Digital PR vs Traditional PR: Which Will Survive In The Digital Age?

We live in an age where news seems to be almost completely digital. What does this mean for the battle between digital PR vs traditional PR? More importantly, will traditional PR as we’ve known it survive in the digital world?

Digital PR vs traditional PR: What is traditional PR in 2020? 

While traditional PR has always retained its main purpose of communicating on behalf of a brand, it has recently become a way for marketeers to reach the plethora of digital platforms that exist, alongside a chance to propel a brand into the traditional media such as newspapers, radio and TV.

A PR can trigger the beginning of a podcast, a debate on channels such as Reddit or on a forum such as Quora, or the beginning of a fully investigated story to be published in a national paper.

Ultimately, it is the choice of whoever picks up the PR whether they want to publish the story in print, online, or both. This means that in 2020, a traditional PR (or ‘branded news’ piece) can also be digital.

What is digital PR?

However, it is important to keep a distinction between traditional PRs published on digital channels, and digital PRs. This is because digital PRs are actually very different: rarely branded, these articles mostly exist to strengthen a particular keyword for which a client wants to appear in a search result for SEO purposes, simply linking back to a brand’s website. 

Also known as sponsored posts, these articles need to be published on an online platform that Google trusts to be reliable and authoritative, thus making the brand related to the digital PR also seem reliable. They also need to include a link with a specific anchor to the client’s website, in order to boost the particular keyword around which the article has been written.

Is there still room for traditional PR in the digital age?

Absolutely. We are all consuming information all day long, through our newspapers, computer, tablets, smartphones and other connected devices, and consumers still very much have a desire for the more ‘traditional’ news that these PRs offer.

There’s no real fight between digital PR vs traditional PR; what has changed is that traditional PR has evolved in the digital era. Today, PR agents can still send their newsworthy items to the same journalists as they did before, but they can also target some of the new online blogs too, widening the sphere of potential publications.

How traditional PR has evolved in the digital age?

Traditional PRs used to be a fairly easy way for papers to find and print news. The difference is that now, when a publication is interested in sharing your news, an online editor won’t just publish your PR in his ‘news’ column as before, because if the news is interesting someone else may have done the same thing and they’ll get their blog penalised by Google for duplicate content. 

To write a story, journalists will use the boilerplate in the PR, or look at a press/about us page on the website to gather additional knowledge on the specific topic.

They barely ever liaise with the marketeer who has sent the PR for more information – instead, they usually do the investigating on their own and find their own ‘angle’ which they know will get their readers interested in their piece. 

Traditional PR is still relevant in 2020, as brands are still frequently communicating to the media (and not solely to their followers on any given social media platform). However, there does seem to have been a rise in ‘fake news’ that is likely caused by editors and publishers relying on unverified rumours from social media, rather than having journalists cover the news.

How has the relationship between the journalist and the marketeer evolved?

This is probably one of the most key turning points of how hard it has been for traditional PR to evolve in the digital age. Journalists, editors and newsrooms are now receiving hundreds of news bulletins everyday. The big difference with sending a digital PR vs traditional PR is that the news is constantly evolving.

Journalists simply don’t have time to look into every PR that is sent their way. It is also important to remember that the story you sent today may not be newsworthy anymore tomorrow.

It’s also very rare now that a marketeer will follow up after sending a PR with a phone call to a journalist. They’re already on to the next thing.

Marketeers used to meet journalists at events, a product launch, a press conference, a trade show, however those are now rare as well. 

Journalists have to be reactive with the news and unless they are actually writing a big piece, they often don’t have time to look for that extra information that the competition doesn’t have.

The tracking of a digital PR vs traditional PR

The new age

In the digital era, if PRs are sent via a CRM they can be tracked so that it’s then possible to see if they have been opened, and then you can follow up with a secondary automated email. 

This is a big advantage of this generation: PR agents today often know who opened their PR, how far down they read it and whether they clicked on the image link of the agency (or their clients’) homepage. They can add a UTM code to their email and this is a good way to see how performant the press release has been.

PR managers can also trace everything that’s been published about their brand, by either setting alerts on Google, Mention or using other tracking tool for a specific term (the PR title, the brand’s quote) as it’s likely that the journalist or editor may write/publish something in regards to the news without communicating with the marketeer.

The old way

In the past, if you wanted to know if your PR had interested a journalist or an editor, you followed up with a fax or a phone call to check they had received it and asked if they were going to write on the subject. You also had to follow up with them to gather the press clippings once it was published.

Tools to get your traditional PR picked up in the digital world

We have seen that online media has multiplied, with new publications emerging everyday. So, something which has had to be integrated into the life of a PR manager is utlising different tools to get stories noticed online. 

Journalists and editors are also using online tools to make their jobs easier – for example, they reach marketeers directly via social media platforms such as Twitter and send #journorequest to gather testimonials or expertise from specific fields for their assignments.

As a PR agent, it’s always a good idea to survey these messages and see if it’s possible to pitch something related to the searched topic.

So is there a future for traditional PR?

Most definitely. It’s important to remember the big differences between digital PR vs traditional, and what they both can offer. Just don’t forget that today’s traditional PRs should be distributed in the digital world with digital tools, as well as to traditional news publications. Also remember that to get a chance for your PR to be opened and then maybe picked up by any type of publication (online or printed), you’ll need to have a very strong title, some interesting data, a video, a graphic, or anything else that makes your piece of news stand out from the rest. 

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