The Hand-in-Hand Relationship of Traditional PR and Digital PR

Date published: November 26, 2013
Last updated: November 26, 2013

As the way consumers obtain information has changed, the public relations realm morphed alongside it. Many people in the blogosphere have realized that traditional PR methods must be revised in order to accommodate more of a digital PR approach. In fact, traditional and digital PR methods should actually work together to effectively promote clients.

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better Complement

According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), public relations can be broadly defined as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics." Although traditional and digital PR use different methods, they are ultimately trying to achieve the same goal. They shouldn’t fight over which can achieve those goals better or faster; they should complement one another in achieving them together.

Traditional PR tactics involve getting strategic coverage from credible news sources by important thought leaders or other external sources that help to promote a company’s reputation or its brand. As Walker Sand Communications describes, “Traditional PR is often a one-way conversation in which the brand presents key messages for consumption by core audiences.” Common forms of traditional PR—press releases, press conferences, news programs, and speeches—convey information from the company to its intended audience without getting much feedback in return from the intended audience.

Digital PR methods focus on using online methods of communication and distribution to convey important information or news about a company. Social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are popular outlets for digital PR, but company blogs, direct emails, and all online news outlets are also great channels. This creates more of a two-way street with the audience since any information a company distributes online allows viewers to enter the conversation by commenting on the post, retweeting or sharing.

Why Traditional and Digital PR Should Be Used in Tandem

The two types of PR are likely to reach different audiences. Traditional PR strategies include traditional media, like newspapers and magazines, which reach an extended readership beyond their online counterparts. Digital PR coverage, which appears entirely online, takes advantage of search rankings and links within coverage to connect readers to a company's website and product pages – something print media can't do.

As mentioned already, digital PR also takes advantage of social media outlets and online channels of distribution to garner attention. This often takes the form of bite-sized information such as tweets or Facebook posts. As Ogilvy PR’s David Carlson said in a recent interview, “People’s attention spans are getting shorter, but there are a lot more ways to get your message out there.” Digital PR capitalizes on this somewhat recent phenomenon by making information convenient for viewers to read and discover more about the company. Many times, these tweets and Facebook posts link back to the more formal press release or blog post, which gives readers the opportunity to delve deeper into the information presented.

Thus, both traditional and digital PR are needed in today’s marketing environment. The digital method may have the advantage of capturing the intended audience’s attention, but traditional PR reinforces those online messages to lend credibility to its younger digital brother. Ragan’s PR Daily writes, “The smartest PR plans involve a mixture of new and traditional PR methods.”

The Inbound Marketer’s Guide to Earned Media is a useful tool for developing and defining the process of crafting a comprehensive PR strategy.

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