According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), public relations is defined as a strategic communications process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. An “organization” can be can anything from a brand, company, or an individual. There are two forms of public relations, traditional PR and digital PR, which are differentiated by tactics, including the way these relationships are built and the channels in which they reach their audience.
The media tactics that fall under the umbrella of traditional public relations are diverse, such as event coordination, crisis communications, reputation management, trade shows, sponsorship opportunities and press release distribution. The most prominent initiative of traditional PR is press outreach with special focus in traditional media outlets such as newspapers, television and radio. Professionals who work at traditional PR firms are likely to have a rolodex of media contacts they engage with often who are familiar with their clients.
Traditional PR can be very successful in terms of increasing brand awareness. However, exact metrics on audience reach are much more difficult to track. For example, broadcast and print numbers are estimations on potential audience or the average number of readers per month, making the question of “how many people actually read or saw my clients feature?” a bit hard to answer. Numbers aside, a key component of traditional PR is focusing on brand positioning within a media placement. Traditional publicists will be looking to see how their client is portrayed, how the messaging is communicated and how many times the brand is mentioned throughout the placement.
The traditional PR route also requires a bit of patience, as print publications will require a long-lead time. This means publicists need to research which topics are being covered in print magazines in which month and the corresponding publishing date. Outreach may not produce results for quite some time, which can be challenging for both publicist and client. Nonetheless, traditional PR is much more than media placements and your PR firm is likely to have diverse tactics that work best for your business.
Traditional public relations is still relevant in today’s highly digitized world and will be able to encompass a wide range of components attached to a PR campaign. Positive, extensive brand building will be the main role of a traditional PR and this is something that will always be worth it.
The tactics involved in digital public relations are relatively similar to those of traditional. Building relationships and securing placements are at the forefront of this digital arm, however, digital PR has the added benefit of impacting SEO and link building across the web. These measurable, digital tactics provide tangible results and insight.
Another key differentiator of digital PR is the able to build connections with bloggers and influencers, who are key players in the digital space. These digital influencers often have just as much authority, if not greater reach, than traditional figures, and come with an extremely loyal following. Similar to traditional publicists, digital PR specialists will often have established relationships with bloggers in a given industry who they work with regularly and will share their content often. This can be in a blog post with followed links, impacting the client’s website’s domain authority or social shares. Digital platforms have a short-lead time and a pick up may result in a same day placement, or at most, in a few weeks.
While a digital agency may not emphasize elements of traditional PR, like event planning and trade shows, it will have its own unique set of benefits. Digital PR uses measurement tools like Moz’s Open Site Explorer and Google Analytics to track the power of a digital placement. Google Analytics allows you to track how many users on a website are clicking a link to your client’s site. You can completely track the user’s experience from first clicking the link within a placement through to the brand’s site and how they engage with the site. This information is invaluable and will impact your tactics moving forward by which initiatives should continue, discontinue or be altered.
Digital public relations is measureable, immediate and produces easily sharable content. The realm of digital PR may be more specified than that of traditional, but it will help grow your brand online and make waves in a constantly evolving digital world.
The Right Fit
Determining whether traditional or digital PR is best for your business is a difficult question to answer. There is a great deal of overlap in tactics, for example, if you are reading a Sunday newspaper, it is very likely the same piece will run online the following week, or vice-versa.
The best way to decide which route to go is to first determine your business goals. Will the needs of your business be better executed in the traditional or digital space? Or perhaps, both?
It is not uncommon to employ both a traditional and a digital agency to completely cover your bases. If this is the way you choose to go, be sure to put your agency contacts in touch with each other so they can discuss objectives and avoid any overlap.