Megan Thoume, Senior Account Manager, Clicksmith
This year I made the switch to digital marketing after six years in public relations (PR) so I could expand my understanding of the communication landscape. With the world becoming more digital by the minute, the lines between PR and digital marketing have become blurred. Now, nine months into my new role as Senior Account Manager at Clicksmith, I thought it would be interesting to compare the two industries (brave I know).
The purpose of PR vs digital marketing
In PR, the primary focus is on reputation management. PR professionals work to build and maintain a positive image for their clients. A significant aspect of PR is preparing for and managing crises. The aim is to minimise damage to a brand’s reputation and swiftly regain the trust of the audience.
However, digital marketing is all about sales and brand awareness using online channels. I’ve had to make the shift from writing in a very objective and factual way, catering to the style of journalists, to writing very commercially. While there was an excitement in pitching and gaining coverage in PR, I can now be more creative and have fun with the wording to engage the target audience.
Paid vs earned media
The difference between the industries lies in the channels used. PR primarily relies on earned media, which is coverage that is obtained through relationships with journalists and other influencers. Digital marketing, on the other hand, often involves paid media, including advertising on platforms like Google Ads and social media. This paid approach allows for more control over when and where content is displayed.
Working with earned media means PR is very fast paced for example you never know when a crisis might happen and you find your client on the front page of the Guernsey Press, or when a journalist might call up needing an interview that day. There’s definitely never a dull day.
One of the benefits of utilising owned or paid digital channels is precise tracking and measurement of campaign results. With digital marketing you can monitor website analytics, email open-rates, and measure conversions and click-throughs. This means that you can track a user’s journey and can easily see what is and isn’t working. PR struggles to provide such detailed performance data.
While there are differences, there are also similarities, especially across owned channels. Both involve social media management, video, and blog writing.
PR and digital marketing are also both cost-effective ways of marketing compared to traditional advertising. For example, as PR relies on earned media, you get coverage in a publication without having to pay for the space. In digital marketing, leveraging digital channels like social media advertising, email and Google Ads is very cheap especially for the targeted reach you can achieve.
Staying up to date with the news and trends remains crucial in both fields. While more essential in PR (for crisis management purposes) it can help spark ideas to generate content for both.
Despite the industry shift, my role as an account manager remains quite similar. I still focus on helping clients, creating strategies, ensuring tasks are completed on time, and making sure we provide an excellent service.
When asked which is more valuable for clients, I quickly learnt being diplomatic was key. I mean, I don’t want to ruffle any feathers. However, it’s undeniable that both PR and digital marketing have their unique strengths. PR excels in circulating newsworthy messages and strengthening reputation across channels that digital marketing might not reach. On the other hand, digital marketing is a powerful tool for amplifying brand awareness, targeting a more specific audience and retaining control over the messages you want to convey. Ultimately though they exist to tell your company’s story so being armed with both will undoubtedly position you for success.
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