Traditional PR vs. Digital PR: key differences explained

In the world of Public Relations, there is a choice between traditional PR (sometimes called offline PR) and digital PR. Both have their pros and cons, both are great for boosting brand awareness. Yet they're quite different. This article will break down the differences between traditional and digital PR.

published: October 23, 2023
updated: October 23, 2023

Why the distinction is important

Not long ago, public relations’ main concern was obtaining coverage for clients in newspapers, TV, and radio to manage their reputation.

This was partly because we didn’t get a choice. Back then, these were the only ways to communicate with the public. Luckily, the internet came along and ushered in a new era. Gone were the days of solely depending on convincing editors that your clients were the ones they should be writing about (although, as we’ll see, this hasn’t faded completely); the digital age means we can now publish ourselves about…..ourselves.

Traditional methods were often expensive, but there has been an explosion in channels for organizations to expose themselves on, and these channels (e-books, whitepapers, videos, etc) often circumvent this expense. They also allow for more control of your brand.

Choosing which to use for your business can be difficult. Often, both are used to create value and have the same end goal. Digital PR can provide more extensive data, enabling ROI to be better calculated over traditional methods. Understanding the difference gives us a peek into how brands evolve alongside our digital world.

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What is traditional PR, and why is it important?

What is traditional PR, and why is it important?

Despite this shift, many in the field of public relations still use traditional public relations. If you listen to the radio on your way to work, watch the news, and read newspapers, then you are the target market for a traditional PR campaign, which relies on offline channels to manage public opinion. These methods can still be highly effective for raising brand awareness.

Central to traditional PR is communicating one consistent message to a specific audience.

The challenge with traditional PR lies in measuring its effectiveness accurately. Unlike digital, it's often hard to know how many people the placement reached. For instance, estimations on readership and viewership figures are used for print and broadcast metrics, begging the question of how many people were paying attention to your ad or placement. And how many people who did engage with your press release, news article, or advertisement are in your target audience? If you are trying to reach a younger audience, but a more mature audience mainly sees your press releases, this is a pitfall of running a traditional PR campaign.

Traditional PR normally takes much longer to see results; it may be one or two months before the campaign's objectives come to life. Some print publications can take up to two months from when the creative is approved to publication. Many print outlets are now reducing their issues (or moving fully online). Quarterly magazines are starting to become more normal rather than monthly.

This delay makes it difficult to assess a campaign’s value. This might make it hard to plan other follow-up strategies. However, this depends on the type of coverage. This is where having access to a range of PR tactics comes in handy.

Learn more about the definition of public relations

What is digital PR, and why is it important?

Many of the tactics employed by digital PR are similar to those of traditional.

The digital press still aims to build relations with journalists and secure placements, however, these placements are online.

A placement could be a news story that refers to a brand, the placement can be in a magazine, online blog post, or any other media outlet that has a large audience.

What distinguishes digital is the ability to analyze the data of readers. Digital can track shares, views, and engagement across various online platforms, providing a wealth of data on how well something performs, which is invaluable in today's data-driven world.

Digital platforms have a much quicker lead time. So, don’t be surprised to see same-day results.

Digital PR can be shared easily and extensively on social media and elsewhere for free. Digital considerably makes sharing a story more flexible. Tools such as Google Analytics can track how many visitors arrive at a website due to a PR campaign, along with the visitor’s location and certain user behaviors like clicks and how much time the visitor spent reading your web page. This offers precious insights into how well your social media content / digital press releases are doing.

Digital offers the chance to reach more people, to reach them faster, and to find inspiration for future tactics and strategies.

Learn more about the definition of digital PR

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The difference between digital PR vs. Traditional PR

There are many differences between online public relations and traditional public relations. Any organization aims to sell more, be well-known and recognized, and overtake its competition. Most businesses want to achieve growth and increased brand awareness. Public relations’ goal is to help companies achieve these aims, and the very best PR campaigns use both digital and traditional methods. Although there are many similarities between the two PR types, here we look at how they differ.

1

Online vs. offline relationships

Traditional and digital PR help to build relationships with key stakeholders. But the way they go about this differs. Traditional PR builds strong ties with journalists and editors, who can feature a brand in an article or mention it in a piece. These relationships involve personal communication and even face-to-face contact. Digital is more anonymous, relying on online platforms, social media, and blogs. It caters to real-time interactions instant feedback, and is less personalized. Multiple audiences can also see any communication.

