• PR Insight

Traditional vs Digital PR: An Unwanted Romance?

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

How many times have you asked yourself what is digital PR, and how it differs from traditional public relations that mostly relies on contacting journalists and securing either print or online coverage? Public relations has gone through a dramatic change over the last few years, diving into SEO and digital marketing. As a result, the digital PR trend shifts the whole PR industry. It demands greater cross-functionality between the different campaign teams (SEO Team/Content Team/PR) and forces increased collaboration, bring metrics such as domain authority (DA) or trust flow (TF) to the forefront of PR campaigns.  Shall we forget about securing high-level publications across print and online communications channels then? Not necessarily, while the digital side of PR is tech-savvy and often occupied with including direct link referring to the client's official website, traditional PR serves purposes in nationals. These Tier 1 publications for SEO purposes remain the Holy Grail of links. 

Most successful PR professionals have embraced tech-savvy and digital strategies that are focused on measuring the impact of online publications on brand and search metrics, providing stats to monitor the PR campaign. You may think that instead of working with journalists, you work more with SEO Manager. Instead of providing high-level publications, you deliver the links across the top-level domain authority (DA) websites. That leads to more time tracking waves and peaks in Google Analytics and SEMRush, instead of doing a standard media monitoring daily.

This article will outline five key differences between traditional public relations and digital public relations, so here we go! 


Online is the king 

In digital public relations, an online publication is a castle for the content that as we've been told many times is the king! No matter how much you enjoy print publications and the smell of the newspaper paper picked up in the morning from the nearest shop, it will not help to increase your search results! With digital PR focused on getting the online coverage only, including the links localised across high-level DA websites, you have to see print media as a bonus to your digital strategy only. Thinking about an online presence might be a nightmare for not so tech-savvy PR professionals who get used to seeing their clients published in print publications. 


On top of this, the prioritising of the link over the publication might lead 'standard' PR professionals towards sceptical thinking. What are we getting if we are compromising creative PR ideas and storytelling over getting a short ad copy, including link or referral listed on a high-level domain news website? The answer is evident here – together with standard PR reach, digital public relations have a greater emphasis on the SEO traffic or ranking performance of a website! And forget about print – the smell of fresh newspaper is no longer here! All you need is an URL and secured online publications, no less no more. 


Measure – the bigger reach the better (no matter what)

The gold key for all working in digital PR is to... measure! And I'm not talking here about the inches or the centimetres. Publication's reach used to be enough to estimate online news spread and for traditional PR remains the reliable metric. However, it is not enough to satisfy the needs of digital PR nomads or SEO agencies that slowly understand the importance of having an integrated (SEO) campaign. Using advanced SEO software like MOZ, SEMRush or Majestic as well as different media monitoring software such as HARO, Buzzsumo, or The ResponseSource is part of day-to-day work routine for digital PR practitioners. For example, HARO monitoring software provided by well-known media intelligence company Gorkana provides the PR officer with the list of journalists looking to cover the particular topic. That often involves the opportunity to get an online publication, together with a link referring to the client's official website. On the other side, another software called Buzzsumo will show the level of social engagement across the online publication straightforward after it was published. Finally, Google Analytics helps to prognosis and track the peaks associated with online campaigns, such as the client's online competitions or will help to follow the performance of the publication across Tier 1/Tier 2 media titles. Digital PR executives should get along with Google Ads quite quickly due to the intuitive nature of the system, allowing them to work on press releases with SEO benefit. Generally, SEO agencies will be using systems to track core keywords which digital PR manager can use to identify the next steps on the account and shape the PR campaign around it. Basic knowledge of the Google Ads, or other keyword research software, is precisely where digital marketing and PR comes together. The agency's clients or PR Manager on the client's side will often ask if upcoming press release or content has been populated with highly-searchable keywords – and here we go!


Keywords search – Google Ads in advance

Digital PR executives should get along with Google Ads quite quickly due to the intuitive nature of the system, allowing them to work on press releases with SEO benefit. Generally, SEO agencies will be using systems to track core keywords which digital PR manager can use to identify the next steps on the account and shape the PR campaign around it. Basic knowledge of the Google Ads, or other keyword research software, is precisely where digital marketing and PR comes together. The agency's clients or PR Manager on the client's side will often ask if upcoming press release or content has been populated with highly-searchable keywords – and here we go!


Data-driven magic - that drives you... up in Google’s rankings

While working on the online digital campaigns, the success of the campaign is assessed through improving client's search engine rankings, website's overall domain authority (DA) and finally website's trust-flow (TF). We may also observe an increase in secured backlinks as well as improvement of website's audit health score. Backlinks are crucial to building up the website's domain authority, making link building an essential component to digital PR.

Better get well with an advertising folks

The world of digital communications is occupied by dealing with advertising teams, that often cross your path between localising the link and publishing an online publication. Generally, all PRs should be able to localise free link across the editorial team if gently asked. Although if the newspaper relies heavily on paid and sponsored content, directly managed by their in-house ad team, the things might be a bit trickier! The first way of contact should be an editor-in-chief or journalist that is the most relevant to your story. Secondly, if the pitch wasn't successful, a digital executive can target others in the publication, such as researchers or copywriters looking for additional information. Should all requests across multiple contacts fall on deaf ears, it might be time to request the media pack and pricing for a link placement across targeted publications [online only]. 

Usually, the highly ranked Tier 1 publication will offer DA far above >50, comparing to lower reach/authority news websites with DA <50. The key while negotiating the price for sponsored content with an advertising team is to know how much the link is worthy and to what extent it will drive the SEO traffic and improve client's website performance. 

As digital communications professional you will have to spend lots of time liaising between editorial teams and the other side advertising folks. Because not always you will be able to secure publication with a link for free. Nowadays, newspapers' editors are more and more aware of what is needed for websites to rank and classify any online news with link placement as paid advertising. It can be a massive challenge if the article is not unusual for the journalist at all – then getting online media coverage with a secured link inside is mission impossible vol. 3.0. Remember, starting with strong content is always the best way forward!


What happens in public relations, stays in public relations

Digital public relations is still part of a broader PR strategy. While traditional public relations officers work with standard PR and communications agency, digital PR officers are getting hired by the advertising, digital and marketing agencies. Otherwise, almost everything stays the same between both of us, excluding greater focus on online coverage and PR campaign outcomes measurement. So-called 'traditional press officer' will be less-data driven, diving between print and online publications and carelessly do not think about securing any link - because the coverage is the king, and the link is a servant - if needed only.  That article has been initially published across the Prowly Magazine, see below: https://prowly.com/magazine/traditional-vs-digital-pr/

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