Lynn Erasmus, Managing Director at HWB Communications, says now is an opportunity to step away from the credibility crises that traditional PR practitioners have had to face so often in the past because new-age tools and tactics are customisable, effective, and above all, measurable.

Digital PR is simply the evolution of what has until now been known as ‘traditional’ PR. The time when there will no longer be a distinction between the two is fast approaching and agencies still rooted in traditional practices should make the change sooner rather than later.

To a certain extent, one can count on a gradual absorption of some digital methodologies and practices in any traditional agency. 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?

Not quite. Many traditional PR agencies still consider 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 is 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 is still enough opportunities that exist to continue along familiar routines, or rather,  used to be. That was before the Covid 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 a very important role to play and for those still in transition, the first step is to consider digital an urgent and necessary strategic business imperative. 

Digital becomes the priority. Traditional remains essential but will in all likelihood become a secondary support act. The principles of conceptualising a good strategy remain unchanged. What needs to be seized upon is the opportunity to exponentially expand the scope of what can be achieved for clients. 

Strategic 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, creativity and transparency from brands. So essential know-how to integrate into your own and clients’ strategies is the understanding of the ways in which digital content adds value to the brand narrative.

And not all of it is limited to the earned space. Consider how digital paid spend can amplify what clients own to give campaigns extra impetus. The inclusion of paid online marketing can expand your clients’ reach in ways that simply is not possible with traditional approaches.

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 or act.

Lastly, expanding on the services you offer traditional clients with a digital offering is a very good starting point, but to future-proof your PR business, it is essential to understand that pursuing exclusively digital PR business is the key to future growth.