The difference between digital and traditional PR.

The difference between digital and traditional PR. 

PR history and goals

There are multiple ways to do things in business. PR is no different.

The Digital Age has drastically altered the way in which businesses communicate with the public. The rise of social media has blurred the lines between professional and personal relationships. 

Large companies can now connect with individual customers with the click of a button. 

Today’s public relations industry is unrecognisable from 20 years ago, let alone 50. 

The way companies communicate with the world has definitely changed, but many things have stayed the same. For example, the ultimate goals of public relations is, always has been, and probably will be for the foreseeable future are to:

• get a brand noticed. 

• sell products. 

But the way in which these goals are accomplished is evolving on a daily basis. 

Still, that doesn’t mean we should, as the saying goes, throw the baby out with the bathwater.  

As PR continues to develop, we need to remain aware of best practices from the past that still hold up to this day. While at the same time figuring out how we can integrate these old methods with the new ones that are being developed on a daily basis.

A traditional PR professional mindset

PR Professionals from the “old days” of public relations are too set in the old way of doing things. 

Which makes sense because it worked for them in the past. However those same tactics won't work for much longer or have already started to fail. They still rely only on press releases and media conferences to convey messages to their target audience and the wider public. 

This made sense in the days before everybody had the equivalent of a small news channel in their pocket (aka the 90's and before).

Coach Buzz says:

Sometimes, particularly in PR, "tried and tested" isn't good. It can hint at something not developing with the environment.

 A digital PR professional mindset

The modern PR expert is always connected.

• They blog.

• They vlog.

• They tweet. 

• They post photos to Instagram. 

• They live stream on Periscope, Facebook, and Instagram. 

• They record Snapchat updates. 

They thrive on new, relevant happenings within their industry, and on being the first person to post about a new and exciting development. 

Sometimes, though, they can be too quick for their own good.

In their haste to post the “next big thing” to their social media accounts, they might actually do more harm than good. 

They might:

• accidentally say too much about a project

• aeport incorrect information

• leak a photo of a new product before a press conference. 

• share top secret information about a brand on a social media channel. 

• leak a snippet of a new song/music video/film before release, potentially harming the artists release plan. 

The best PR professionals today understand the importance of being on top of current trends.

But they also understand why certain methods are timeless and not to be ignored.

They understand that blogs
, tweets
, vlogs and live streams
 are great for day-to-day communications with their audience. But they are not an adequate replacement for official press releases and conferences. 

They’ll save the truly important information regarding their business activities for these planned events.

It's better than risking backlash after mentioning something in a tweet that wasn't supposed to be. 

By implementing a mix of “old school” and modern PR methods, companies can maximise their potential reach. 

What tools do PR pros use?

Traditional PR

Traditional PR professionals tend to use the tools they used in their heyday. 

 You’ll find them using the following:

Microsoft Excel to keep track of statistical and consumer data.

Microsoft Word to create press releases.

Microsoft Outlook to send emails to clients.

Going about tasks this way was the 90s. Nowadays, it’s a time-consuming, inefficient process that makes it too easy for mistakes to be made. 

Not to mention that there are far more effective ways of doing things in the 21st century. 

Some the best CRM software available are:

What tools do PR pros use?

(Digital PR)

Customer Relationship Management systems have taken the process mentioned above and streamlined it. Commonly known as "CRM" systems these types of software help users (including PR professionals) to do the following:

• Create an efficient strategy for managing current and potential customer information.

These systems streamline the process of:

• Qualifying leads

• Analysing at a history of customer interaction

• Calculating the monetary value of each customer

This results in less time spent switching between different programs - and less chance of making a mistake when doing so. 

CRM systems integrate a company’s database of contacts with its email and social media accounts. This makes every data point immediately available without having to search through separate programs or files. CRMs also update automatically across devices. 

For example, if one employee updates a contact’s information on his computer, the updated information will immediately be available to anyone else with access to the system. Meaning you no longer have to worry whether or not you’re viewing the most up-to-date information whenever you load up the CRM. 

PR tactics new and old

When it comes to utilising tools, there is no balance to be made. PR professionals should always stay on the cutting edge of technology to maximise their company’s potential reach. Whatever can be done more efficiently should be done more efficiently. The cliche "time is money" is applicable to PR as well as business in general.

What tools do PR pros use? 

(Traditional PR)

The traditional way of public relations was quite simple: Boast about why your product is the best in the business.Prior to the explosion of social media and smartphone adoption, information wasn’t exactly easy to come by. 

20 years ago if you wanted to find out a random fact you had to go to the library, and spend a long time looking for the right book.  

Nowadays, you can reach into your pocket, speak to your phone and it will tell you pretty much any fact you want to know. 

This is probably one of the reasons customers often had more trust in advertisers during this time. It was more difficult to find an alternative view on what they were saying. 

So the advertiser wasn't under as much scrutiny when telling the consumer good things about its product/service. 

Not only that, but customers were more accepting of question. There was often nothing subtle about the commercials from years past.

Digital PR 

Content Options

Nowadays, blatant advertisements rarely get companies very far. 

• TV

• Netflix

• Amazon Prime Video

• All 4

• BBC iPlayer

• Now TV

• Radio

• Podcasts

• Outdoor posters

• Direct Mail

• Email

• Podcasts

• YouTube

These are just some of the media channels that are in a savage competition for our attention. A simple 30 second advert or a full page in advert in a national newspaper isn't enough to convince consumers to buy a product or service anymore. Once a potential customer becomes curious enough about a brand they will visit a website. Once they arrive on the website they can be shown:

• Blog posts

• Articles

• Testimonials

• Professional reviews

• Other multimedia

Which can help to drive home the message about the product or service being offered. This added value is often where sales are made today.