2

Messaging

Digital PR can take advantage of what's already in the public arena, letting brands become a part of the conversation and helping them reach a broader and more diverse audience - using social media, blogs, and SEO to help spread the message. This allows a brand to respond to trending news topics and newsjack. Digital is more likely to be a two-way communication tool, where the public's comments can become part of the narrative. Highly optimized content is needed to maximize shares, backlinks, and SEO. However, this means that digital channels can be more open to interpretation. Traditional PR aims for relatively short and specific messaging.

Some traditional PR methods, such as TV, Radio, and Press, focus more on one-way communication. During a crisis, official statements and press releases share important updates on a specific issue. There is one single consistent message. Things like in-person meetings, trade shows/expos are also considered 'traditional' but are more two-way.

3

It's all in the numbers

As we’ve seen, when it comes to traditional PR, it’s hard to gauge exactly how many people view your brand and harder still to know its impact if they did.

Often, traditional is forced to rely on figures such as average readership or viewers per month. This doesn’t tell us much about its impact, which is crucial for brands and PR practitioners.

Digital PR is completely different. It hands us the tools to measure campaign success through various media monitoring tools and social media metrics. helping to shed light on how well a campaign worked and for whom. Brands can see the exact number of people who viewed, shared, or commented on content. This can provide you with a marketing roadmap and help you identify trends.

4

Interaction and engagement

With traditional PR, you talk, everyone listens. But you can’t hear what's being said about you.
Digital provides for more interaction and engagement. People can ‘like,’ comment, share, and respond in real time, effectively doing traditional PR for you. And helping you reach new audiences in the process.

5

Longevity

Longevity is different for traditional vs digital PR. ​ Conventional public relations experts primarily concentrate on cultivating brand recognition, augmenting their market presence, broadening their influence, and molding public perception of a brand or corporation. In contrast, the main objective of Digital PR is to obtain authoritative backlinks leading to essential pages on a website.

Think about how people engage with newspapers. They read once and might never pick it up again. This is similar to how traditional PR works.

It has a limited lifespan and takes considerably more resources to extend it. It is still confined to those who read that specific publication. However, with digital, just one click, you can share far and wide, staying on the internet forever, sometimes benefiting from new audiences and new angles.

6

Key stakeholders

Bloggers and influencers

Digital PR specialists often must establish relationships with bloggers and influencers. Bloggers specialize in creating content in various niches, and some have a strong social media presence, meaning sizable and engaged audiences. High-quality, unique, relevant rules in the digital PR landscape. Writers, bloggers, bloggers, and design will play an important role in creating, sharing, and building content that stands out online.

Content creators

If you haven’t already gathered by now, content is king in digital PR. Content writers and graphic designers work hard to bring the brand's key messages to life and have a critical role in creating engaging and shareable content that hits the mark.

Journalists and reporters

Traditional outreach focuses on journalists and reporters; often, these relationships are built over time and have a very high value based on trust and integrity.

SEO Managers

To get found on Google, SEO needs to form part of all digital PR content to make sure web pages are built in a way that can accessed and understood by Google to attract links and links from other relevant pages on the web, helping to achieve digital PR objectives.

Journalists

Journalists, reporters, and media professionals will work closely with traditional PR specialists in creating press releases.

Event organizers

Event organizers will be interested in traditional PR events such as press conferences, company news updates, investor updates, and product launches.

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How can Traditional PR and Digital PR work together?

Although digital has taken over in most people’s minds, parts of it still lend heavily from traditional, and the two can work together. Traditional PR still holds benefits. Things like print and broadcast are also somewhat nostalgic, they have a classic-ness to them that lots of clients like. Plus, clients LOVE seeing themselves in something physical they can hold on to (it's also something that clients have framed in their offices!).

It establishes a strong foundation for future mutually beneficial relationships.

There is still a need in today’s world for an upfront and direct sales-like approach in PR. For example, social media, online influencers, and email campaigns are great for targeting an online audience, but what about customers who do not use social media? You can capture them with offline traditional methods such as TV and radio.

Traditional PR is still an approach familiar to many and adds a more personal touch. Some people still find traditional media more credible. Using a mix of digital and traditional can expand your reach, notably to younger audiences more likely to use digital media.

Digital engages people directly, creating product conversations and discourse, which can all help to promote your brand.

Finding the right balance can maximize your brand's visibility and impact in the market.

October 23, 2023
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