What exactly is Digital PR?

12.5.19 / 6 min read

We all have a pretty decent grasp of what PR is. Just for clarity, we checked with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). Broadly, it “is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”

(Publics being PR jargon for an organisation’s audience.)

That definition may seem a little intangible. But when you drill down into it, traditional PR is the tried and tested technique of “networking with journalists in order to get featured in […] newspapers, magazines, radio, and television.” An undertaking generally conducted by specialist PR professionals and publicists with closely guarded press contact books.

But what about Digital PR? How does it differ from traditional PR? And what do these differences mean for the modern PR professional?

Here we reveal what exactly Digital PR is and how organisations can capitalise upon it.

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What is Digital PR?

Some may believe that Digital PR is simply the addition of social media strategy to traditional PR activities. However, it’s so much more than that.

According to the Digital Marketing Institute, Digital PR “is a strategy used to increase awareness of [a] brand using online methods.” Similar to traditional PR in many ways, Digital PR is Public Relations for the 21st century. In addition to traditional PR outcomes, “it offers the opportunity to reach a much broader audience that can’t be reached with only offline methods.”

Rather than depending on black books of press contacts, Digital PR relies on digital and internet strategies. These include, but are not limited to, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), social media, content marketing, and influencer outreach.

It is bringing PR into the digital era.

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Digital public relations: data and strategy

It’s important for any PR strategy to be data-led. But this is even more significiant for a digital public relations strategy. Analysis of where the majority of your publicity comes from is fundamental. And conducting a media mix analysis will help focus you.

It will give you an understanding of how much of your coverage is coming from online media. This will enable effective planning and targeting of a Digital PR strategy. If we use RSA Group as an example, their coverage comes mostly from online news (48%).

Image of a graph from the Signal AI platform

You can further refine these findings by delving into which topics are getting the most coverage. We’re sticking with RSA Group as an example here. We can see that the majority of their online-heavy coverage covers the topic: Insurance. Closely followed by “Financial Results”, “Analyst Rating”, and “Regulatory Changes.” Results that comes as no surprise for a general insurance company.

Body copy image of Topics from the Signal AI platform

Gaining deeper understanding of the topics you’re associated with means you can plan different campaigns. RSA for example, could focus their energy on a brand awareness campaign. By building up digital PR content associating them with the topic of “Regulatory Changes.” Whilst also positioning themselves as industry experts on “Insurance” with their proactive outreach.

Implementing a strategy

You’ve done the research and gained insight into your current position within the media. What next? The next thing to do is to implement a good Digital PR strategy.

First things first, you need to define your goals and objectives. Why are you undertaking a Digital PR strategy? What do you want to achieve? Are these objectives in-line with your organisation’s? The goals of a Digital PR strategy can include anything from a broad array of PR and marketing objectives. Such as, increasing brand awareness (reputation management) to increasing social media engagement (relationship management).

Your goals can even be focused on a specific event or campaign (task management). Regardless of what your objectives are, it is important to understand what you want to achieve. In addition, you need to know your audience and a way to measure your efforts against objectives. Being able to track the success of your digital efforts as a PR professional is incredibly valuable. Something we will touch on later.


When building out your Digital PR strategies and creating your individual campaigns, it’s vital to take the above into consideration. You should rely on data and research; whilst getting to know your audience and the interactions they want and will respond to. This will ensure that your key message is aligned with your brand. And ultimately that it will actually deliver value to the wider business.

One way you can do this is by creating content for your website and blog. Maybe even reach out to digital influencers, bloggers and journalists to partner with for content. By partnering with external industry influencers, you can fill topic gaps in your content. You can also develop your content offering to those visiting your website and add additional expert voices to your content.

By focussing your PR activities on digital you will provide yourself with the opportunity to optimise your campaigns mid-campaign. This is incredibly useful when when you’re running multiple campaigns with similar objectives. Enabling you to focus more on the more promising campaigns.

Measuring success

As we mentioned earlier, being able to track and measure the success of your digital efforts as a PR professional is incredibly valuable. Even more so in this digital era, one in which traditional PR is being rapidly eclipsed by Digital PR. It can reveal where you’ve done well and what you should continue to do. (Which is incredibly important for campaign optimisation and when reporting successes.)

But it is also paramount for understanding the failings of your strategy. Divulging areas in need of improvement in both the overarching strategy and in individual campaigns.

But how to measure?

Well, the old days of manual press clippings in physical clippings books are over. And there are plenty of online tools you can use that can measure referral and organic traffic, website traffic spikes, and what type of users come to your website and from where. However, these won’t give a PR professional the depth and breadth of knowledge necessary.

More proficient media monitoring tools can help with measuring other important PR metrics such as sentiment, Share of Voice (SOV), geographical data, quality of media coverage, volume over time, brand associations and more. Media monitoring tools such as Signal AI are your one-stop-shop for Digital PR research and measurement.