When we talk about Digital PR today it’s important to make the distinction between traditional public relations and digital public relations. And this is particularly true when it comes to the concept of velocity as it relates to digital PR. But that’s jumping ahead … first things first.

A computer chip with many lines and dots.

There’s a lot of confusion around the topic of digital PR and quite a bit a misunderstanding as to the differences between traditional PR and digital PR. I hope to clear some of the confusion up in this blog post.

I am going to cover two defining differences between traditional public relations and digital public relations in this post. But first it’s important to reinforce the primary purpose for public relations, whether digital or traditional. And that is with regards to the principle of positioning.

What is Positioning and What Does it Have to Do With Digital PR?

Many companies mistake positioning as being an actionable marketing activity. As if it’s something you do to a product or service. Because of this you often hear, “Let’s position X (the new product or service) as [this or that].” But the reality is that companies don’t position brands, products or services, people do. So your position in the marketplace is not necessarily what you say or think it is, but it’s what the market in aggregate says it is. This collection of these attitudes is what is known as share of mind.

Once you understand where the market has your brand or product positioned (and competitive research such as with a SWOT analysis or an SEO audit can help here), you are ready to set a strategy. A positioning strategy has two goals: a) protect and maintain that position; or b) shift from that position in a direction you want to move in.

Understanding a particular position (brand, product or service) before taking action is essential. It’s with this positioning mindset that digital public relations outperforms all other marketing communications disciplines. Digital public relations relies on actionable insights. And these insights are gleaned from a range of digital tools and services that help monitor and gauge the pulse of the market with regards to a product or service category. Understanding this positioning, or share of mind, from a macro standpoint lets you direct your public relations, or other marketing efforts in a pinpoint fashion.

How Is Digital PR Different from Traditional PR?

So back to the two primary differences between digital public relations and traditional public relations. These two components have to do with the point I just made about efficiency and direction when it comes to marketing communications.

The two components are Speed and Velocity.

Now we all know what speed is. It’s the rate at which something is moving. And historically traditional public relations has been reliant on speed for impact. Such as, “Let’s get our new product press release out quickly so we can break the news before competitors have a chance to react.”

To be sure, speed is an essential part of developing a competitive edge. And we all know the value of first mover advantage. But the problem with speed is that if you’re not 100% sure about the direction you’re going to move in, you’re going to get into trouble fast. And it may happen before you realize it. And then, it’s very difficult (and costly) to recover.

So that’s where Velocity comes into play. Velocity is a defining characteristic of digital PR. By definition, velocity is speed in a particular direction.

So to circle back to what I mentioned earlier about the value of PR insights. Especially those gleaned from digital tools and services that help gauge the pulse of the market with regards to a brand, product or service. Remember, positioning is something that consumers and competitors do. So gaining real-time insight into the realities of a competitive market helps ensure that you’re going to move with speed in the right direction when you take action.

What’s Next for Digital PR?

So does this mean traditional public relations is no longer effective? Not entirely, and it’s too early to predict the demise of traditional PR as an effective marketing communications tool. But that said, consider how many companies are still practicing “old school” PR. This means producing press releases, case studies, and other PR content and distributing it to the market based on best guesses when it comes to positioning.

It’s my belief that this tactic – moving quickly in a direction without market intelligence that confirms the direction – lies at the heart of why much content never gets any engagement or eyeballs. It’s because the content is not addressing topics and themes that the market is interested in at that particular moment.

So while it’s too early to predict the demise of traditional PR, the writing is on the wall. Digital PR allows you to move quickly and efficiently with velocity. In other words, speed in the right direction. This leads to greater impact, greater value and more targeted content marketing than you get with traditional PR efforts.

Bill Threlkeld, CEO of Threlkeld Communications Inc

Bill Threlkeld

Bill Threlkeld is president of Threlkeld Communications, Inc., a Digital PR, SEO and Content Marketing & Measurement consultancy. Built on three-plus decades experience in Public Relations and Content Marketing. Bill’s unique value is in leveraging PR to create content “clusters” and campaigns integrating a blend of Public Relations, SEO, social media, and content that can be tracked and measured for optimized performance. Bill’s experience includes: tech, musical instrument, pro audio, legal, entertainment, apps, software, cloud services, travel, telecom, and consumer packaged goods.