What’s digital in PR?

by Guest Author on November 4, 2017

in Articles, Guest Posts

Public relations went through a lot of changes through the last decade. While the core – building relations with stakeholders – is still the same, the processes, goals and evaluation of PR practices have changed over time.

What’s the deal with digital PR?

Communicators agree that there is no substantial difference between the goals of digital and traditional PR. The medium has changed, but the practice has remained the same. Regardless, for the last couple of years, ICCO’s annual global PR report shows that majority of PR practitioners report growth in digital and online communications, as well as expectations for further development. In short, we’re all going digital.
Now, why is that? Especially as some mediums aren’t really that much different? I mean, how much difference can there be between a story for print and online version of The Economist? PR practitioners are also asking themselves that question. That is, if they still have some time left between writing content, editing visuals, creating infographics, organising webinars, checking domain authority, comparing link referrals to PR outreach and generally working on a plethora of tasks that simply didn’t exist a decade ago. The medium didn’t just change, it has also swallowed up every other medium, as well as created new ones.

What does that mean for a PR practitioner?

PR was always on top of the list of most stressful jobs, but technological development has made communication even faster and more demanding. The technology that allowed it to spread to new channels also demanded that PR practitioners quickly take on new tasks, practices and skills. It’s true that we edit and create visuals, and infographics, but most of us didn’t take a design class, but use online tools like Canva or Piktochart. Content optimization would be near impossible without ahrefs, Semrush or Buzzsumo. On the other hand, crisis management and PR measurement have been made easier with social listening and media monitoring tools like Mediatoolkit. So, regardless of new skills needed, comms people aren’t doing it alone. Tools help – A LOT!

Proving PR results

Acquiring new skills brought on new respect for communicators – at least for the good ones, who know how to prove their results.
The age old question in PR was how to prove communications results and efficiency. There still isn’t an unanimous answer on what to do and how to measure, but what pretty much all the experts agree is that we have to move on from outputs (number of pitches, releases and fake metrics like AVE), and focus on actual business goals. Clients everywhere have started demanding that we show how comms influenced sales, employer branding, brand awareness, etc.

Here are some of the ideas what to check.

  • Referral visits – Earned online PR coverage with a link doesn’t only have SEO value, and especially shouldn’t be treated merely as a press clipping. By using Google Analytics, you can track referral visits and find out exactly how many people actually bothered to find out more about the brand you represent.
  • Domain authority – Good and consistent PR practice will inevitably influence website’s domain authority, and targeted practice with optimized content will go even further. Prove PR effort by showing consistent authority growth.
  • Communication funneling – Base your communications on bringing new visitors to the site, and create a funnel showing how many of them convert. By finding a consistent correlation between number of visits and sales, it’s possible to attribute sales to communications results.
    Employer branding – Constant work on a company’s reputation will improve employer branding. Check if comms campaign was followed by improving a number of open job applications.
    Unexpected PR – Use tools such as Mediatoolkit to find new mentions of your brand on web or social media. When people start writing stories about your brand without your pitch, it’s a PR person’s dream come true. When you learn that someone has posted a story about your client, react and see how you can amplify the impact.

So, in the end, what is Digital PR?

The digital landscape is ever-changing. It is no longer unusual for PR people to dabble in SEO and design, designers to work on content marketing, or for marketers in general to do pretty much everything from website development to content production. All of those are nothing but tactics. When keeping goals in mind and not just skillsets we currently have, it’s easier to get out of the comfort zone and work towards results, no matter what skill it takes. That is the essence of digital PR – adapting to new trends and tools, while keeping in mind that the core is still the same.

Guest article written by: Matija Martek works in PR&Marketing at Mediatoolkit, online media monitoring and analytics tool. His primary interests are PR measurement and evaluation, but he’s also very prone to dabbling with other communications disciplines. Spare time activities include bouldering and gorging on junk food. Connect with him on Twitter: @matty_martian or Linkedin: /matijamartek

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