Not all media relations are created equal. In today's digital world, businesses need to be agile and adaptive to an ever-changing media landscape to make sure their brand's message is heard. What once worked in a traditional, print-heavy world can be hard to translate into a digital mindset. Conversely, what works in digital likely won't always translate seamlessly into print. Savvy marketers have been quick to adjust to the shift from traditional to digital, but there is no one-size-fits-all answer to which type of public relations will work best for your business. Rather, a hybrid of the two may be the best answer.

What is Public Relations?

At its core, public relations (PR) is a strategic communications process that builds a mutually beneficial relationship between an organization (or brand, or person) and its unique publics (read: audience). In other words, public relations is strategic storytelling, and both traditional and digital PR function in this way. The differentiator between the two lies in the way those relationships are built and the channels through which they reach those publics.

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Traditional Public Relations

Traditional public relations operates under many different hats and counts initiatives such as event planning, speech writing, and press release distribution as parts of its media arsenal. Perhaps the most effective and well known function of traditional PR however, is press outreach. Arguably, this is the key facet of traditional PR. Those versed in traditional tactics are likely to have strong, pre-existing relationships with key players in traditional media - think newspapers, radio, and broadcast TV - and utilize those relationships to leverage favorable media coverage for their clients. In terms of audience reach, traditional PR can be extremely successful, but measuring that success is decidedly difficult. With a traditional press placement, it can be nearly impossible to track the exact amount of viewers who see a media segment highlighting your brand, or how many print newspaper readers peruse an article featuring your client. The closest estimate tends to be through potential audience, or the average number of readers or viewers per month. Rather than focusing on specific numbers, traditional PR analyzes success based on the tonality of an article (is my brand portrayed positively in this story?) and overall message penetration (how many times is our key messaging communicated in this story, if at all?). With that being said, traditional PR stretches far beyond simple media placements, and if you choose to work with an agency or team focusing on traditional media, you will likely see a set of objectives tailored to your business goals that stretch far beyond simple viewership numbers to measure PR success.


The Bottom Line on Traditional

Is traditional public relations still relevant in a digital-heavy world? Of course it is, but it varies. How useful it is to your business is dependent on your brand's goals. If you're looking for positive and potentially extensive brand building, traditional public relations is certainly something to consider.

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Digital Public Relations

Digital public relations does, in fact, borrow heavily from the same playbook traditional public relations does. Similarly to traditional, digital public relations hinges on strategic relationship building. The major benefit to digital public relations is its grounding in SEO and link building, which provides a tangible and - most importantly - measurable benefit within the digital world. With a heavy base in digital marketing, the digital arm of public relations understands the value in connecting with the new age of reporters and writers - the blogger and the social influencer. In the online realm, these bloggers and influencers tend to have just as much clout - and in some cases, even greater reach - than their traditional counterparts. Similarly to traditional public relations professionals, those who focus on digital are likely to have a number of bloggers they work with regularly and partner with to spread the word about their clients, which can be in the form of a blog post, a simple followed link with strategically placed anchor text, or a well-timed and highly penetrative tweet. What really distinguishes digital public relations from its traditional counterpart is the ability to clearly track and measure success. With tools like Moz's Open Site Explorer and Google Analytics, it is now easier than ever to track exactly how many digital placements a media tactic is getting and how many of a site's readers are actually clicking through an article link, and back to your client's website. In addition to simply having an accurate number of views, there is an incredible value in having the ability to track a user's journey from a placement through to your brand's site. These simple interactions can then be leveraged to guide future digital public relations initiatives - it can show exactly what does and doesn't work for your brand's audience, and that knowledge is invaluable.

The Bottom Line on Digital

If you're looking for solid and measurable numbers behind the marketing and PR tactics your team is implementing, then digital is likely the way to go. Beyond its measurability, digital PR is so synonymous with today's culture that not having relevant and sharable content surrounding your brand readily available online can be a big mistake for your company's bottom line.


Determining What Works for You

If you ask any savvy public relations professional whether digital or traditional tactics are better in today's media landscape, you're likely to hear that they are both massively important to a brand's success. Despite the clear shift from print to online, from traditional to digital, there is still massive overlap between the two realms. Think about it - if you pick up a Sunday newspaper, more often than not, you'll find that same article online, formatted for digital consumption (on a site with a high domain authority, no doubt!). When considering public relations, think about your individualized business goals - you might just find that a mix of traditional and digital tactics are right for your media strategy. Which avenue has been the most successful for you and your business? Leave a comment below or tweet us @BFMweb, we would love to hear your thoughts on the debate between traditional and digital PR.

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