Traditional PR vs Digital PR: Can They Coexist?

What is PR? The ideals of a public relations specialist are one of reputation management—events or happenings within a company—and reaching out to the public on behalf of the company. These necessary individuals have been around as long as business has been, well…in business. With the digital age in its adolescent-yet-creeping-on adult years, there are many new developments in the world of public relations, but are there similarities, as well? We cover it all in this look at traditional PR vs. digital PR.

The Fundamentals of PR

The old school, or “traditional,” public relations had everything from company events to press releases, with each aspect being an important piece to the puzzle. In the past, a PR specialist would heavily rely on a rolodex on their desk to reach out to the local tv stations, newspaper editors, and radio personalities. They would converse with these outlets at least every month. It was also their job to deliver to the public the company information, such as their location or business description. This type of information would be utilized in a press release, and they would be written and sent out to the media for any event involving the company.

The final part is probably the most memorable aspect of Public Relations, crisis control or reputation management. This deals with both positive and negative comments towards the company, an employee, or the industry itself. Think about it: Back in the day, when someone boasted that cigarettes are bad for you, I’m sure there were a few companies that had some words to say on the matter.

Public Relations in the Digital Age

In this day and age, digital is everything. Out with friends? Send them money on your phone to cover the check. Need a ride? Call a car that you need within seconds online. Find the shoes you have to have? Check them out online, in five colors, and have someone deliver them to you, all from your phone.

For PR professionals, digital consists of online presence, specifically in terms of correct information for a company and managing that information so the public isn’t utilizing bad or incorrect info.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a new realm of the PR world that has quickly become a starting-lineup player. There are a few main things SEO is focused on, including increasing rankings on search engines like Google, reaching out in hopes of building a diverse backlink profile, and creating brand awareness in local areas. This has added a huge arrow to the digital marketing quiver for agencies.

The PR side of SEO consists mostly of brand management on a company or client level, and ensuring that the online information creates a presence that is consistent and accurate. False or incorrect information is bad for any business, so Digital PR Specialists have to stay on top of this.

Is There a Difference?

As you can see, the two ideas of traditional PR and digital PR are rather similar. The public relations of the past have paved the way for how to create and manage a public presence for a company through outreach and press releases. Digital PR can learn a lot from the fundamentals that have been shaped throughout the years of public relations.

Think of 40 years ago when a company was holding or sponsoring an event. Most likely, there would be an ad taken out in the paper to spread the news, maybe even a press release. Today, that same event would just have a different outlet, say, an online magazine ad or a Facebook post.

Public Relations has consistently stayed a pivotal part of running a business, and with the everchanging age of digital, it will include more and more improvisation than ever.