Traditional PR vs Digital PR: which offers better ROI?

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traditional PRThe ROI of traditional PR has historically been measured by the size of one’s mention in a publication relative to the cost of advertising for that placement.

Hiring a PR company to get your business mentioned in publications has typically involved retaining a firm starting at $5,000 per month on a 6-month agreement with no guarantees.

Sure, that’s just a standard agreement and others exist, but the underlying fact is businesses rely on existing relationships of the PR company and their ability to pitch and have the product or service get picked up. Lot’s of “if’s” in that agreement other than “if” you as a business must pay for the service.

Now, traditional PR is certainly not dead, but it’s nowhere near as valuable as it once was.

A secular change in how we receive information has taken place over the past five years and it’s no longer as simple as having a mention in Cosmopolitan for women to rush in hordes to the local retailer to purchase a product. Media is now highly fragmented. It’s consumed on multiple devices – mobile, tablet, PC – on top of traditional methods, on numerous sources and at our own leisure.

So how can companies today really get a bang for their buck with PR? Can many really justify the cost of retaining a PR firm and hoping things work out? Is measuring ROI as easy as taking the simple formula of X cost based on the size and number of mentions in a publication? Doesn’t seem logical.

Perhaps when people could only consume content via a few sources, ie a magazine or newspaper, that was true.

No more.

Since we know that news has become fragmented and many companies are highly ROI focused in our less than roaring economy, what other options exist to do PR? Digital PR.

Digital PR is when your brand, product or service is mentioned on a trustworthy blog, website or social platform.

If an influencer distributes a mention about you to his Twitter following of 25K, or Facebook following of 50K, yes, that’s a powerful endorsement to a highly targeted audience which lends credibility to your brand. If an article on your industry is thought-provoking, insightful and leaves a mark on the audience, and mentions your brand OR is penned by your company with a mention in the byline, that builds trust with your audience.

The net effect is an endorsement of your product or service from a credible source to an audience you’d like to reach. Very similar to traditional PR.

But with digital PR there’s another benefit and it is major. It can have a tremendous impact on a company’s SEO.

The links in a mention or guest post on a trustworthy, authoritative source are the best in the business. They’re known as tier 1 links to SEOs. Google can and will make hundreds of algorithm updates per year, but those will not be affected. They pass the most link equity to your website which helps you increase your rankings in the SERPs.

And there’s another powerful component now. The lines which differentiate social and search have become increasingly blurred over the past 24 months. One impacts the other, which is why Google has pushed so hard to make Google + an integral part of a user’s experience. They ultimately want to show user’s results which have been experienced or endorsed by that person’s social graph, and “sharing” equals “endorsing” to the web crawlers.

What does that have to do with digital PR? When that article or link which mentions your brand is shared (eg Retweeted, +1’d, Liked, Pinned, etc), those are known social signals. The algorithms tacitly look very favorably on these and they absolutely impact a company’s positioning in the SERPs.

So let’s recap the two channels:

Traditional PR: mentions + credible sources + (waning) distribution = more buzz and potential sales.

Digital PR: mentions + credible sources + distribution on website + social graph + SEO links = more buzz, higher search rankings and potential sales.

So, the next time you’re looking for PR, which area will you focus on?

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