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PR In the Digital Age

Posted by Gerald Heneghan Sep 3, 2013 11:49:00 AM

Topics: Google, PR, Digital Marketing, Content Marketing, marketing, News

The dawn of digital has had an indisputable affect on the world of PR, but has it changed the fundamentals of the discipline? In this article we'll take a look at the impact of new and exciting digital tools on a traditional field that dates back centuries.

-          The Devil is in the Details

The devil is in the detailsThe end goal of PR is arguably the same as it's always been - communicating a key message to a pre-defined audience or demographic. However, the ways in which this goal is delivered has evolved rapidly over the past few years.

First and foremost, the way people interact with the media has been profoundly altered by the web. While a handful of newspapers and TV channels used to monopolise the public's attention - people now tend to seek out and interact with high-profile issues to an unprecedented degree.

Similarly, the explosion in niche and highly specific publications has made it easier than ever for individuals to find exactly what they're looking for. The same is true of brands, which no longer need to rely on middlemen to get their message across and can directly interact with the public via their own websites and through social media.

However, the transition has not been total by any means and so-called 'traditional' PR (i.e. that which utilises tried and tested techniques to target traditional media outlets) still has a great deal to offer.

-          Compete or Complement?

So does this new breed or PR compete with traditional tactics or complement them? I think it's a bit of both.

The attraction of digital marketing and PR tools is clear. Various analytical tools can be used to give you a clearer picture of the effect your communications are having on website visits and online sales than ever before. Indeed, modern technology allows you to track the customer's journey from a certain link to your website, ecommerce store, social pages and beyond. Cookies and targeted ads also let you hone in on your prospective targets with unprecedented accuracy - hitting them with key messages at opportune moments in their journey.

So with all these fancy new tools at their disposal, what appeal can traditional PR possibly hold for brands and businesses?

-          Here comes the science bitHere comes the science bit

To get a clearer picture of what's going on - let's examine some key facts and figures. Advertising spend is on the rise globally and despite taking a hit as brands and businesses expand into the online arena, traditional media is still going strong. There are reams of statistics on digital channels and it's largely a given that these are increasingly attracting marketing spend, so we'll take a closer look at how traditional PR channels are weathering this sea-change.

Direct Mail: Despite being increasingly side-lined by email, it seems physical correspondence is still a firm favourite. Research shows that it remains a highly effective technique, especially among older people and tends to engender more of a response in general. A recent study from Millward Brown also found that there tends to be more emotional processing involved in receiving direct mail.

In terms of effectiveness, ExactTarget found that 65 per cent of people have made a purchase as a direct result of receiving direct mail and 66 per cent of recipients were spurred into engaging with a different marketing channel. In 2011, the Direct Marketing Association found that direct mail out-performed paid search and email in terms of cost per lead.

Print Media Still Going Strong

Print: Commentators have been sounding the death knell for print for many years now.  And while circulation numbers have certainly taken a hit in favour of free, online outlets - print media is still alive and kicking. The last couple of years have seen the amount being spent on print advertising drop, although this fall has been marginal for the most part.


Content marketing luminary Joe Pulizzi also weighed in on this front, noting that the evolution of the internet has changed, rather than killed off traditional channels. He went on to add that in the age of digital, print is viewed as new and exciting.

TV: TV advertising saw minor gains in the UK during 2011 and has consistently overshadowed both online and print spending in the US during the past few years. However, online continues to quickly catch up and forecasts indicate it will reach near-parity with TV by 2016.

While online banner ads tend to garner more trust among consumers, it's worth noting that the proliferation of ad-blocking software on desktop browsers outweighs the use of on-demand and digital video recorder systems among TV users.

-          Better Together

It seems that the future is looking increasingly integrated. Many industry commentators believe that in the coming years, brands and businesses will not target particular channels, but focus on demographics and consequently aim to reach their key audience across multiple platforms.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau recently found that the majority of mobile phone videos are viewed at home and a Vizu survey indicated that marketers are increasingly recycling material from social and online campaigns into offline efforts.

These findings arguably add to the evidence of a trend towards integration and companies that get their foot in the door early on this front could find themselves in an extremely favourable position. As the lines between channels blur and the days of being completely offline become numbered - a move towards amalgamation seems somewhat inevitable.

But what do you think - will integrated marketing appeal to brands and businesses across the scale or will the resources needed to conquer traditional channels continue to prove prohibitive? Let us know in the comments.

And as always, if you need advice on whether integrated PR is right for you, why not drop us a line or give us a call today for some friendly, no-strings-attached advice?

We've also put together a new eBook for SMEs looking to get to grips with the basics of online marketing. Download it for free and start attracting customers through the web today.

Online marketing guide for SMEs

Images used courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


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