Navigating Public Relations in the Digital Age

Like every other aspect of marketing and branding in the modern era, public relations (PR) has gone digital.

Your audience is online, and journalists no longer have the same level of “gate-keeping” power they once did. So while connecting with journalists is still important, it’s just one small part of the total PR equation.

It’s time to re-evaluate your PR strategy from a digital-first vantage point. And that’s exactly what I’ll teach you in this guide.

Is PR Still Relevant Today?

Believe it or not, PR is more relevant today than ever before. Your public perception is coming from dozens of different sources across the web, including news stories, reviews, blogs, forums, social media posts, and so much more.

Any prospective client, customer, or business partner can simply Google your name or your company and determine whether they want to work with you in a matter of minutes just based on your online reputation.

If there’s negative information swirling around about your brand or individual reputation, a single press release won’t be enough to drown out that noise.

An effective PR strategy helps you control that information to influence the public’s opinion about you or your organization. 

Neglecting PR in the digital age is like relinquishing control over your branding. Rather than controlling what’s being said about you, you’re letting others tell that story for you (which is too risky).

How PR Has Changed

Not so long ago, PR professionals measured their effectiveness by the number of press releases sent out, number of calls made to journalists, and other quantifiable tasks.

For example, getting a major magazine or top network news show to run a feature story about your company is an achievement, yet the PR department always correlated the amount of print space or broadcast time to the amount of advertising dollars it would have taken to generate the same amount of coverage.

In some cases, this helped justify the PR budget. In one specific instance, our PR person generated a five-page feature article about a small New Jersey software company in Wired magazine, which is valued the same as a $350,000 ad spend! But that kind of visibility is hard to come by on a regular basis. The new way of practicing PR in the digital age has changed the measuring stick.

Today, it’s much more common to see marketing and PR specialists counting how many people actually opened an email newsletter containing a press release or how many people found a press release by searching the web.

You can even track how many people saw your pages mentioned in the release, filled out a form, downloaded a white paper, or signed up for one of your services.

Southwest Airlines once sold $2.5 million dollars worth of tickets from a series of SEO-optimized press releases. This is a major improvement in measurement of the effects of PR.

Press Releases Are Still Important

Even with so many other forms of digital media being distributed and consumed, press releases still play an important role in any modern PR strategy.

In fact, a 2024 survey found that press releases are still the most widely used business tactic for PR coverage.

That said, you can’t rely on press releases alone to fuel your PR strategy.

This survey also proves that businesses are using a multitude of approaches to increase visibility and influence public perception.

Getting Started: PR Best Practices in the Digital Era

PR can be a bit daunting for those who don’t know where to start. So here are a few quick wins that can help steer you in the right direction.

Start With a Compelling Hook

Regardless of the medium the key to getting your story picked up stays the same: every writer, reporter, and editor must feel that your information is relevant, timely, and useful to their audiences. However, they won’t feel that way unless you serve up your story with a “hook” that gets their attention.

With the barrage of press releases every media outlet faces daily, editors and reporters apply selective filters to separate the mundane from true “news.”

Getting your story through those filters is the primary responsibility of your PR professionals. The hook is what helps. Your company’s story may not be urgent “breaking news,” but if you can demonstrate in your press release that your information is relevant and useful to that media outlet’s audience, or you have a timely comment on something in the news, you increase your chances for PR coverage.

Think Hyperlocal

For smaller businesses, going viral with a PR story won’t necessarily deliver results that impact your company’s bottom line. For example, let’s say you’re a Boston-based lawyer who specializes in personal injury.

If you’re only licensed to practice in Massachusetts, then getting your story picked up by national sources can be useless. Instead, you should think hyperlocal and connect with media outlets in your area. is one excellent example of a hyperlocal source that can be leveraged for PR. Its network of loc

Here’s an example I found from this past week of a Boston Lawyer getting featured locally on Patch for a national achievement. The national recognition is cool, but the local story will have a far bigger impact on this firm.

Attack From Multiple Angles

You can’t put all of your eggs in one basket when it comes to PR. To have success in this space, you must take a holistic approach that covers every possible angle. Your digital PR strategy should encompass:

  • Online reputation management
  • Influencer marketing
  • Building relationships with journalists
  • Claiming all of your online profiles
  • Monitoring and responding to customer reviews
  • Consistently publishing positive information about your brand
  • Getting fake and false reviews removed from the web
  • Organizing or attending industry events and conferences
  • Using client testimonials to shape your brand story

This is just barely scratching the surface of how you can approach PR. But it’s more than enough to get you started.

Final Thoughts on PR in the Digital Age

Doing business without public relations is like winking in the dark. You know what you’re doing, but no one else does!

After all, the primary job of PR is to attract attention, delivering high visibility with something advertising simply cannot match: credibility. When a third party such as a journalist, blogger, or even a chat-room member says nice things about your company and/or product, your credibility soars. This is because someone else, not you, is saying the nice things. Let’s face it, wouldn’t you rather be advised to “check this out” than be told to “buy, buy, buy”? Sure you would. And if people say bad things about you, you need to be listening to the conversation and respond quickly. Social media and online sites make it so much easier for your customers and critics to complain, but also much easier for you to respond (on a real-time basis in some cases).

That’s what makes PR so tricky in the digital age. On the one hand, literally anyone can say whatever they want about you or your business and publish it online for the world to see. But on the flip side, this infinite reach can be extremely valuable if you know how to harness that power and put a positive spin on what’s being said about you.

How do you leverage PR in your day-to-day? Drop a comment and let me know.

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