Traditional PR vs. digital PR: Unveiling the key differences

If you’re dipping your toe into the world of PR, whether that’s traditional or digital PR, or if you’ve recently jumped all the way in, then you might be wondering how to best make a splash when it comes to raising your brand’s awareness. As we know public relations (PR) is the art of storytelling for brands. It’s how brands present themselves to the wider world. It’s all about sharing compelling narratives that hit an audience hard enough to either make them take action or influence their behaviour.

In other words, PR can be about helping brands make a good impression on the people who matter most – but how do we reach those people? These people, your potential audience, might be most receptive to your message in one of two places: online or offline. That means you might need to change your tactics depending on who you’re trying to reach.

Ready to find out more? Let’s talk about the differences between digital PR and traditional PR.

So what’s the difference between traditional and digital PR?

There are a few differences between digital and more traditional forms of PR. Let’s start with the obvious: traditional PR is the result of landing you or your client in ‘offline’ media such as newspapers and magazines or radio and television shows or bulletins. Digital PR is the stuff that’s more, well, digital. Think blogs, websites and social media shout-outs.

There are also elements of PR that will straddle both spheres such as crisis communications, stunts and events.

So, which type of PR do you need? That depends on both your objectives and intended audience(s). Like most things in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to both types of PR and which one you focus on may be conditional based on your goals (if you don’t decide to do both).

Let’s look at some of those advantages and disadvantages, and then talk them through in more detail.

Advantages and disadvantages of traditional PR


  • Can target a larger, general audience
  • Great for brand authority and visibility
  • Usually some guarantee that someone somewhere will see the placement
  • Easier to frame and decorate the office with!
  • You can be creative, utilise stunts and tailor the size of your campaign


  • Can be slower to get results
  • Harder to measure results
  • Audience may not be the most relevant
  • Can be more expensive due to production costs being passed to customers
  • Lots of publications asking for advertorial instead of editorial

Advantages and disadvantages of digital PR


  • Easier to target both global and niche audiences
  • Can be very cost effective
  • Easier to measure
  • Generally quicker to generate results
  • Can help build brand awareness and SEO visibility


  • Results may not be seen as authoritative
  • Can be harder to come up with campaigns that cut through noise
  • Lots of grey areas with SEO and measurement
  • Easier for people to leave negative comments
  • Can require more people-power – trends and news need to be monitored closely

PR type and audience reach

If you want your message out there and you’re not too fussed or not too sure about who should see it, then traditional PR might be the way forward.

If you would like your PR to be seen by specific demographics (for example, potential foster parents from the Black community), then going down the digital route is a far more simple way to achieve this. Yes, there are totally going to be niche offline and print publications, but if you want to really, really, narrow it down to the audience you’re trying to reach, you’re more likely to find them online where they’re researching and discussing their interests with like-minded people. 

The personalisation that is possible with digital PR can really make a difference when it comes down to targeting the right people for your product or service. Digital PR also allows for more opportunities for global reach should you want it, unlike regional and local press.

That being said, there is a certain gravitas that comes with scoring coverage in a prestigious newspaper or clips of them on the TV. It’s this sort of coverage that can really highlight a brand as an authority in its space.

How to measure PR success

When it comes to measuring success, you can measure the outputs and outcomes that your campaigns/outreach resulted in, whether it was a traditional or digital PR. 

The big difference here is that with digital PR there are more outcomes that can be measured. You can see the circulation and readership numbers of newspapers and magazines but there’s no way to see actually how many people saw that PR placement.

What can we measure?

We can also measure estimated impressions/views/readers, the sentiment, and also consider your target audience. For example, a national newspaper might seem like the be all and end all, but if you are trying to raise awareness on a local level or within a particular sector, then your local papers and trade publications will be much more valuable. These are important to keep in mind.

With digital PR, you have more to measure (Was there a backlink? What was the domain authority?) and a little bit more of a guarantee that a placement has been viewed by the target audience (website traffic, comments and engagement) – although there is never a 100% guarantee in PR!

Sadly for us (and probably even more so for our clients), PR is not a direct sales channel and while that alone can be frustrating, it also means that the success of a PR campaign can be hard to gauge. The fact is that PR campaigns are notoriously difficult to measure, and even more so when it comes to traditional PR, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not brilliant when done well and supported by an organisation

Which type of PR should you pick?

It really does depend on the audience that you want to target and your specific campaign goals. If you’re trying to decide which is best for your campaign, do a little bit of research and take another look at the pros and cons. It might even be worth finding out what any competitors or even collaborators are up to, whether they’re getting any coverage and where from.

If you’re working on a smaller budget or you have a very specific audience that you want to reach, digital PR might be better, but in an ideal world, anyone looking to invest in PR should consider both traditional and digital methods to enhance their brand reputation.

If you’re still not sure which you should pick, need help strategising or would just rather the professionals do it for you, drop us a call or an email and we can chat about what might be best for you and your brand.

Blocks representing tradtional pr vs digital pr

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