Digital PR vs. Traditional PR: What's the Difference?

PR is a sure-fire way to boost the credibility of your company and maximise brand awareness. Traditional forms of PR have been around for a long time and they all boil down to building relationships through press releases, trade shows and looking after the reputation of a brand.

However, over the last twenty years, PR has undergone some big changes. As our lives have moved online, PR services have needed to adapt to make the most of the digital world.

In this blog, we take a look at the differences between digital PR and traditional PR and ask whether the latter still has a place in a world of rapid technological change.


Digital PR vs. Traditional PR: An Overview

Traditional PR focuses more on print forms of media, such as magazines and newspapers, as well as involving television, radio press and trade shows. In contrast, digital PR is for online forms of media, such as blogs, online magazines and social media.


What are the central aims of digital PR and traditional PR?

In many ways, the aim of traditional PR and digital PR is the same. The core objective of both is to build brand awareness, create a positive image of the company, engage target audiences and achieve conversions for the business.

However, there are some key differences to bear in mind when it comes to the goals of each.

Traditional PR has always been focused on publicising a brand and telling its story to an interested audience. The focus is often on press releases and interviews, which allow company founders or key members to talk about their beginnings and their mission.

On the other hand, digital PR is designed to use public relations as part of a wider digital marketing strategy that includes SEO.

The dominance of Google (other search engines are available) means that it’s the first port of call for most of us. You need your website to be featured in the relevant search results in order to stand a chance. SEO is essential for online brand awareness and overall success.

A central aim of digital PR is therefore to gain quality backlinks from high-authority domains. While brand awareness is still an important factor, it’s these valuable links that will boost your company’s online presence by allowing your website to climb up the search results.


Related article: What is Digital PR and How are Brands Using It?


Are the approaches different?

Again, in many ways, the main approach to both digital and traditional PR will be the same: planning, outreach and content generation. 

The process for sourcing PR prospects is actually similar for both traditional and digital forms of PR. Many agencies working in this area will have a dedicated contact list comprising of publisher relationships that they have built over time. They will also research new prospects in the relevant sector. 

Traditional PR content will typically include press releases in relevant industry magazines, interviews on radio and television and personal appearances at events. Companies tend to directly address their audience to explain their brand identity and key objectives. It may also include sponsorships or involvement with certain charity events to show that the company has a connection to the community. 

Another factor which makes digital PR slightly different is the focus on creating ‘shareable content’. Far more online news content is being produced by major publishers, and social media has led to ‘viral’ content.

Part of your approach to digital PR should be focused on creating content which people want to share. This might involve identifying the need for a particular tool or resource that your potential customers might be in need of, or collaborating with a reputable body on a really interesting piece of research.


What about when it comes to measuring?

Another thing that differentiates digital PR from traditional PR is the ability to measure engagement more effectively.

It is possible to measure more traditional forms of PR by getting audience feedback, surveys, and looking at audience sizes for certain publications. However, with online PR, you get more exact figures on impressions, engagement, click-through rates and page session times. This allows you to review your PR strategy in more depth and make changes as needed.


Related article: The Benefits of Data-Driven Digital Marketing


Why is digital PR important for your business?

Digital PR is something all businesses should have in their PR and marketing artillery. It contributes to both SEO and brand awareness, while also providing the opportunity to collaborate with really interesting publishers and establish yourself as an expert or innovative thinker in your field.

Having said that, when it comes to the question of digital PR vs. traditional PR, it’s definitely worth involving both! You may reach different audiences through various channels and it’s not necessary to limit yourself entirely to the online space. Just remember that, in a digital world, your PR definitely needs to be digital too.