Traditional vs Digital PR: An Unwanted Romance?

How many times have you wondered what digital PR is and how it differs from traditional public relations?

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 has shifted the whole PR industry. It demands greater cross-functionality between the different campaign teams (SEO, Content, PR) and forces increased collaboration, bringing metrics such as domain authority (DA) or trust flow (TF) to the forefront of PR campaigns. 

Should we forget about securing high-level publications across print and online communications channels? Not necessarily.

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 PR campaigns. 

You may think that instead of working with journalists, you work more with an SEO Manager. Instead of providing high-level publications, you deliver the links across the top-level domain authority (DA) websites. This leads to more time tracking waves and peaks in Google Analytics and SEMrush, instead of doing standard media monitoring daily.

This article will outline five key differences between traditional public relations and digital public relations. Let’s dive in!

Online is king 

In digital public relations, an online publication is a castle for the content that as we’ve been told many times is king! No matter how much you enjoy print publications and the smell of a 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 online coverage only, including the links localized across high-level DA websites, you have to see print media just as a bonus to your digital strategy. Thinking about an online presence might be a nightmare for not so tech-savvy PR professionals who are used to seeing their clients published in print publications. 

On top of this, the importance of  links over publications might lead traditional PR professionals towards skepticism. 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 straightforward—together with standard PR reach, digital public relations have a greater emphasis on SEO traffic or ranking the performance of a website! 

And forget about print. The smell of a fresh newspaper is not a factor here. All you need is an URL and secured online publications, that’s it.

Measure – the greater the reach, the better

The key for everyone working in digital PR is measurement! And I’m not talking about the inches or the centimetres. A 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 are slowly coming to understand the importance of having integrated (SEO) campaigns.

Using advanced SEO software like MOZ, SEMrush, or Majestic as well as different media monitoring software such as HARO, Buzzsumo, or ResponseSource is part of the day-to-day work routine for digital PR practitioners. 

For example, HARO monitoring software provided by well-known media intelligence company Gorkana provides PR officers with a list of journalists looking to cover a 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 piece of software called Buzzsumo will show the level of social engagement across the online publication right after it was published. Finally, Google Analytics helps to forecast 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. 

Don’t forget about keyword research

Digital PR executives should be able to learn keyword research tools (such as Google Keyword Planner) rather quickly due to their intuitive nature. This allows them to make their press releases optimized for SEO. Generally, SEO agencies use systems to track core keywords which digital PR managers can use to identify the next steps on the account and shape the PR campaign around it.

Basic knowledge of keyword research software is precisely where digital marketing and PR come together. The agency’s clients or PR Manager on the client-side will often ask if an upcoming press release or piece of content has been populated with highly-searchable keywords – and here we go! 

Data-driven magic – driving you up in search rankings

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

Better get on well with the advertising team

The world of digital communications is occupied by dealing with advertising teams that often cross your path between localizing links and managing online publications.

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, a highly ranked Tier 1 publication will offer DA far above >50, compared 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 worth and to what extent it will drive SEO traffic and improve the client’s website performance. 

As a digital communications professional, you will have to spend lots of time liaising between editorial teams and advertising people. You won’t always be able to secure a publication with a link for free. Nowadays, newspaper editors are 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 especially interesting to the journalist – that makes getting online media coverage with a secured link inside very tough. 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 agencies, digital PR officers are hired by advertising, digital, and marketing agencies. Otherwise, almost everything stays the same, excluding a greater focus on online coverage and PR campaign outcomes measurement. So-called “traditional” press officers will be less-data driven, diving between print and online publications and typically not thinking about securing any links because coverage is king, and the link is a servant, only useful if needed.

Cover photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash