Time to embrace Digital PR

Time to embrace Digital PR
By Charlene White, DigiPR Founder & Chief Digital PR Strategist
By Charlene White, DigiPR Founder & Chief Digital PR Strategist

Public Relations has been around for over a hundred years  – yet our industry risks being left behind if we don’t embrace and adapt our craft to Digital PR – and fast.

The last decade has seen massive change for everyone.

But like it or not, our industry hasn’t kept up with that change and is being out-shined by other disciplines who have been faster at figuring out what digital means for them and how to adapt their craft to benefit their brands.

It’s no longer just a case of bolting on a bit of social media and continuing to place most of our eggs in the ‘traditional media’ basket. Our audiences behaviours and the channels they frequent have changed – and so must we.

As Communicators, we pride ourselves on our expertise as natural, authentic story-tellers, reputation managers and masters of influence. 

But we now need to evolve and go wider with our skills. 

Here’s why…

Digital has changed everything for PR

The rise of digital, social and the way people consume media across multiple devices and channels in recent years has disrupted age-old PR/ communications traditions most of us have come to rely on.

The ‘Influence Economy’ is now well and truly upon us – which has been driven by an insatiable demand for trusted, authentic content by our audiences.

On the one hand this is good news for Communications pro’s as we invented authentic content.

But it has also seen the lines blur significantly between Marketing and PR.

Story-telling has become part of everyone’s game – but with different objectives.

A Communications/PR pro’s traditional aim is to influence and increase reputation. For Marketers, it is to grow leads and sell.

However, I would argue that both disciplines now do a combination of each these days.

As a result, we’ve seen a proliferation of ‘Content Marketers’ who have ditched old school static advertising techniques and are now focused on developing authentic stories and seeding content, (including thought leadership pieces) across all channels – both paid and unpaid.



Because people want it and it earns trust and eyeballs!

SEO pro’s have also recognised the value of our craft. They are now leveraging it to significantly benefit a brand’s online authority and ranking ability…and are also creating stories and pitching to media themselves to grow their online brand authority.

As a consequence, media channels, newsrooms and the world in general have become a whole lot noisier.

Content Marketers, chief story-tellers and media outreach managers have now become an integral part of digital teams, SEO and Marketing agencies. They’re pitching their stories and seeding content alongside us – and some are even doing it better than us.

This has created a dilemma for the PR industry. The line between who owns what is now blurring.

Despite all this change, many Comms pro’s still don’t realise the significance of this shift and what digital fully means or involves for us as PR practitioners.

In fact, many seem too busy ‘doing the doing’ or hiding behind a ‘safety blanket’ of thinking that we are still unique as an industry as we manage issues, stakeholders and reputation like no other.

And yes that may be true – but it is bigger than that.

PR pro’s need to embrace Digital PR as part of their work

Now you may already be doing Digital PR in some form or another across your online channels.

If you are – that’s awesome! But there are many who still aren’t.

In my opinion, most PR campaigns aren’t going far enough and taking advantage of all the amazing new planning tools and channels that help us provide more value than just coverage and awareness in the moment…which is what I call ‘Browse’ mode.

You may also argue that PR has a different focus or role to play. We are Stakeholder and Community managers, Issues/Crisis Managers, Media, Government Relations and Financial Communications Advisors…the list goes on.

And yes – that is also very true too.

But regardless of our PR focus and objectives, the way we deliver our work and the tools, techniques and channels we need to use now to better understand and reach our audiences have changed – significantly – and we must change with it!


What is Digital PR?

There’s a lot of confusion around Digital PR and what it involves.

Mention that it includes new technology, data, PR-SEO and new measurement metrics and some Communicators run a mile.

Others hide behind the excuse that they don’t need to understand any of that because their Digital or SEO teams take care of it for them.

Big mistake!

Your colleagues/agencies may well be ‘taking care’ of it for you, but (in my experience) likely not in the way you need it to be done.

It’s also not enough to just hire a bunch of Millennials who you think will know what to do either.

How on earth could they? We are all in the same boat i.e. without any real experience in this area as it is constantly evolving.

Yes, Millennials are familiar with navigating some social channels as they’ve grown up with them. But Digital PR is so much more than just knowing how to post on social networks. 

It’s about managing your entire online reputation.

For those Millennials reading this, I apologise and hope I haven’t offended anyone.

But I have seen, first-hand, how tertiary organisations still aren’t teaching Communications students how to properly navigate the new world of Digital PR so how are they supposed to know instinctively what to do without any real world experience?


My definition of Digital PR

Great Digital PR campaigns inspire and deliver value to your audiences and also grow strong digital online authority, long-term, to help manage reputation and also create real measurable results for your business.

After thousands of hours of study on the subject, I like to describe it as a way to plan, design, activate and measure your PR efforts digitally. It goes beyond traditional PR as it captures audiences in both ‘Browse’ mode and ‘Search’ mode.

‘Browse’ mode is defined as traditional and online media and social media.

Search leverages the power of the largest media organisation in the world – Google – to ensure you are there with quality authentic content when your exact is looking for it.

When smashed together, it builds trust with your audience and also grows your brand(s) reputation and online authority.

Digital PR incorporates new digital tools, data, planning processes, activation and measurement metric which create true outcomes. It transforms static news into conversations and provides a better audience experience at the same time as creating an omnipresence across your channels, that creates long-term impact.

If done correctly, Digital PR is a powerful tool that creates real measurable results.

Digital PR takes the guesswork out of our work

Digital provides us with so much more opportunity with access to more data analytics, channels and measurement metrics…and the great thing is most of them are easily accessible and free!

Yet we are missing HUGE opportunities to use them to grow and elevate our work and the online authority of the brands we work for if we continue to ignore them.

There’s no doubt life as a PR/Comms pro is hectic. No day is ever the same. I know as I have been there too for the most part of my 20-plus year career.

We are constantly pulled in all directions and required to manage issues, campaigns and stakeholders across all areas of a business for our brand/clients.

It’s hard work sometimes.

In my experience, you never really get the time to stop and understand what the new era of digital means for PR…and how to pivot towards it with our work.

If you Google the definition of ‘Digital PR’, you will find a range of definitions online. The ironic thing is most are written by Marketers or SEO organisations who actually now see PR (in many cases) as a subset of their own craft.

That makes me mad!

On the other hand, it also validates just how important our craft is and how integral it is to the overall digital mix. We just need to re-write things a little, stand up for ourselves and take back control.

Communications/PR practitioners are fantastic at managing issues and the reputation of our brands/clients – yet we are notoriously bad at managing the reputation of our own industry.

We need to change that. We all need to step up and incorporate new digital PR techniques into our work in order to evolve our industry and remain effective.

DigiPR was created as a way of helping the PR industry upskill and realise the power and benefit Digital PR can have on our work.

Are you with me?


Want to read more about how Digital PR can elevate your work?

Learn Digital PR online

Our Digital PR online course, which is endorsed by the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand (PRINZ) and the Public Relations Institute of Australia, provides you with the complete blueprint on how to research, design and activate an effective Digital PR strategy.

Learn Digital PR in your own time, at your own pace. It will change the way you see and do PR/Communications forever!