What Is Digital PR?

Cara Bowles    By under Digital PR.

Digital PR is a vital component of modern business. Let's talk about what it's about and answer your questions.

What Is Digital PR?

newspapers

Digital PR is, of course, public relations in the digital age. It is contrasted with traditional PR which is built around traditional media outlets like magazines, newspapers, and television. Digital PR is instead built around online journalists, podcasts, bloggers, and influential social media personalities.

Traditional marketing is mostly an advertising-centric model, while PR is built around the news and talk show industries.

In the digital world, marketing is less about the advertising-centric model, and both the inbound and content marketing industries do have a lot of similarities and overlap with online PR.

Despite this, it's still useful to distinguish online PR from inbound marketing and content marketing despite the overlap, because PR indicates more of a focus on the news and journalism industries, and on events, while content marketing and inbound marketing tend to be built more around blogs and industry niches. Digital PR also tends to emphasize specific business actions, activities, and events, rather than the thought leadership content marketing tends to focus on.

While these worlds are blending more and more with one another, there is enough of a difference that it can be useful to view content marketing and digital PR as separate but overlapping components of a business's marketing and brand management.

What is a Digital PR Campaign?

A digital PR campaign is a component of digital PR, however, it is a mistake to think of digital PR  as nothing more than a series of digital PR campaigns.

A digital PR campaign typically refers to all of the efforts surrounding a specific project designed to earn media attention around it. It may be a donation, an endorsement, a statement, a promotion, a merger, an event, a survey, a product launch, or any other thing a business might do that is newsworthy.

The single event, donation, endorsement, or similar action isn't a campaign on its own. The campaign involves everything built around the action to promote it. This includes press releases, guest editorials, podcast interviews, YouTube interviews, and any efforts to earn coverage from journalists or other media exposure.

What is a Digital PR Executive?

A Digital PR Executive is the executive manager responsible for a business's digital public relations. He or she is responsible for digital PR campaigns, executing a digital PR strategy, earning positive online press, and responding to any negative online press. This person leads the digital PR team, reports on the value of online PR efforts, and keeps other executives informed about where the business's reputation stands in public relations.

Why Digital PR is Important

audience

Digital PR earns attention from online press and enhances all of your marketing efforts.

  • It expands your reach on social media by infusing your brand with attention from journalists and influencers with larger followings on social media.
  • Sites that earn editorial links from journalists and media outlets also earn trust and authority with search engines, increasing your visibility in the search results, especially for topics related to those that are earning you media attention.
  • You increase brand impressions by earning attention where you otherwise wouldn't. Unlike content marketing, digital PR gets you into the press, rather than focusing on thought leadership within topic-oriented niches. It exposes your brand to people who don't read blogs and interact with the kinds of industries that most inbound marketing focusses on.
  • You build relationships that you can leverage in the future. Your PR efforts can earn you trust with journalists and influencers that can be helpful in future marketing efforts and in response to negative press. Long term success in marketing and PR often rests more on relationships than it does on finding new media outlets.

When it comes to reach, trust, SEO authority, and so on, digital PR benefits your brand in many of the same ways as the broader world of content marketing and inbound marketing. The primary thing that makes it worth pursuing in addition to other inbound marketing channels is the audience that digital PR can put you in touch with.

Digital PR puts you in touch with news-oriented audiences that consume little or no evergreen content. These audiences are also often the early adopters. It's also worth remembering that most consumers are really in this segment of the population. Most consumers don't really read blogs or follow niche content creators, but most do consume news from one platform or another.

Is Digital PR Sound?

unicorn chess

What this question usually reflects is a concern over how viable digital PR is for small businesses and startups. It's usually tied up in fears about costs and unpredictability.

The viability of digital PR rests on the goals and expectations you are setting. A reasonable approach to digital PR doesn't count on a PR campaign going viral or your brand becoming a trending topic on Twitter.

Instead, sound digital PR focusses on achievable deliverables such as setting up and following through on an event, distributing a press release, contacting a specific number of journalists and influencers with something that would appeal to them, setting up a certain number of interviews with podcasts and YouTubers, and so on.

Of course, every brand hopes that a PR stunt will make them the next viral sensation, but the overwhelming reality of most businesses is that slow and steady wins the race. Digital PR is absolutely sound if every PR campaign is seen as a stepping stone in a broader strategy to build relationships with influential people and platforms, rather than as a one-shot attempt at going viral.

This approach leads to results that become cumulative over time, and digital PR ceases to be a volatile and unpredictable method of growing your business.

How Is Digital PR Separate From Digital Strategy?

plan

We've been touching on this throughout the post, but while digital PR absolutely is seen as part of inbound marketing, content marketing and SEO strategy, these terms shouldn't be thought of interchangeably.

Digital PR can at times fall under the umbrella of content marketing and certainly of inbound marketing, but what makes it distinct is its focus on journalists, interviews, current events, announcements, and so on.

While it can and should be designed to feed into other efforts that focus on thought leadership and evergreen content, this is not the purpose of digital PR. Digital PR's primary purpose is to build influential relationships tied to audiences who primarily consume news and current events and tend to have an early-adopter mindset.

This makes digital PR one individual part of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. The editorial links certainly feed into your SEO, referrals from authoritative sites can certainly contribute to your status as a thought leader, and brand impressions certainly enhance every other aspect of your marketing strategy. But digital PR is about reaching audiences who won't otherwise find your content because they don't use the typical content marketing channels.

Does Digital Marketing Fall Under PR?

While definitions can be fuzzy in a perpetually changing landscape, it's usually most effective to think of digital PR falling under the umbrella of digital marketing, rather than vice versa. Digital marketing encompasses many things. Some of them have a lot of overlap with digital PR, like content marketing, social media marketing, and link building. Others have very little overlap with digital PR, such as pay-per-click advertising and other forms of paid advertising (aside from sponsored content).

