October 19, 2017  |  by Valerie Beesley

In our 24 hour digital news cycle and world of mobile immediacy, news feed posts from friends, relatives or total strangers in our extended network are often the first place we read about breaking headlines or trending stories. In past decades we might have heard about major news events first from anchors reporting the evening news or from headlines in the morning newspaper, but today, 62 percent of Americans cite social media as their primary source for news, according to Pew Research Center.

To complicate matters in today’s digital media ecosystem, people often socialize news stories without questioning the credibility of the source, fueling narratives from fake news sites. While the fake news phenomenon isn’t new, reports on social media activity ahead of the 2016 presidential election underscored the level of engagement for these kinds of stories, noting that in the last three months of the U.S. presidential campaign, top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook garnered more engagement than top stories from established sources including the New York Times and the Washington Post, among others.

Traditional PR can be an essential way to get out ahead of the complexity, providing a framework for brands and organizations to reach and build relationships with important audiences. In an increasingly fragmented digital ecosystem, for brands and organizations engaged in efforts to raise awareness about products, services or individuals, it’s important to understand what traditional PR is, it’s strengths and how strategic efforts can drive meaningful results.

Defining Traditional PR

The Public Relations Society of America defines public relations broadly as, “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” “Publics” are an organization’s audiences including both internal and external. Drilling down further, “traditional” PR, in contrast to “digital” PR, is characterized by the kinds of tactics deployed or the way relationships are built and the channels used to reach and engage with distinct audiences. Traditional external PR elements include media relations focused on building relationships with traditional print, radio and broadcast outlets, planning and launching strategic events and crisis communications. From a high level, digital PR encompasses content marketing, social media management and activities that can support search engine optimization and online business reputation management. In today’s interconnected world where anyone is able to post about a brand, having a basic plan and approach in place for both types of PR is no longer a “nice to have,” it’s a necessity.

Every brand, organization or individual considering PR will have a unique narrative, set of challenges and aspirations. An essential part of engaging in traditional PR is the creation of foundational elements, including clear, consistent, easily communicated messaging. Examples of strategic communications goals can include elevating brand positioning through earned, targeted media relations, increasing a company’s share of voice on trending topics or driving strategic narratives.

Print, broadcast and radio still have substantial audiences and weight as credible, trusted sources, according to Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel. Over seven-in-ten U.S. adults follow national and local news somewhat or very closely and 65 percent follow international news with the same regularity. According to Pew’s findings, even with changing consumer habits in today’s digital news environment and with social algorithms magnifying the voices of friends and relatives, “Americans still reveal strong ties to news organizations,” and, “the digital news era is still very much in its adolescence.”

As traditional news organizations and news consumption habits continue to evolve in parallel, it’s imperative for brands and organizations to continually consider the value of traditional PR – where and when it can provide a powerful way to break through to audiences deluged with digital media. Along the same lines, it is also important to consider the cost of not building in foundational business reputation management elements as a company expands and matures.

The following are some guiding questions that can help you take stock of some of the goals you may have now and in the future:

  • Does your brand or organization have clear, consistent messaging?
  • Is the messaging specific for the different audiences you serve?
  • Are your team’s experts part of industry-wide conversations?
  • Is your company recognized and mentioned alongside industry peers and/or competitors?
  • Is the work of your organization brought to life through visible third-party outlets?

Contact us for more information on which PR mix is most appropriate for your organization.