Is Traditional PR Even Worth It?

Any PR pro knows that PR is entirely different than marketing and advertising. So how much should be done online and how much should be done through more traditional styles? That depends; how much what? The answer to this question differs depending on if you are discussing marketing, advertising, or public relations.

Every company should capitalize as much as possible on new, online forms of PR. This is the latest rage in the world of PR, and for good reason. Online PR is often cheaper, allows for better targeting, reaches a wide variety of people, and is flexible. However, this does not mean that you should forget about your old, traditional PR ways. According to Don Bates, author of Don’t Discount Traditional PR Outreach Just Yet, most media studies indicate that “roughly 40 percent of people in the U.S. get their news online, while 35 percent get the news offline.” This means that if you choose to put all your energy into social media and new online PR tactics, you would be missing out on a connection with those 35 percent who still prefer offline.

There may come a day when these statistics become more drastic, and the gap between online and offline uses becomes great enough to do away with most traditional PR. However, while there are still almost as many people receiving their news offline as there are online, traditional PR is a must. If these statistics aren’t enough to change your mind, consider these tips:

  • Relationships – Down to the core, public relations is about getting to know journalists, advertising agencies, and customers. The best relationships are built face to face, and in some ways it is easier to pitch an idea to someone you have met in person. Once you meet someone in person you can get a feel for their personality and ideas, and then structure your PR campaign around that. Not only will you get to know these companies and agencies better, but your own work will be more applicable and appealing.
  • Competition – Offline media has been given no choice but to become competitive with online media. Business has slowed down for many of these offline media coverage companies, but you can benefit. Many editors and reporters need your business and will be eager to hear any ideas you have and work with you to get your business. Take advantage!
  • Credibility – Because traditional media has been around for so long, it can be recognized fast and easy by consumers. Social media does not have this luxury yet, and this is a luxury that you want your business to remember to utilize.

The common phrase “old habits die hard” is an important one to remember as our world becomes increasingly fast paced and technological. It is essential the PR world continues to progress and stay in tune with the latest PR practices and theories, but numbers prove that traditional PR still holds the hearts of many.

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer on topics ranging from access control systems to operations management for Resource Nation, an online resource providing surveillance system tips for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

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  • Because public relations has evolved yet again due to online engagement, the word “traditional” should be banned from our field’s vocabulary. Those practitioners still attempting to deliver “traditional” services while ignoring online marketing will fail. Strong statement to some, perhaps; but, I know this to be true. As companies begin to better understand the potential for added exposure online in social channels, they are going to demand that deliverable from public relations.

    You say online is cheaper? I fully disagree. Online engagement takes incredible strategy and high-level tactical work to implement well and to realize full measurement potential. No one should be pricing themselves less because they’re only offering “online PR.”

  • I agree wholeheartedly with @soulati regarding the use of the term traditional. The history of public relations shows clearly that practices and underlying philosophies have evolved to incorporate broader societal development and, more importantly, to address new challenges.

    I have a stronger objection to the implicit equation of public relations with media relations that informs this article. The result is an extremely limited view of the function that ensures it it relegated to nothing more than a support function. Public relations, and the professionals who work in the field, have far more significant roles in contemporary organizations…in my humble opinion :).

    • Thanks for drawing me back here, Mitchell! Excellent points, as well. For public relations to evolve in the minds of clients and the internal departments/audiences we serve, we must first set the record straight among those in our field.

      The standards are few; the PR bashing off the charts — we all must uphold our ethics and professionalism during this very exciting time for the field at large.

  • Great article. I think it’s important that we don’t forget that while online, and especially social media, seems like the exciting and necessary right now it’s not the only thing we need to pay attention to by any means. While I am definitely guilty of this to some degree, this article provided a great reality check.

  • I think, by using the term “traditional”, you are confusing the medium with the message. I don’t think switching from mailing news release to sending media alerts out through emails caused a crisis over “traditional” PR. The only thing that changed was we had new tools to use. As far back as 1992, James Lukaszewski and others were pointing out that PR was much more than media relations, and that in many situations, it was best to go directly to the audience. So there’s nothing new about what we’re doing now, just the technology that’s changed.

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  • Just another quick voice about the term ‘traditional’ – and how it’s changed. Yes relationships matter, and it’s the PR pro who understands how to develop them that will get results, on and offline. The tools are just that, and a pro will know when best to take an ‘old school’ tactic like handwritten note vs. a quick DM or email. Another thing, big name media is failing and they are following the money – online. So print editions are being thinned while they offer more and more online; so the name recognition may be there, it too has shifted location. By no means do any of the pros I know blindly follow the new toys and forget the old; they adapt, integrate and use the right tools for the job, all based upon researched, targeted strategies. FWIW.

  • Sorry to post a really, really long response to this, but I think it’s a great post. Very interesting.

    Although my firm, Elasticity (, is often considered a social media agency, we preach a something we call “Triangulation,” or a balanced diet of PR (both traditional and online), Social, and Search (SEO).

    Here’s the example I recently gave a client as to why all are important for modern PR practitioners:

    1.     Through public relations, a story about the American Mustache Institute is placed and heard on radio while the target audience is driving.

    2.     The listener is intrigued and wants to learn more about mustaches, and comes home
    but cannot remember exactly what the story was about, or what to search for – they cannot specifically recall what university the story referenced.

    3.     They go to a search engine such as Google or Bing, and type a few “unbranded”
    key words such as “mustache,” “great looking men,” “facial hair,” and did I mention “really good looking guys….”

    4.     With a smart Search Engine Optimization strategy in place, links to and the specific issue come up on the first page of the search engine.

    5.    The American Mustache Institute’s web site is then flanked with positive stories and reviews/conversations in social media forums that paint a positive picture of it for anyone searching, and search results grow stronger.

    6.     This comes full circle when a reporter is researching a story on the American Mustache Institute, and uses a search engine. Research shows that the reporter will click on everything BUT the American Mustache Institute’s website, instead looking for third party perspective, and they find the social conversations about the American Mustache Institute, thus painting it in positive light.

    Here’s a link to where I contribute for on Triangulation in greater detail:

    Again, nice post.


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