In the past potential customers may have taken a company’s word as gospel. 

For example, if they were told a specific cereal contains three times as many vitamins as the leading brand. They'd be less likely to question it. 

As well as the act of questioning the information itself being harder. Today a simple Google search would be enough to refute such a statement today. Because of this, the additional content mentioned above is vital for even the most banal products. 

Who are these messages For? 

(Traditional PR)

Below is an infographic showing audience attitudes to adverts on TV from Ofcom

it reveals that UK viewers are generally annoyed at the amount of TV advertisements. Judging from this data, the number TV commercials are reaching saturation point, or have already reached saturation point. 

Just because we are getting sick of the amount of television commercials doesn’t mean they don’t have a place in public relations. 

Many televised commercials today point viewers toward a company’s website or social media profiles.Which is where the real "selling" happens. 

Advertising and content creation isn’t just about proving a company is the best in its industry anymore, either. 

It’s more about providing value to the customer, and in doing so, giving kudos to those who have helped the company succeed. 

Customers have more easy access to more information today than at any point in history. This means that PR professionals have to give a legitimate reason for customers to make a choice between two brands v.s tricking them.

Traditionally, the press releases and information gleaned at press conferences would be presented to the media. The media would then take charge of relaying the information to the general public. 

Journalists and reporters would take the information and create their own narratives. 

Because of this, the messages put out tended to be incredibly well-thought-out, but not very organic. To avoid having a message misconstrued or incorrectly reported, PR professionals would go to great lengths to be as clear and concise as possible.

Of course, this often meant some information would go completely unreported to avoid confusion.

Who are these messages For? 

(Digital PR)

In the Digital Age, anyone who wants to check out a press release can get their hands on it. 

This means industry experts who create think pieces on the released information, have an almost direct line to some of the biggest names in their industries.

It also means these companies can be a lot more open with the information they provide. Instead of leaving it up to reporters to report information companies can now allow everyone to view the information direct from the primary source. 

In a world in which customers dig for information whenever we don’t get enough of it, as well as technology that allows them to do it, this transparency is a welcome relief.

Crisis Management
(Traditional PR)

Imagine, you own a small retail store selling miscellaneous items. You're out running an errand at the bank and then your businesses Twitter account starts to go haywire, notifications flood in, almost crashing your phone. You open Twitter, to find out you're trending.. on Twitter - and not for any good reason either. It turns out while you were gone there a fight at your store between your staff member and a customer that was recorded and posted on social media. 

It turns out your staff member was very rude to the customer who responded violently. 

There is an overwhelming negative sentiment about your store on social media, the national and local newspapers begin to circle. 

In a nut shell, you have a PR crisis. 

Now those who follow the school of traditional PR religiously would get in touch with following types of outlets:

  • National and local newspapers
  • National and local magazines
  • Trade magazines
  • National and regional radio stations
  • National and regional TV channels

This in theory is a good thing as these channels have a wide reach. However it will take a while to do the following:

  • Track down the respective media outlet contact
  • Speak to them. 
  • Negotiate a deal/sell them your story. 
  • The story/article/interview to be scheduled, recorded, and distributed. 
  • The public to see, interact with and share the content. 

By the time you've got through that process, the situation is likely to have got out of control and your brand is badly or permanently damaged.

So the PR professional that only follows this method in 2018, may have a lot of explaining to do to his/her client.

Coach Buzz says:

The phrase "Bad news travels fast" is especially true for businesses and PR.

Crisis Management

(Digital PR)

Now imagine the same crisis mentioned above. But with some markedly different solutions.

The PR professional who is digitally savvy does the following:

  • Begin to Tweet out apologies
  • Posts an apology on Facebook
  • Posts an apology on Instagram
  • Posts an apology on LinkedIn
  • Posts an apology on Snapchat. 

This "stems the flow" a little as most of the negativity is on Social Media. They are able to quickly:

  • Confirm details
  • Refute rumours
  • Explain protocol
  • Regain control of the narrative

But they don't go after any of the traditional media outlets. This could prove a misstep, because those media outlets have a huge reach. Bigger than you do on Social Media. 

So whilst you can get to the problem quicker, it's likely not solved properly as the strategy is too biased towards one side of the PR coin. 

The Crisis Management Solution

Generally it's better to consider both sides. Both traditional and digital. Depending on your audience profile it may be wise to hold a press conference which is Live Streamed as well as broadcast on TV,  Tweet out and official statement. 

Or put up a post on Facebook and give an interview with the BBC. 

PR isn't always an exact science, you need to consider all the options available to you before making a decision, especially during a crisis. 

Below is a parody of one of the worst PR disasters (2010 BP oil spill) If comedians are making fun of such a boring corporate company, you know you've messed up -badly. 


There are stark differences between traditional and digital PR tactics and professionals. However there are pros and cons to both ways of thinking. For the best business results PR professionals should use both in harmony with each other.

We hope this clears up the difference between the two schools of thought. 

We hope you can combine the two and get a ton of press coverage for your business. 

Want to try some tactics out now? You can sign up to our platform for FREE here and use our Press Release Tool


Keep up to date with technological advances. 

Apply those advances to your PR tactics.

Remember that some of the old tactics can still be effective.

Invest in a CRM software system as soon as you can. 


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