When you hear about Digital PR today it’s important to understand the differences between traditional public relations and digital public relations. I’m going to highlight a couple of key defining characteristics of Digital PR in this post.

Let’s start with the baseline reality that 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. But before getting into the different characteristics, it’s important to set a reminder regarding the primary purpose for PR in the first place, whether digital or traditional. And that is with regards to understanding the principle of positioning.

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

Many marketers mistake positioning as being an actionable marketing activity or tactic. As if it’s something you do to a brand, product or service. For this reason, you often hear, “Let’s position X (the new product or service) as [this or that].” But the principle of positioning says 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. It’s what individuals — in aggregate say it is first and foremost. This collective wisdom of individual perceptions is your position, based on what is called your brand or product’s share of mind.

Once you have a good sense of your position from the market’s perspective (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 with regards to PR or marketing outreach is essential. It’s with this positioning mindset in place that digital public relations will outperform all other marketing communications activities and tactics.

Digital public relations relies on actionable insights. 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 your positioning, or share of mind, from a macro standpoint lets you steer your public relations or other marketing efforts in a pinpoint fashion.

How Is Digital PR Different from Traditional PR?

So back to two distinctive characteristics between digital public relations and traditional public relations. These two characteristics 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 our 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 going to be very difficult (and costly) to recover.

So that’s where Velocity comes into play. Velocity is a defining characteristic of a digital PR strategy. 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 casting it out to the market through email blasts and newswire services based on best guesses when it comes to positioning.

It’s my belief that this tactic — moving quickly in a direction without market intelligence — 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.