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Digital PR vs traditional PR: Which is better for you?

The power to choose may not be in your hands 

Digital PR vs traditional PR

Traditional Public Relations and Digital PR share the same goal -engage relevant audiences with strategic storytelling that builds brand awareness and positions the brand in a favourable light. Though they both have the same end-goal, there are differences. But let’s start with the definitions.

What is Digital PR?

Digital PR (Digital Public Relations) is a strategy used to increase brand awareness using online methods. To reach audiences online, digital PR ties into digital marketing and relies on search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, and social media.

What is traditional PR?

The media tactics that fall under the umbrella of traditional public relations are diverse. These are event management, crisis communications, reputation management, trade shows, sponsorship opportunities and press release distribution.

The most prominent  component of traditional PR is press outreach with special focus in traditional media outlets such as newspapers, television, radio and more recently online  media. Traditional PR agencies engage closely with journalists.

The differences between traditional PR and digital PR

Digital PR vs traditional PR

Solo VS Band

One of the biggest differences between digital and traditional PR is that Digital PR is not a solo act. It needs to be a part of your entire digital marketing strategy.  Traditional PR, however, does not.

Digital PR is part of a bigger puzzle in the digital world while traditional PR efforts usually stand on their own.

Content and messaging

With modes of delivery being different, messaging and content in digital PR can be subtle. While traditional PR can afford to be blatantly salesy.

Since digital PR relies heavily on content and social media marketing, a higher level of focus is on creating quality content around a specific subject. And only if the content is good, you can expect benefits from SEO like backlinks and build your domain authority.

Traditional PR is more direct. Traditional PR campaigns operate under many different initiatives such as event planning, and press releases.

Measuring success

Digital PR vs traditional PR

With traditional PR, it can be nearly impossible to track the exact amount of viewers who see a media placement highlighting your brand, or how many readers peruse an article featuring your brand in a newspaper.

The closest estimate one can get is through the roughly given average number of readers or viewers per month. You are not able to use digital analytics.

What really distinguishes digital PR from its traditional counterpart is the ability to clearly track and measure success. Digital PR can offer far more in the way of metrics to decide how good a campaign has been. In addition to simply having an accurate number of views/shares, it is also easier to see the kind of responses your content gets online.


Traditional PR isn’t interactive. You could look at ads or content placed on newspapers or billboards or hear something on the radio or watch an ad on TV. It’s a one-way message delivery and the customer is not given the chance or choice to engage or interact.

Meanwhile, in Digital PR, audiences interact with a brand’s content on a daily basis. There is instant feedback for whatever you or your brand does online.

Example: If your brand announces a new launch, your followers can share, like or comment. This also widens your target audience considerably with your content reaching more people than you intended.

When Emirates executed its PR campaign to announce its return to Nigeria, more reactions and engagements took place on the digital platform than in traditional print media.

Benefits of Digital PR

  • Get more shares: Digital or online PR is highly shareable on social media, leveraging the shares of influential social accounts thereby reaching more people.
  • Credibility boost: People use the internet to learn about the brand they’re engaging with. And Digital Public relations can do you a lot of good by boosting your credibility online.
  • Link Building and SEO: Digital or online PR coverage often results in “link-backs”, helping you boost your search rankings, SEO and digital marketing efforts.
  • Increase in traffic: In addition to SEO, Your brand’s site also gets the added benefit of increased traffic from websites that link to you.
  • Precision targeting: You can better target our audience because of social media algorithms.

Benefits of traditional PR

Digital PR vs traditional PR

  • A straightforward message: Traditional PR is much more of a one-way communication channel than digital PR is, which means that the message you want to send out will be clear, specifically targeted and more likely to be heard by its intended audience. Many times, messages will be missed on social media, due to the sea of content available to the users.
  • Humanizing effect: Going old school can have a humanising effect. With the pandemic raging, the need for human interaction has increased. Picking up the phone to check on your clients before talking business can cultivate lasting relationships.[1]
  • More popular: Traditional media is instantly recognisable. Because it has been around for so long, it is highly likely that an average customer knows the name of the local newspaper than the most popular blog.
  • Predictability: The outlets for traditional public relations have a structure to them. Therefore, strategic planning is easier.[2]

Digital PR or  traditional PR?

Trust is the most critical factor in PR.

It can be harder to build trust and loyalty among key publics through just utilizing social media. It’s essential for companies to embrace not only the digital age but also rely on the more traditional public relations tools.[3]

Therefore, traditional and Digital PR are complimentary, not substituting. They are like the two wings of a plane. Both are equally important.

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