Paradigms of Digitalisation in PR

User generated content is at the forefront of the media landscape; the pioneer for the digital change to public relations as we know it. UGC has flipped traditional PR on its head, and it has done it almost seemingly overnight. Freedom of speech, ease of access and quick communication have all allowed opportunity for ordinary people to be in control of information. Turning into stay-at-home-journalists who simply want to express their passion and opinions to the online world. The information channels created by such movements in the digital media landscape have opened up multiple different forms of communication (one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many). Platforms such as blogs, online forums, free to write articles and most notably social media, has changed the entire landscape of online journalism. Simply the click of one button can allow for a piece of content to be shared thousands of times over; bringing a whole new meaning to instant and up to date news. The traditional one-way channel format, like that of a monologue, has changed to dialogue between two parties of interest. (e.g. Ekachai, 1999; Holtz, 1999) Though a development into a ‘web of dialogues’ is beneficial for a PR organisation, it is highly difficult to control and monitor. Having highlighted this, communication models such as the producer-driven transfer model has been supplemented by the receiver-driven semantic model (Littlejohn, 1999). PR is shifting away from traditional mass linear communication and through digitalisation dialogical and interactional communication are overtaking.

The snowballing progression of digital PR has allowed for a radical succession in analysis of data. Web pages and online content can be examined as well as consumer information, allowing for a wider understanding of target audiences. Furthermore surveys and questionnaires can be issued online to add depth to analysis even more; with chat rooms and 24 hour automated services being able to alleviate problems quickly and efficiently. The proficiency of online data analysis in the digital media landscape has allowed for PR practitioners to better learn the demand of clients, stakeholders and respective publics. Having this knowledge gives opportunity for better strategies and content creation. ‘Analysis, plan, action and evaluation’. (Witmer, 2000) Witmer states that these functions have been characterised as steps, even though their relationship is hardly linear.

Public relation organisations and practitioners are therefore forced to change their strategies and tactics. Bayer (1999) says that, ‘if companies doing business on the internet cant figure out what the web is, they may soon self-destruct.’ PR practitioners these days must translate traditional techniques of communication and contact building into the online. Basic PR essentials can be interpreted into digital PR, and are pivotal for successful campaigns.


Bayer, M. (1999) Website says too many people are operating without a clue. Public Relations Tactics [online]. [Accessed 18 April 2017].

Hurme, P. (2001) Online PR: emerging organisational practice. An International Journal [online]. 6 (2), pp. 71-75. [Accessed 17 April 2017].

Littlejohn, S. (1999) Theories of Human Communication. Wadsworth Belmont, CA [online]. [Accessed 18 April 2017].

Witmer, D. (2000) Spinning the Web. A Handbook for Public Relations on the Internet [online]. [Accessed 18 April 2017].


Digital PR vs Traditional PR

Traditional PR generally focuses on initiatives such as traditional media outlets like newspapers, television and radio. Although these methods are used to increase brand awareness, the tracking of data and information from audiences is limited. For example, broadcast and print numbers are merely estimations; it is almost impossible to monitor how many people have read an article or consumed information. On the contrary, the ease and speed at which digital PR can track and therefore project audience interaction and numbers, is revolutionary. PR has therefore been forced to adapt in its attitude, opinions and actions to attain the demands of the online market and subsequently create and grow an online audience.

It is superfluous for a PR agency just to have creatives focusing on producing content online, without having technical representatives to analyse the market and recommend areas of target. Digital PR is a massive industry and so is the internet itself. It is key that agencies and organisations don’t blindly produce content to simply get lost and caught up in the noise of the world wide web. Choosing the right platform for an agency to purvey content is the formula for success and progression in expanding online presence. However having said all this, there is a lot that digital PR can take from traditional PR. Having a good strategy and understanding the market is paralleled in both digital and traditional PR; identifying target audiences and potential platforms for content creation is pivotal in brand expansion. Once market identification has taken place, then an organisation can form a strategy. Jessie Rasmussen suggests that techniques used in traditional PR must be carried forward in digital PR, simple methods such as, ‘staying calm, not rushing into answering questions and not giving up after the first rejection,’ are all basic yet essential things to remember in digital PR.

Referencing Jess Camp again, she speaks about the similarity in tactics involved in digital PR and traditional PR, ‘Building relationships and securing placements are at the forefront of this digital arm,’ she goes onto say, ‘digital PR has the added benefit of impacting SEO and link building across the web.’ The basis of PR is mirrored in both digital and traditional forms, however, the adaption to the digital media landscape has allowed for developments in digital PR which orthodox PR was always crying out for. In a nutshell, digital PR is, ‘all about combining rational PR with content marketing, social media and search.’ Adding to this, the digital transformation of PR is essentially converting static news into two way exchanges of information through media platforms to talk directly to a target audience. Furthermore online news can be shared throughout the internet, giving potential for exponential growth online.


Camp, J. (2016) Traditional PR vs Digital PR. Digital PR Specialist, Blue Fountain Media [online]. [Accessed 15 April 2017].

Morgan, C. (2013) What is Digital PR?. Social Media Today [online]. [Accessed 16 April 2017].

Digital PR

Defined as a tactic used by brands to increase online presence, through building relationships with key content writers and journalists to gain ‘press hits’ and citations. Digital PR is about online visibility through the development and understanding of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Organisations do this through identifying influences within a market and aiding content creation processes. Publics are consuming information online more than ever before and having a greater online presence directly affects an organisations PR success.

Digital PR and social media are becoming almost synonymous. By analysing social data, practitioners can understand and therefore market demographics and interests of respective audiences. The two-way-channel nature of digital media and the media landscape itself, has allowed for organisations to have better communication with target audiences. Traditional PR had always been about linear exchanges of information; organisations would send a message or create a product having little control over the way their audience would react. Nowadays establishments can send, receive and analyse information in order to better their final outcome. All of this engagement with the public is brand and online visibility building, something which would take trail and error through traditional PR methods. Digital PR agencies understand that online consumer data can be used to inform content creators and other sectors alike, providing opportunity for successful campaigns that increase brand visibility both online and off.

Digital agencies use online tools such as Google Analytics to track the power of digital placement. ‘Google Analytics allows you to track how many users on a website are clicking a link to your client’s site… This information is invaluable and will impact your tactics moving forward by which initiatives should continue, discontinue or be altered.’ Jess Camp (Blue Fountain Media). The development and adaptation of PR in terms of the digital media landscape has allowed for an ease of analysing data online, monumentally speeding up the process of beneficially changing something. By tracking customer feedback through online responses and reviews, PR professionals can monitor their influence; changing the way they might progress going forward. Jess Camp goes on to talk about, ‘building connections with bloggers and influencers, who are key players in the digital space.’ Building relationships with already proven figures who more than often have a vast following, who also have authority in their line of work, can be nothing but beneficial for moving forward and expanding online visibility.

Examples of digital PR include e-mail, blogs, messaging, RSS, wikis, video sharing, webinars, podcasts, search engines and social networking. The list of these channels is ever expanding, but they all represent different potential audiences, and the key to successful PR work is to understand which platform best suits your target audience, and which is the best platform to illustrate a desired message. Practitioners are forced to adopt different types of interaction techniques in relevance to a desired outcome. Proving once again just how much the PR industry has adapted to the digital media landscape.


Camp, J. (2016) Traditional PR vs Digital PR. Digital PR Specialist, Blue Fountain Media [online]. [Accessed 15 April 2017].