating content for brand and editorial alike.

Condé Nast have had to keep up with the times and print magazines aren’t the way consumers want to receive their news these days. They aren’t the first – and certainly won’t be the last – to have to embrace the digital evolution and shift publication to an online-only platform.

Although this may have surprised some of their readers, industry analysts, digital PR officers and marketers will have not have been shocked. They are not the only publication to cease print editions in favour of a move online. The Independent, InStyle and FHM have all closed their doors in recent times.

Rise of online influencer


This allows for a whole new breed of digital influencers, online magazines and bloggers. Companies are now incorporating working with key influencers into their marketing strategies. Influencers are becoming increasingly relevant and powerful. A report by Deloitte found that 47% of millennials say their purchasing decisions are influenced by social media.

Magazines can still keep their readers, but it’s more likely they want to digest the information in digital form. Readers want snappy information in bitesize chunks, coverage on a digital platform allows just that. Your readers engage with the content; and providing a hyperlink to that product from a digital magazine allows a path to action, where you can click through and buy in a few simple steps.

Times are changing, we are often hearing news of another magazine closing down or ‘re-focusing’, cutting print additions down or out completely. The reality is the magazine industry has been suffering with declining readership figures for years, which is bad news for traditional PRs. Friendships build over years disappear immediately and they find themselves having to find online teams and understand the modern way of promotion; digital PR.


Digital PR


Our nation is online, and consumers are now immersed in a digital world. Mobile phones, tablets, the internet, social media, Google glasses and virtual personal assistants are allowing us to integrate technology in navigating daily life. It is also changing the way we research and look for information.

Ofcom’s adult media use and aptitudes 2017 report shows evident of this. 97% of those in the study claimed search engines are the online source they used when looking for inflation online. That’s huge number of people turning to search engines such as Google, according to internet live stats there are 3.5 billion searches for day worldwide. That’s a lot of searches.

Digital marketers want to get your brand found by the right people, and visibility in the search engine results is important. You want your brand to ‘rank’ for keywords related to your business and services.

Circling back to the search engines, digital PR involves aching coverage on online media and attracting high-quality backlinks. It not online has all the benefits of traditional PR, but also contributes to increasing reach and visibility. Achieving backlinks on a relevant, high authority site allows customers to click on to your website and buy, but it also has a positive effect on search engine visibility, which will drive more referral traffic to your site.

Digital PR has the same principles and objectives as traditional PR, apart from the shift towards online. An effective online strategy comprises of SEO, digital marking and digital PR. All three work concurrently to uplift the presence of your brand online. Effective digital practices, content marketing and technical SEO all contribute to improving the online presence of the brand and will help thrust them higher up the search rankings.

Another benefit of digital PR is the ability to measure the impact of placements; you can critically analyse the success of the coverage achieved.

Traditionally, PRs used advertising rates, however, they are not an accurate measurement of value. Whereas digital coverage can be analysed by a range of metrics and tools.

You can look at the ‘DA’ (domain authority) – a tool that ranks the strength of a website. Coverage secured on a high domain site carries more weight, for example, the BBC website is DA 100, the highest score you can review, meaning they are considered highly authoritative in Googles eyes. Therefore, achieving a link from BBC to your business is like gold dust. You can also look at the click-through rates, measure time spent on site, referral traffic and conversions to precisely measure the success of a campaign.

So, what does all this mean?

Firstly, a PR strategy is important. Whether it be focused on traditional or digital. It is still an immerse accomplishment to be featured within top tier publications in print, but, if your business operates online you should have a digital PR strategy in place to ensure you are taking advantage of online opportunities to fully promote the power of your brand.