What does a PR firm do

What does a PR firm do in the digital age?

By Lynn Erasmus – HWB Communications

Digital PR is simply the evolution of what has until now been known as “traditional” PR.

It’s the opportunity to step away from the credibility crises that traditional PR practitioners have had to face so often in the past with new-age tools and tactics that are customisable, effective and measurable.

To a certain extent one can expect a gradual absorption of digital methodologies and practices in any agency that has its roots firmly established in traditional PR practice. Many agencies take their first steps by adding on social media management to their traditional offering and promptly hire a sharp young social media manager to do the job.

Box ticked. Clients can now depend on you to include digital in their scope of work; right?

Wrong. For too long, many traditional PR agencies have considered digital as the “add on”. While social media can be considered the core of what in traditional terms would be “word of mouth” and a powerful source of online reputation, there’s much more to digital PR than a well-planned content calendar.

The strategic mistake is to continue with a primary focus on traditional simply because there are still so many opportunities to continue along familiar routines of media relations, events, conferences and broadcast.

Or rather – used to be. That was before the Covid-19 pandemic changed not just the PR practitioner’s landscape, but the full spectrum of communications, PR, sales and marketing that was used the world over to build brands and turn fans into paying customers.

Make no mistake, traditional PR still has an important role to fulfil.

But for those still in transition, the first step is to consider Digital PR an urgent and necessary strategic business imperative. Digital becomes the priority, traditional remains an essential, but secondary support.

The principles of PR strategy remain unchanged – what needs to be seized upon is the opportunity to exponentially expand the scope of what can be achieved for clients. Understanding the integration of “traditional” and “digital” methodologies to offer clients true assimilation of all tools and tactics to maximise their campaigns is the key to success.

Aside from social media, the arsenal of tools is endless from video, podcasts, guest articles, blogs, influencers – micro or otherwise – and the potential of key keywords to pack a digital PR punch.

Strategic digital expertise is essential to support a substantial digital practice, so invest in senior, experienced resources. The right professional can train and assess which existing team members have the potential to make the change – because not all of them will – and identify gaps where specialist expertise is required.

Increasingly, relationships are being forged online. Establishing meaningful connections require substance, integrity and transparency from brands. So essential expertise to integrate into clients’ strategy is the understanding of how digital content adds value to the traditional brand narrative.

And not all of it need be limited to the earned space. Consider how digital paid spend can amplify what clients own to give campaigns extra impetus.

In digital PR, the importance of SEO cannot be overestimated. The strategy to achieve good SEO rankings is a balancing act between meeting the ever-changing requirements of search engines and providing your audiences with original and relevant content at times and on channels that grab their attention and compels them to share.

Lastly, aggressively pursuing exclusively digital PR business is the key to progress. Adding on to traditional clients’ business with some digital services is a good starting point, but to futureproof your PR business, it is essential to be prepared for the time when there will be no distinction between traditional and digital.

This article was originally published on the Public Relations Global Network, here.