We are firmly planted in the digital age, with email, social channels, websites, and online advertising a mainstay of the marketer’s toolbox. It’s been this way, really, since the early 2000s ushered in high-speed Internet and people began spending more and more of their business and personal lives online. Marketers of course followed, forever anxious to get in front of prospects wherever they are.

For years, digital marketing rocketed along, leaving more traditional practices in its dust. That upward trajectory continued until just a few years ago, when many marketers realized that digital marketing’s effectiveness had begun to level off.

So, What Happened?

The flattening of the curve could be attributed to digital marketing fatigue, with too many channels and messages competing for prospects’ attention. Or it could be that technology is making it harder for marketing messages to get through. For instance, ad blocking software is utilized by 86 million people in the U.S. alone, and ISP and email filters also keep volumes of marketing content from ever being seen.

But perhaps another reason for digital marketing’s decline can simply be attributed to our current times. We’ve grown more cynical as consumers, especially with hundreds of marketing messages coming at us daily. Often, digital marketing can be viewed as intrusive (think pesky popup ads on your cellphone) and disingenuous.

The Return of Public Relations

Make no mistake—digital marketing is with us to stay, and it still has significant value even if it isn’t quite as effective as it once was. But increasingly, companies are realizing that digital tactics need to be conducted in tandem with more traditional marketing practices, especially those that establish credibility and trust.

While some think of PR and marketing as separate entities, PR is actually just another tool in the marketer’s toolbox. It operates on the following premise:

Marketing and advertising are what you say about yourself; PR is what others say about you.

In an era of “fake news” and overhyped marketing claims, prospects are seeking ways to choose brands that are authentic in terms of the stories they share and the value they bring to their users.

Media relations—a primary vehicle for PR—helps brands gain awareness and share their stories through coverage by credible, third-party sources. And while the media landscape has changed, with less paper publications and more online media outlets these days, they remain a trusted source for information.

If prospects listen to media outlets for information about products, they really listen to the products’ actual users. This is why PR also often relies on getting word out about good experiences with a brand through case studies and customer testimonials.

Similarly, thought leadership is used to position a brand and its executives as reliable experts on ways to resolve industry challenges. Again, establishing thought leadership typically begins with the placement of bylined articles in publications.

PR’s roots are grounded in a genuine intention to get information out to an audience that is looking for valid solutions to problems. Growing awareness and building trust with this audience is critical, so that when they’re exposed to a banner ad, social post, or email, they’ll already know who the brand really is, what they stand for, and the quality of their offering.

Establishing such authenticity and trust can go a long way in breaking through today’s digital marketing noise.

This article was originally published on The Connector blog and reprinted with permission.