Content | April 30, 2021

Traditional vs Digital PR: Which is Better?

When it comes to gaining press and exposure for your business, there are a number of tactics and methods – from traditional PR activities like chasing in-print coverage, to the data-driven world of digital PR.

The question of which is better – traditional or digital – is a common one. And, as there are so many aspects to the world of PR, it’s not particularly easy to answer. However, I’ve gathered together some of our industry insights to settle the debate once and for all.

Before making comparisons, it’s useful to have a solid understanding of these two different types of PR.

What Is Traditional PR?

When it comes to traditional, we’re generally talking about strategies designed to gain coverage in non-digital media. This includes newspapers and magazines, as well as broadcasting channels like TV and radio. Here are some traditional PR examples:

  • Attending awards and press events
  • Arranging interviews (TV and radio)
  • Enquiring about sponsorship opportunities
  • Preparing content for newspapers/magazines
  • Sending out review samples of products
  • Distributing press releases (by post)

What Is Digital PR?

Digital PR is built on the same principles as traditional PR, but as you might expect, a digital PR strategy (and its aims) can be quite different. While coverage is often still the focus, gaining links is usually the core aim.

Building up a database of good links from trusted websites has a number of benefits: it increases the authority of your website, encourages higher traffic, improves your visibility and boosts sales. So, unlike with traditional PR, readership isn’t the only important factor – we also consider a whole host of other factors on the publication website, such as domain authority and bounce rate.

Some digital PR examples include:

  • Guest blogging
  • Working with influencers
  • Conducting competitor research
  • Creating PR stories to gain quality backlinks
  • Assessing the authority of media websites to pitch to
  • Giving reactive commentary
  • Sourcing links for specific pages, to boost their position in SERPs
  • Distributing press releases (by email)

Which is Better – Traditional or Digital?

Both traditional and digital PR cover brand awareness, reputation management, crisis handling and advocacy as well as outreach, but their approach usually differs. To effectively compare the two strategies, let’s look at the different aims of the PR activity and which does it better.

Reach

The larger the audience you can reach, the better. When it comes to traditional PR, securing coverage in a respected publication is likely to get you in front of a good readership. Depending on the publication, it might give you a like-minded target audience who are more likely to engage with your content than the general public. However, with more and more news and media coverage moving online – and many of it without a cost barrier – digital media is often wider read.

Digital and traditional media attract different demographics, which may be an important aspect of your PR strategy. If you intend to target an older demographic, for instance, then in-print media may be your best choice. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to connect with younger, more tech-savvy users, or just a more general audience, then you might discount traditional media.

Ultimately, your decision won’t necessarily just come down to readership vs. web traffic, and which is best may depend on the brand and the campaign itself.

Visability

You’ve got the coverage, but are you really standing out? Visibility is vital when it comes to PR, and competition can be an important factor in how successful your efforts will be.

With digital PR, you’re competing against the internet at large – there are a huge number of online publications and masses of content is published every day. The competition can be stiff, and you often need a unique hook or angle to stand out – or even to be featured in the first place.

The competition in traditional PR is tough too. Again, it pays to have a newsworthy story, and a strong relationship with the publication is helpful too. However, as there is limited space in traditional media – a set number of magazine articles, limited time on talk shows – you have fewer competitors at the point of publication. If you are willing to fork out for this kind of coverage (as it often comes with a price tag) you could see better visibility.

Longevity

Another thing to consider with PR activity is how long the coverage you gain will continue to be relevant.

With traditional PR campaigns, their relevance and visibility might be fleeting. For instance, if you gain a feature in a magazine, that’s one issue where readers will see your content. Then, the next issue arrives and you’re forgotten.

One of the perks of digital PR is that you have the opportunity to create evergreen content. If a story remains relevant and is written well, it can attract web traffic long after the publication date. This means you can continue to benefit, potentially over a much longer timeframe.

Measuring and Reporting

PR campaigns are often backed by significant budgets, so it’s vital to know whether this money is being well-spent. So, how easy is it to measure your success with traditional and digital PR?

Lack of insight is a common complaint with traditional PR. If you gain coverage in a magazine, for instance, then it’s unlikely you’ll be able to track all the orders and website visits that have been generated by this content. There is also no way of knowing how large your readership is: sure, the subscriber database sits at 180,000, but how many of these people actually read your article?  Ultimately, it may be difficult to determine the success of your PR campaign and this is a major drawback.

By contrast, there are a wealth of tools a digital PR expert can use to monitor and evaluate the success of particular campaigns and activity. A few of our favourites include:

  • Google Analytics – monitoring referral traffic
  • Semrush – tracking SERP positions
  • Ahrefs – keyword and competitor research
  • BuzzSumo – tracking social media engagement

With digital PR, you can track the consumer’s journey: from how they discover your content, to how they respond to it. This helps to paint a vivid picture of how successful your campaign is on a number of levels – how many site visits and sales it generates, as well as how shareable the content is.

The Bottom Line

So there you have it – you’ve heard about the benefits of both traditional PR and digital PR.

Is one better than the other? While traditional PR might give you the opportunity to better target specific demographics and get better visibility for your campaigns, it’s hard to ignore the benefits of such excellent data and reporting on the digital side.

That being said, it’s never a case of ‘either-or’. You don’t have to choose and, in our opinion, the more tools you have at your disposal the better. What matters most is making sure you have a clear idea of your campaign objectives, and choosing the right approach on a case-by-case basis.

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