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Traditional PR vs Digital PR: What's the difference?

By Jon Brown

You might see that many agencies offer digital PR services these days, focusing on the online channels and publications that so many people get their news from now. But there are also agencies that offer 'traditional' services. So what exactly is the difference between traditional and digital PR? And why is it important to distinguish the two?

Our 'The Ultimate Guide to B2B Digital PR' eBook can guide you on what you need  to get started in B2B Digital PR.


Digital PR versus Traditional PR?

The aim of both traditional and digital PR is the same on both accounts - secure media coverage that boosts brand awareness and trust within a target audience. The only difference is where they do it. Whereas traditional PR will focus on gaining coverage in trade magazine or newspapers, digital PR is geared towards online publications, social media, and any other influential website.

Indeed, the only main difference between digital and traditional PR is the types of media each tactic is looking to target - traditional PR (newspapers and magazines, but also TV and radio) versus digital PR (websites, social media platforms, blogs, influencers, video, and podcasts)

The biggest difference between these two types of channels is the fact that, while digital PR has to be considered within a wider online marketing strategy, traditional PR doesn’t - because it can’t.

You can try and predict the amount of people that might read an article in a print magazine, but you can’t prove what impact it has had on the brand. Is it positive or negative? Has it piqued someone’s interest or not? It’s why arguably one hundred pieces of coverage in newspapers can’t match up to the proof of one online story.


Example of a Digital PR strategy

There’s a difference in the way PR professionals work with the digital press, with many having to learn new skills outside of their traditional realm of expertise. Where as PR pros would traditionally have to deal with media relations, content creation, and reporting, this new way of doing PR requires an understanding of the link between SEO and PR and the tools used to measure it. 

This is one of the biggest benefits of digital PR, and the key reason why it's been developed. As marketers continued to become frustrated by the lack of tangible metrics reported on by PR campaigns, the industry has had to dig into the wider benefits of PR and the effect of securing coverage online.

Today, key PR metrics include Domain Authority, backlinks earned, and referral traffic. The reason why digital PR is becoming so popular is because we are now able to accurately track how many people read your news article and went directly to your website or search for your brand in Google.


What does a successful B2B Digital PR campaign look like?


Example of a Traditional PR strategy

Whereas traditional press titles had a limited amount of time and space to fill, media websites can pick and choose which bits of news they want to publish and when. It might sound like an easier landscape than before, but the competition is bigger and better than it's ever been.

Around 670,000 new businesses are founded in the UK every year - more than 1,840 per day. Many of these will be companies vying for the same space as you, and there are only a certain amount of journalists and websites willing to cover them.

The audiences and reach between digital PR and traditional PR will also be slightly different. A story that appears online can stay there for years, and even remain higher up in Google searches for a long time if it’s relevant enough.

It's important to say that traditional PR still very much has a place in the current environment, especially for B2B companies. However, new generations are bringing in new ways of digesting media, and it hasn’t been the primary way we consume news and information for almost two decades. 

Traditional PR also has a much shorter lifespan than digital, as magazines can only be shipped and bought by a certain amount of people before they end up in waste bins.

However, the typical age for a newspaper reader is around 48 years - arguably around the same age of a ‘decision maker’ in a business. Therefore, print titles have become highly targeted with a dedicated readership who are more willing to trust what they read and which companies they read about in the printed word, as opposed to online.

Ultimately though, the difference between digital PR and traditional PR comes down to approach. Companies and their PR partners need to create strategies that are smarter, more versatile and more targeted - or they risk getting lost among the noise and falling by the wayside.

B2B Digital PR