What’s the Difference Between Traditional PR and Digital PR?

Traditional PR vs. Digital PR

When thinking about maximizing brand awareness for your business it’s important to utilize public relations (PR) strategies. While traditional PR and digital PR share a common goal (that is, increasing brand awareness), they differ in their execution. 

Venn diagram of traditional PR vs Digital PR

Traditional PR is a traditional, direct approach to public relations that utilizes staple channels such as television, radio, newspaper and magazine to manage public opinion. Digital PR, on the other hand, utilizes newer, digital channels such as websites and social media, to manage brand awareness and simultaneously influence SEO and link building initiatives. As such, digital PR often falls under the umbrella of “digital marketing.”

What is Digital PR?

Digital PR relies on elements such as building relationships with journalists to gain. But it’s not your grandmother’s PR.

Digital PR seeks to take advantage of the incredible reach of the digital world we’re living in by combining the media outreach component of traditional public relations with a wider online strategy. By seeking brand coverage in online news sources, social media, blogs, and websites, digital PR is more likely to reach a broader audience and boost brand awareness.

[Read our full blog: “What is Digital PR & How Can it Help Your Brand]

Modes of Delivery
Online News Sources
Video Platforms
Social Media
Websites
Blogs

It’s also different from traditional PR in another critical way: subtlety.

While Traditional PR is designed to be a direct approach to a brand’s self-promotion, Digital PR relies on subtlety. In fact, Digital PR campaigns are so subtle that it doesn’t matter if a brand’s message ever reaches its customer base. 

Yes, you read that right.

In Digital PR, the focus isn’t on a brand’s customers at all. Sure, it’s great if a potential customer is impressed – but at the end of the day, Digital PR is looking to impress Google.

Let’s talk about Google’s result pages (SERPs). Every company wants their website to rank highly in the SERPs, but there are a number of factors that go into doing so. The most important factor? Inbound links. 

Inbound links (or, backlinks from one well-respected brand’s site to another’s) influence Google to boost a brand’s placement in the SERPs. Digital PR campaigns aim to build that influential collection of backlinks by earning placements in well-respected, high-authority media publications. 

At the end of the day, digital PR is a more holistic way of thinking about earned media in that it takes traditional PR principles and combines it with your SEO goals. Ultimately, these results are far easier to track and much more tangible than those of traditional PR. By being able to point to elements such as backlinks, social shares, and an increased domain authority, the ROI is obvious.

What is Traditional PR?

While it feels that our world has gone completely digital, millions of Americans still consume traditional media. They watch the news at night in their living rooms, they listen to the radio during their commute to and from work, some even still have newspapers delivered to their homes in the morning. 

Despite the digital surge over the past 15 years, traditional media remains relevant and pervasive, making traditional media tactics just as important as ever.

Modes of Delivery
Newspaper
Magazines
Television
Radio
Events

Traditional PR’s primary mission is to build positive relationships between consumers and the brand. But it also encompasses brand management via event coordination and crisis communication. Oftentimes, this means drafting and sharing press releases with traditional media outlets like niche industry publications, television and radio stations, and attempting to earn print media coverage.

Benefits of Digital PR over Traditional PR

Whatever approach to your brand’s public relations that you take, you’ll be working toward the same goal: building brand awareness, promoting a positive message, and engaging with audiences. Both good for getting a message out, but have key differences in benefits and pitfalls. Digital PR and traditional PR are both public relations strategies that are used to promote a company, product, or service.

However, there are some key differences between the two:

Traditional PRDigital PR
Increase brand awarenessIncrease brand awareness & SEO
More accurate messagingSubtle messaging
Less space for creativityHighly creative content
One-way engagementTwo-way engagement
Success can be difficult to measureTangible results

4 Benefits of Digital PR over Traditional PR

Reach: Digital PR often has a wider reach than traditional PR because it utilizes online channels, such as social media, email, and websites, to disseminate information. Traditional PR relies on offline channels, such as print and broadcast media, which have a more limited audience.

Target audience: Digital PR can be targeted at specific demographics or groups of people through the use of targeted advertising and personalization. Traditional PR relies on broad-based media placements and may not be as effective at reaching specific audiences.

Measuring effectiveness: Digital PR allows for more accurate tracking and measurement of results because it is easier to track engagement and conversions online. Traditional PR relies on more subjective methods, such as media placements and brand awareness, to measure effectiveness.

Cost: Digital PR can often be more cost-effective than traditional PR because it does not require the use of expensive advertising placements or production costs

In summary, digital PR utilizes online channels to reach a wider audience, is more cost-effective and easier to measure than traditional PR.

Which approach is right for you?

Choosing a PR approach can be difficult and ultimately boils down to what a business is looking for. If you’re looking to increase brand awareness in your industry and get in front of potential customers, you’ll want to go the Traditional PR route. If you’re looking to increase visibility with widespread media attention, you’ll want to consider Digital PR.

There’s no wrong answer. Even with such different approaches, Traditional and Digital PR share the same goal, which is why many companies actually employ both strategies.

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Lyndsey Maddox

Chief Executive Officer
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