What is Digital PR?
Let’s take a look at digital PR.
We know the internet has changed everything, from the way we shop, to the way we communicate with friends and listen to music. These days, we can pretty much do anything we want at the click of a button.
And it’s not just our personal lives that have changed. With technological advances, the rise of social media and the constant stream of easily accessible, real-time information, the business world will never be the same either.
Businesses in all sectors and industries have had to adapt to rapid advances in technology and changes in customer behaviour. PR is no exception.
Of course, traditional public relations isn’t dead. It’s just taking on less of the grunt work, leaving it to its younger, more agile cousin – digital PR.
But what’s the difference? That’s one of the questions answered in this article, along with:
- Why digital PR is important
- How to do digital PR
- How to measure digital PR.
But first, what exactly is digital public relations?
What is digital public relations?
Digital PR describes the methods used to build brand awareness, engagement, and consumer trust using online platforms and tools, such as social media, blogs, SEO (search engine optimisation), and influencer outreach. It borrows elements of traditional PR practices and adapts them for a digital audience.
Smartphones and tablets have transformed how we find, consume, and share information. We now expect our news to be instantaneous, relevant, and engaging.
We’re all about ‘on-demand’ and this culture has forced media outlets to change the way they work, to satisfy our appetite for rich visuals, mobile-friendly design and up-to-the-minute reporting.
As a result, news is now 24/7. Publishing one newspaper a day and broadcasting a 30-minute news programme on television in the early evening is no longer good enough. People want more and they want it now.
Take the BBC, for example. Behind the scenes, news teams are communicating constantly via apps like Slack and WhatsApp to cover all the important news across time zones.
They have teams scouring Google and social media to discover what trends and topics people are talking about. Journalists have a million potential stories at their fingertips, and as a result, news is widespread, fast, and more varied than ever before.
Because of this, public relations professionals have had to adapt the way they work too. The never-ending stream of news means there are more opportunities to land clients press coverage. But, with six PR professionals to every one journalist, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle or miss the boat completely.
So, what does a digital PR agency do in this brave new world? What’s required of a public relations professional in the digital era?
You’ve got to be on the ball, quick off the mark and clear in your approach.
For more BBC-related PR content, read: The BBC and PR: Why it’s a World Icon and How it Can Stay That Way.
What’s the difference between traditional PR and digital PR?
When we talk about traditional public relations, we’re talking about PR before the internet. Way back when PR pros spent hours searching through printed newspapers, magazines and directories to find the contact details for relevant journalists.
Media outreach was a large part of a public relations professional’s day: reaching out to papers, magazines, television, and radio broadcasters in an attempt to land coverage for clients.
A lot of time was spent on the phone to journalists and broadcasters, trying to ‘sell’ stories. Press releases weren’t sent through email in the blink of an eye. They were typed on a typewriter and delivered to press outlets via post, courier, or fax machine. Remember those?
As with digital public relations, traditional PR is all about creating awareness, establishing relationships, and building a positive brand image.
The endgame remains the same; it’s the methodology that has changed.
Connecting with the media is still a prominent part of the job description for those working in digital PR. But in addition to the traditional print publications that made the transition to online, there are 600 million blogs. That’s a lot of choice for PR agencies looking to pitch client news.
Similarly, the number of radio stations has increased dramatically, with around 30,000 global internet radio stations popping up in recent years.
However, as is often the case, more doesn’t necessarily mean better.
For every one online news source that has the authority and reach to take your story and make it fly, there are thousands, if not millions, that have limited readership and lack the aforementioned authority to make pitching worthwhile. So, as with anything else, it pays to do your homework.
But digital PR is so much more than media outreach. It encompasses SEO, social media, influencer outreach and content marketing, such as blog and newsletter writing.
There’s lots to think about.
Why digital PR is important
Digital public relations is important for many of the same reasons as traditional PR. We’ve touched on some already, but to reiterate, digital PR:
- Creates awareness of your brand and expands your audience
- Boosts engagement and develops the public image of your company
- Reduces the impact of negative press through crisis comms
- It can improve your search rankings, boost website traffic and help your business reach a number of people never before dreamed of in the days of traditional public relations.
All good reasons to have a digital PR strategy in place.
However, digital PR also has its challenges, such as fake news and strict data protection laws. And the speed at which news travels can be detrimental when it comes to crisis communications.
