Digital PR (public relations) leverages online media and builds relationships with online journalists, bloggers, and influencers in order to amplify online brand messaging.
The internet has never been lacking buzzwords. A recent rise of interest in digital PR has critics, fans, and link-selling conmen struggling to agree on what “digital PR” really means. As you can imagine, each party pushes its own focus and corresponding language, creating a diffuse concept.
At Reputation X, we’ve been concerning ourselves with digital PR since 2005, well before others started arguing about what digital PR really is. Since our inception, we’ve worked with the following definition for digital PR:
Digital PR leverages online media and builds relationships with online journalists, bloggers, and influencers in order to amplify online brand messaging.
The focus of PR in the digital realm is on building relationships, diversifying sources of information, and carefully influencing and curating what others say about your company. Just like the first acknowledged professionals in PR, the field of digital public relations is focused on providing balanced information and battling misinformation.
A good digital PR strategy includes many tactics that your business is probably already doing in an effort to build your online presence, such as:
- Traditional public relations
- Content marketing
- Social media
- Influencer outreach
Relationships are crucial. Companies without relationships find themselves forced to resort to quick fixes that create backlash down the road: misinformation, temporary tactics, and rapidly aging link-building tactics. No, no, and no again.
“Analog” and digital PR
Digital PR is not that much different from what might be called “analog PR.” This well-known, classic interpretation of public relations has been around for over a century. In both spheres, having relationships with the right people opens up opportunities to spread your name, proliferate positive information, and diminish or correct misinformation. Having a robust and active network of relationships is the key to success in both digital and classical PR.
Blogs, websites, and social media channels run by influencers have democratized the spread of information and replaced newspapers, radio stations, and magazines to a large extent. Conversations on Twitter are replacing rubbing shoulders at industry events or news cafes, just as being mentioned on a popular website is today’s version of a mention in an article in a large-circulation newspaper.
Digital PR agencies will still typically prepare online press releases, but there are endless possibilities for additional promotion tactics for your brand. Here are a few examples of digital PR initiatives that go beyond the press release.
- Building meaningful relationships with online journalists, bloggers, and influencers
- Gaining backlinks
- Creating online business profiles
- Publishing guest posts and other third-party content
- Encouraging positive reviews and social mentions
The difference between digital PR and link building
This means that link building is a strategy applied in digital PR, not a different way of describing what digital PR is. Focusing on building links alone means forsaking other key parts of a digital PR strategy.
When this focus on building links is done without first focusing on relationships, you inevitably end up with the conman’s interpretation. In this view, relevancy and transparency are at best, easily sacrificed, and, at worst seen as obstacles in the path to building links. In relationships, however, relevancy is a key component.
Saying digital PR is the same as link building is like going to an acclaimed restaurant only to sit at the bar and get drunk on wine. Having wine is a part of the restaurant experience, but by focusing on it alone, you’re actually missing the point – and the worst offenders are a nuisance to everyone in the establishment.
Setting up a strong digital PR strategy
A digital PR strategy certainly helps you build links -- but it does so much more. Crafting and executing a strong digital PR strategy gives you three main advantages:
Building an online reputation
A strong digital PR strategy helps you or your company build an online reputation that’s sustainable, trustworthy, and aligned with your values. By building relationships with a network of people and influencers, information about your company is built up over a longer period and has a chance to grow and develop organically.
One of the best examples of this is the creation of a Wikipedia page. To create a page that doesn’t get deleted, you need sufficient third-party resources to warrant such a page. By selecting and informing these resources, you maintain a degree of control over the information that’s available, and you diversify the sources of this information.
Upholding your online reputation
Building a network of relationships helps you deal with negative or adversarial online sentiment about your brand by activating your supporters and getting the truth out. It gives you a chance to offset or replace negative information and inaccuracies that overshadow the good things people find about your company.
When something does go wrong in your company or your reputation, there is a serious risk that your reputation could remain tainted online. People searching for your company might find a disproportionate amount of information about an old or single incident. Having a strong relationship network that can balance out bad information with good helps you tackle crises as they come up.
Protecting your online reputation
Finally, by creating a digital PR strategy before it’s needed, you protect your company from future damage by setting up proactive measures to deal with negativity or bad press before it happens. This combines the previous two elements of a strong digital PR strategy. It makes tackling a crisis much easier and helps build a solid foundation that underlies and sustains your (company’s) reputation.
Benefits of digital PR
Digital PR is an excellent supplement to other SEO and marketing work you are doing to improve your online reputation. One of the main outcomes of a successful digital PR strategy is improved brand awareness. The tactics described in this article are all designed to not only make people aware of your brand but to show it in a positive light.
Here are a few benefits that digital PR can bring to your business:
- Build brand awareness
- Improve SEO
- Boost website traffic
- Establish authority online
- Increase sales
- Improve online reputation
The concept of digital PR can (and will) be much debated, but public relations are about relationships first. The digital part merely affects the tactics used, not the strategies employed. Without the relationships, tactics labeled as digital PR will prove unsustainable in the long run and fail to provide what a good digital PR strategy should give you: a solid, positive online reputation designed to grow and weather the occasional storm.
Digital PR FAQs
What is a good digital PR strategy?
A good digital PR strategy is focused on building relations with key people: bloggers, influencers, and journalists. Starting with those relationships, you can build, balance, and protect your online reputation.
How do you measure the effect of digital PR?
Often, people want to see certain negative information disappear (such as bad search results or poor reviews). Either drowning out or removing negative information is the clearest result of a good digital PR strategy, but there are other ways to measure the effects of digital PR.
Why is digital PR important?
Digital PR protects your company from (the negative effects of) misinformation, slander, and a poor company image. Aside from tackling these existing problems, a good digital PR strategy also helps tackle future problems.
About the author
Kent Campbell is the chief strategist for Reputation X, a San Francisco Bay Area-based online reputation management services firm. He has over 15 years of experience with SEO, Wikipedia editing, review management, and online reputation strategy. Kent has helped celebrities, leaders, executives, and marketing professionals improve the way they are seen online. Kent writes about reputation, SEO, Wikipedia, and PR-related topics.