Find out how the transition to Digital PR is changing the roles of modern-day publicists and the tactics they are using to stay on top of news feeds.

Look around and count the number of people captivated by their phones. It’s no surprise that 51% of all web visits are on mobile devices. Pew Research Center reports that 38% of American adults are getting their news online and 66% use their mobile phones and laptops to get there. Primary mediums television and print have been usurped by highly intuitive and portable smartphones. Forcing communications industries, like public relations (PR), to evolve and transform or risk getting left behind.

The days of waiting for the 6 o’clock news or Sunday paper are gone. Instead, you more than likely look to your Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter feeds for updates and trends. Social media continues to thrive. Just last year Instagram broke records with over 700 million active monthly users.

So, how is traditional public relations shifting to the fast-paced, ever-changing technical, social world? By going digital.

To fully understand the evolution, we examine where it all began. Read on as we break down traditional public relations versus digital PR to help you fully understand this modern shift. 

Traditional Public Relations

What comes to mind when you hear traditional PR? The technical definition of public relations is the art of crafting compelling press releases and distributing them to newsworthy sources with the goal of gaining coverage and exposure. Typically, PR’s been reserved for product launches, events, and crisis communications.

As a successful publicist, you have built relationships within the press, media, and publishing. This ensures your message is received and distributed. You also understand that patience is required with offline PR as there are longer lead times involved with print and television.

It may also be more difficult to measure the success of who reads the article, or sees the TV segment, or listens to the radio spot. Success is mainly measured by which stories get picked up and leveraged, or don’t – depending on your goal. However, with society turning digital, public relations has shifted the way you write and distribute press releases.

Enter Digital PR.

The modern day publicist is no longer pushing paper press releases to their media contacts. While this is still an integral part of your role, there’s a much larger priority on SEO, backlinks, keywords, and hashtag strategies.

Today, 7 out of 10 hashtags are branded. Also, 8 million Instagram profiles are businesses, compared to just 1.6 million in 2016. So, how can you compete?

Sponsored ads are great for advertising and visibility. However, PR has to operate with more stealth. AirPR reports that PR generates 10 to 50 times higher conversation rates than those of advertising. The emphasis here is on trending and getting to the top of the feed organically. This can seem like a tough feat and that’s why savvy publicists, like yourself, turn to influencers to spread the word.

Influencers are social media gurus who have built authentic relationships with their audiences through a blog or on their social networks. Influencer marketing and PR use these leaders to push a message directly to their group of loyal trustees in a more genuine and authentic way.

Digital PR in Action

Take Sprint’s 2017 #LiveUnlimited influencer campaign as an example of success. Sprint used public figures including Steven Spence, Jake Paul, Lele Pons, and Gerard Adams to advertise and represent the brand through their unique styles. Since Sprint chose a variety of influencers they were able to reach a wider audience and be seen across different content channels through one unified campaign. Ultimately resulting in a comeback for the brand as a major competitor in the service provider market.

Revolve was another example of a prosperous influencer campaign. This past year the e-commerce fashion brand transformed their hashtag from #revolveinthehamptons to target a new west coast market with their #revolvefestival campaign. The trendy brand had fashion influencers @sincerelyjules and @weworewhat post photos of themselves wearing the clothing while at Coachella, a widely popular and glamourized music festival in Indio, California. Attendees used the hashtag to share style, event news, and music – succeeding in an increased following and brand awareness.

Influencers, often seen as celebrities in their own right, have large numbers of followers that trust their opinion and credibility. This allows for a much more defined targeted audience that other communications mediums can’t offer. Businesses see the potential and 84% are said to be launching at least one influencer campaign within the next 12 months, reported by Inc.

Another advantage of an influencer spreading the message is the potential for backlinks. Backlinks are gold to a digital publicist miner. They help increase a website’s domain authority (reputation), and are a part of Google’s search ranking algorithm – for greater search engine optimization potential!

Getting your message to the top of search engines like Google and Bing is key. And with only ten coveted spots on Google’s first page, a strategic SEO plan is necessary.

Google’s algorithm also takes into account keywords, image-links, and narrative. The words within a blog post and web page are as important as those in the backend code.

Tools like Google Analytics, Moz, SEMRush, and many others are available to help you gauge the quality of ranking keywords, backlinks, and position. Once the technicalities are implemented there are still some basic fundamentals from traditional PR needed to support your efforts.

Back to the Basics

In both traditional public relations and digital PR, you must build trusting and reputable relationships with reporters, influencers, bloggers, and customers in order to get your message out.

The written word is still the strongest. Even those typed on your smartphone need to be well written. And in order to get your message posted, it must be received. That starts with attention-capturing press releases, subject lines, and email copy. Along with an interesting story worthy of repeating.

All great publicists, even those constricted to 280 characters, insert a tone of voice in their writing to help influence readers’ opinions. Ultimately, distinguishing the good PR from the bad PR.

To stay relevant in public relations you must take from the past, transform, and continually evolve within digital technologies.