Good news travels fast but bad news travels faster.
Interested in the relationship between PR and SEO? Read: How PR and SEO Work Together to Build Your Brand.
How to do digital PR
So, we’ve talked about the importance of digital PR and how it differs from the traditional approach. But how exactly do you DO digital public relations?
Read on for some tips and advice on how to approach your digital strategy.
1. Deadlines are dead
Well, sort of. As always, there are exceptions.
But now that news is on-demand 24 hours a day, consumers can have their fill whenever they please. This changes things from a PR perspective.
Journalism is now a steady feed of headlines. Websites and online magazines are constantly updating content, so you need not concern yourself with missing deadlines.
However, this doesn’t mean you have all the time in the world to pitch your story. Quite the opposite. The time is NOW otherwise, somebody else will nab those digital inches from underneath you.
Like Recognition PR says: ‘News is news while it’s new. And news sells. Old news is a boring repeat of someone else’s news. It doesn’t sell.’
2. Image is everything
Digital is a highly visual medium.
Back in the good old days, you only had to consider camera-worthy segments when preparing for a TV pitch. But content is more complex these days. The web is full of photos, videos, and infographics. You need to up the ante visually, making sure to include multimedia elements in your campaigns to engage the user.
3. Relationships are key
Positive relationships are an integral part of online PR, just as they are with offline public relations. But while traditional media is rooted in relationships with journalists, the vastness of the digital landscape means you have to cast your net wider.
Bloggers, vloggers, social media influencers and podcasters are just some of the people with potential to boost your campaign stats. As such, you need to dedicate more time to researching suitable media channels and networking.
The beauty sector is a great example of where digital PR rules. The mammoth reach and influence of bloggers such as Zoella and Addison Rae mean that getting your product used or promoted by them is going to do wonders for awareness and sales.
It’s no surprise that influencer marketing is a huge deal in the modern era.
To take advantage, be sure to research Instagrammers and YouTubers that could give your product a boost and start cultivating relationships with them.
4. Be sociable
Bear in mind that the bloggers, vloggers and digital content creators with the potential to raise your brand profile are highly active on social media.
They turn to sites such as Facebook, Twitter and TikTok to source news, gather quotes and get inspiration for content. So don’t be unsociable. Get your social media game on and get noticed.
If you show your brand to be a credible and trustworthy source of online content, influencers will take notice, and the seeds of a relationship will be sown.
Want to know more about influencer marketing? Read: How Micro-Influencers Can Help you Boost your Brand.
How to measure digital PR
Okay, but how do you know if your digital PR efforts are working?
Data. That’s how.
In the days of yore, PR pros measured a campaign’s success by the number of press clippings, and metrics such as article size and page number.
But in the digital era, the volume of data is far more abundant, and easily accessible, through tools such as Google Analytics and the multitude of PR measurement tools available online.
Here are just a few ways you can measure the success of your public relations campaign.
1. Gather landed coverage
A bit like collecting press clippings, but less clipping-y.
Once you’ve distributed your press release, keep tabs on where it lands. How many online newspapers, trade magazines and blogs posted your news?
A quick Google search, or a manual check of the sites you pitched to will provide this information. If you’re lucky, the journalist will email a link to the shared content.
Next, check to see if they shared your news across their social channels. If they did, how many likes, comments and shares did the posts receive?
Look into the readership numbers on each publication and find out what each site’s domain authority (DA) is. The higher the DA, the more likely your coverage is to appear high in search engines.
2. Website traffic
If a PR campaign has gone well, you’ll likely see an increase in traffic to your website. This is where the aforementioned Google Analytics comes into its own.
Monitor the engagement with your site. Check to see if there’s a rise in visitor numbers and establish where they came from. Was it social media referrals? Direct searches? All these details are easily found and can be used to measure the impact of your digital public relations campaigns.
3. Social media
How have your social media accounts performed since the campaign ended? Have you had a boost in follower numbers on Facebook and Twitter? Have your DMs lit up with eager enquiries? How many times has your brand or product been mentioned on social platforms?
It’s easy to get this information from each platform’s native insights and analytics. The data provided is fairly comprehensive and easy to understand.
Have conversations about your brand increased on social media? If yes, that’s a pretty clear indication that your campaign performed well.
Want to know more about how to do PR online? Read: Learn About Public Relations Online.