How Digital Has Changed PR

upload

The most important influence digital has had on the PR industry is who has access to it.

Traditional PR is almost entirely a strategy that only large corporations can take part in. Some small businesses might have been able to work a limited amount of PR magic with the local paper and radio in the past, but the digital revolution has made it possible for businesses of any side to take part in PR with a national or even global audience.

The lines between bloggers and journalists are blurred, so there is much less gatekeeping. Small businesses and startups now have access to the news industry in ways they didn't before, and it's easier than ever to build lasting relationships with people, businesses, and organizations that have their own audiences.

Why Do We Need PR In A Digital World?

Why does PR still make sense in a post-digital marketing world? Because the audience for current events is now larger and more particular forever. Every topic and industry has its own current events sector, which simply wasn't the case with traditional media. People also consume far more news-related content than they have in the past. This makes public relations arguably more important than it's ever been, but with significant changes.

How Digital PR Works

theory

Digital PR works by taking advantage of the media industry's perpetual need for new stories.

At the core of public relations is an understanding of what kinds of stories journalists are looking for and will find newsworthy.

Newsworthy stories are:

  • Concrete. Journalists are not interested in abstract ideas and this is one of the primary things that distinguishes digital PR from other forms of content marketing. Journalists want to talk about specific real-world events and people.
  • Stories. Newsworthy stories are stories. They have a beginning, middle, and end, describing how things were before, events that changed them, and what the consequences were. A list of events isn't a story unless it's conceptualized in this way.
  • Emotional. While there is a real danger of overdoing it and coming across as dramatic, the most successful news stories are nevertheless relatively emotional. Don't manufacture drama, but do seek out and leverage the emotional core of your story.
  • Novel. This is likely the most crucial element of what makes a story newsworthy. The more familiar and commonplace it sounds, the less likely it is to be considered news.

Digital PR works by leveraging the journalistic need for these kinds of stories and supplying them. Fundamentally, it is about making the lives of journalists easier.

How Has the Rise of Digital Impacted Ethics in PR?

devil angel

The movement from traditional to digital media has impacted the ethics of public relations in the following ways:

  • Accuracy: The reduction in gatekeeping and the need for a more steady supply of news stories has contributed to a loss of fact-checking and expertise. Any company involved in digital PR needs to be cautious about who they work with so that the journalists they work with don't contribute to disreputability.
  • Polarization: News media are much more politically polarized, to an unprecedented degree. Businesses must be highly conscious of the political affiliations of the media outlets they work with to ensure they are compatible with the business's values and target audiences.
  • Sponsored content: It is illegal for businesses to pay for stories about them to placed without labeling it as sponsored content, but the reduction in gatekeeping and the limitations of small media outlets to afford legal departments can lead to mistakes and unsavory practices in this area. Businesses engaged in digital PR should be highly conscious of how the journalists they work with are doing business and should avoid working with anyone who accepts payment for editorial content without labeling it as sponsored. This includes avoiding exchanging gifts for placement or anything similar.

Keep these in mind as you navigate a digital PR strategy.

What is a Digital PR Agency?

handshake

A digital PR agency is an external company that a business hires to handle its digital PR.

A digital PR agency is not a press release distribution service like Cision. Most digital PR agencies will have a subscription with such a service, but press release distribution on its own is not public relations.

While the purpose of hiring a digital PR agency is technically to outsource your PR work, this doesn't mean you can buy PR like you would a product or SaaS. A PR agency should function as a team that regularly communicates with you and helps devise an ongoing PR strategy.

While a good PR agency can, to some degree, manufacture news stories and press releases and build relationships with journalists without heavy involvement on your part, there will always be limitations to this approach.

As we said above, journalists are seeking concrete stories with novelty and emotional impact. The most impactful digital PR strategy will always involve some concrete actions taken by the business itself, and a good PR agency will work closely with management to devise a strategy for taking newsworthy actions that also serve other important business purposes.

How to do Digital PR

how to

Every digital PR strategy is unique, but many of the actions taken by digital PR teams and agencies will be similar across all industries:

  • Crafting press releases: While there is much more to PR than distributing press releases, it is a necessary component of nearly all digital PR strategies. In order to be accepted by reputable press release distribution outlets, press releases need to be written in a highly specific style that meets journalistic standards. For journalists to be willing to turn a press release into a news story, a good press release needs to go even farther and stand out from the rest.
  • Contacting journalists: Digital PR can't rely entirely on using press release distribution services. It requires emailing and contacting journalists within a highly personalized context and an attitude of what is in it for them. A mindset for building relationships with journalists is always more valuable than a mindset for getting the first story you send published.
  • Press kits: A press kit contains all of the follow-up information a journalist might be interested in if they want to write a story inspired by your press release. Your goal is always to make a journalist's life easier, and that means providing all of the information a journalist would need to write their own news story and doing so in a way that is easy for the journalist to navigate.
  • Media relations: A seasoned digital PR team connects company executives with media interviews with journalists, podcasters, and similar outlets. They will organize the interviews and advise people on how to relate to the media. In some cases, a digital PR professional will act as a representative of the company.
  • Press conferences: While press conferences still have a strong association with traditional PR, they serve a similar purpose for digital PR as well. Web conferences lower the barriers to entry and make it possible for smaller businesses to hold press conferences with smaller or more niche journalists.
  • Managing crises: A good PR team will develop crisis management plans for dealing with bad press, and will be able to respond quickly to the press, and to management with advice on concrete actions to take.

Conclusion

In this post, we explored what digital PR is, and some common questions business professionals have about it. Keep this post as a handy guide to refer back to as you familiarize yourself with this crucial element of the modern business.