6 differences between traditional PR and digital PR

4 minute read
6 differences between traditional PR and digital PR

These days, there are two different types of PR: traditional and digital.

PR, which stands for public relations, refers to a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and the public.

Choosing whether your business should focus on traditional PR or digital PR (or a mixture of both) can depend on several things, including the:

  • Channels you want to use.
  • Audiences you want to reach.
  • Metrics you want to track and more.

While both types of PR share the same goal of increasing brand awareness, they differ in their executions.

The following are six differences between traditional PR and digital PR so that you can decide what’s best.

Different channels

Obviously, as the name implies, traditional PR focuses more on “old school” channels, such as newspapers, magazines, television and radio. Although they’re considered “old school,” don’t underestimate these channels. Millions of Americans still consume traditional media. On the flip side, digital PR uses “new school” channels, such as social media, websites and blogs.

Because of the different channels, the different types of PR involve different methods:

  • Traditional PR relies on press releases, reputation management and trade shows to spread messages.
  • Digital PR relies on social media marketing, digital outreach and content marketing to reach audiences.

Knowing which channels you want to pursue can help you decide on the type of PR you want to use.

Reaching different audiences

While millions of Americans still consume traditional media, and traditional PR channels are instantly more recognizable (i.e. your local TV station), you can still reach a broader audience with the various digital PR methods available. For example, just a handful of social media post shares have the potential to snowball into so much more.

In digital PR, you also have the ability to target specific demographics with digital and social media advertising, ensuring that the money you’re investing is being spent as efficiently as possible.

Subtle versus direct messaging

Because of the nature of content marketing and social media, your brand has the opportunity to be creative and also subtle in digital PR. This is because you can publish pieces of content that build upon each other over time. In fact, it’s discouraged to be overly selling in a majority of your online content. Instead, you should focus on the value that you can give to consumers, which can develop a relationship that can eventually result in sales. This approach can also benefit your SEO.

Traditional PR has to be more direct because of its format and specific goals. You have limited space and time to convey a message that is tied to your business goals.

Feedback and engagement opportunities

Traditional PR methods can feel a little bit like a one-sided transaction with few opportunities for direct feedback and engagement. Consider a radio commercial or magazine ad. That is a broadcasting-style message, with no direct opportunity for your target audience to engage directly with it. Yes, you can encourage them with a specific call-to-action, but those interested will have to take that extra step to pull out a mobile device to scan a QR code or enter a URL address.

With digital PR, it’s very easy to receive feedback and engagement directly, whether it’s through social media, a comment on your website or blog or something else. You get a better chance to encourage authentic interactions and conversations. These will help build trusting relationships with your audience over time.


Digital PR offers a variety of low- to no-cost methods to convey your messaging and reach your intended audience. Time and effort are the biggest resources needed. But of course, there are costs associated with different online tools and any budget that you’re applying toward online advertising campaigns.

Check out our six tips to maximize your social media advertising budget.

Traditional PR, on the flip side, can have a higher cost when it comes to advertisements and commercials. But don’t forget that you can release press releases for little or no cost. You also can get creative and pen a guest column for your local newspaper, for example, to establish yourself as an industry expert.

Performance monitoring and metrics

Digital PR definitely has the advantage of easy access to real-time monitoring of engagement, impressions and reach. This is regardless of the platform that you’re using.

Check out the 26 social media metrics you should track across platforms, as well as our nine tips to get the most out of Google Analytics.

Traditional PR is much harder to track and often is derived through data provided by traditional media channels. For example, newspapers can give you their circulation numbers. However, there’s nothing else available to help you understand how many people actually saw your newspaper ad specifically.

In conclusion

Of course, there are benefits to both traditional PR and digital PR. Simply understanding the differences can help your business decide where to invest and whether a mix of the two serves your goals.

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