Has Digital PR Overshadowed Traditional PR?

by | Jun 16, 2017 | Digital Marketing

12 Min Read. |

Let’s begin explaining this with a clear understanding of what Public Relations is. Though I assume you’re familiar with the term, still let’s take a quick look at the definition of PR: Public Relations is the process of imparting the information such that it leaves a favorable impact on the public, it is targeted to. A PR campaign can be carried out for an individual as well as an organization. Public Relation campaigns are response focused and are driven by the objective of creating a positive image. The major difference which separates PR and marketing is that Public Relations is free of cost until you are hiring an agency to conduct your PR, whereas Advertising is a paid form of communication. Now, what exactly do you mean by Digital PR? it clearly runs over the internet and is cost-effective. Some of the daily life instances of Digital PR can be noted as the Facebook shares, tagging friends in comments, Shoutouts by famous pages on Instagram, etc. You must have done that yourself sometime when maybe one of your friends turned into a blogger or a YouTuber, etc. and all you guys shared and commented to help them increase their reach and gain the attention of the people following them.

digital PR

components of Digital PR

What is Digital PR?

Digital PR is a part of the marketing strategy laid by companies to increase their reach and manage their image. Often companies approach the influential bloggers with a substantial amount of followers and subscribers to promote themselves. The online journalists are also been contacted to publish PR stories. PR is undertaken to communicate the right way with the audience.

However, these days the established brands like popular newspapers and social media channels carry out PR campaigns or may simply feature your brand in a single PR story.

Even the Digital PR makes use of the traditional PR tools like press releases. The press releases can be simply circulated online to inform the various journalists, when and what to publish about their organizations.

The E-newspapers are gaining importance and thus a shift is seen from the traditional methods to the digital methods.

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How effective is Digital PR?

The prevalence of the traditional PR for so long leaves no doubt that PR is effective in its approach. The celebrities and politicians especially have a strong PR built to maintain their reputation because in their profession image plays a crucial role and their PR has a major impact on the success of their career.

  • Take a look at the benefits of Digital PR
  • Cost effective way of communication
  • increases the traffic on the unpopular pages
  • Inform people about a product/ service
  • Reshape the image of the brand
  • Use popular personality’s reputation to benefit the brand reputation
  • Plays an important role in promoting the brand amongst the target audience
  • In case, the press turns against your company, a strong PR (if developed) will back you up
  • When PR is used as a marketing tool, the credibility of the brand can be strengthened
  • Leverage social media like facebook, twitter, etc. to boost your company’s Digital PR

Digital PR strategy vs Traditional PR strategy

From the experience of those who have shifted from the traditional PR strategy to the Digital PR strategy, I can quote that even when they make use of Digital PR, they do not completely give up on the traditional PR. Same is the case with Digital marketing vs traditional marketing.

Digital PR

Digital PR Vs Traditional PR

Digital PR

Digital PR functions closely with Digital Marketing strategies i.e SEO, PPC, and other techniques. Combining Digital PR with digital marketing helps a company to increase the PR reach using the SEO tools used by the company.  The Digital PR seeks for non-paid sources for link citations and getting into the notice of the target audience. Digital PR caters to all who are using the internet and have access to a particular site, say Facebook, YouTube, etc.

The success of a Digital PR campaign can be measured by tools like Google Analytics. It enables you to have a count of the hits on the landing page and also have a count of the increase in referral traffic metric created by PR hits. The number of organic searches will also note to increase when the PR campaign is effective. Similarly, the number of conversions is most likely to boost.

Digital PR case study- Domino’s Pizza (in Brief)

About Domino’s Pizza

The international food chain Domino’s Pizza Inc. got registered in 1965, however, it was initially founded in 1960 in Ann Arbor Charter Township, Michigan, United States. Tom Monaghan and his brother bought a small Pizza store, DomNick’s with a downpayment of $500. Within a period of 8 months, James sold his share of the business to his brother Tom in exchange of the Volkswagen Beetle which was used by them as a delivery vehicle. Soon Tom acquired two more Pizza shops and renamed the brand as Domino’s Pizza Inc. 

Digital PR

Domino’s Pizza

The brand has grown ever since with franchise all over the World. They capture more than 54% of the market share. The 30-minute delivery has given them a special preference in the consumer’s mind. The company is one of the leading Pizza brands all over the world with 8700 stores in approx. 50 countries. A majority of the stores are franchised.

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Business objectives of Domino’s 

The primary objective of the brand is to maintain high standards of product and adhere to their USP i.e speed delivery within a time frame of 30 minutes. They were excelling in their performance and gained a huge market share. Unfortunately, a viral video showcasing two Domino’s employees contaminating the food item using unsanitary methods destroyed the brand’s image overnight.


It was April 13, 2009, when Consumerist.com notified Domino’s head office about a video which was been uploaded to the former’s page. The video featured two Domino’s employees joking around and shamelessly polluting the food contents deliberately. This put the brand’s reputation at stake. Undoubtedly, the incident marked itself to be a horror tale for the company.

PR strategy adopted by Domino’s

  • Taking the video off-air

    Domino’s Pizza immediately asked YouTube to remove the video. All the other sites were asked to remove the video from their sites as well. This was a lesson for other brands too. An employee’s act was enough to question their sincerity and reputation built over 49 years of hard work and brand building. This was a time when digital media left them in ruins. So, they knew that the correction will also be made on the digital media only and thus, a Digital PR campaign was on its way.

  • Firing and launching a complaint against the employees

    The employees were recognized and fired from the company. The initial recognition began by taking still shots from the video and circulating it in all the departments of U.S to recognize the employees. In no time, they are found and the manager of that unit was requested to fire the without giving them any chance to   Also, the local police and health department was informed of a complaint against the two.

  • Responding to online queries

    The company maintained silence on the issue in terms of a press release or any kind of press interaction because they understood that releasing press statements will only have the denting video gain more reach. So, instead, they chose to respond to the queries on every possible platform. the PR campaign showed the company as the victim of this incident, making the public believe that it was not something that the company had done.

  • Scrapping the Digital defame with a Digital PR tool

    The company chose to hit the eye for an eye and published their own video on YouTube to put a stop to all the agitation and make the consumers believe that they are not naive to trust the brand. To reassure the consumers that their trust is at utmost priority.

    The counter video featured the president of Domino’s, Patrick Doyle himself in an impromptu format, spilling his heart out without any scripted dialogues to be performed in front of the camera. The video shows him addressing the issue like a responsible President. All his agitation and correction methods were mentioned by him to let his consumers know what their faith meant to the brand.

Results Achieved

  • The response video of Domino’s increased awareness about the issue and the original video gained about one million followers, just 3 hours after the upload of the response video of Domino’s President.
  • Domino’s was an example to other brands teaching them how to deal with a crisis like a boss. The Digital PR strategy used by them was exemplary to many.
  • This incident was a landmark of Digital public relations.
  • Other companies take advice from them on how to handle such issues for their own brand
  • The company’s own Digital PR strategy was successful in portraying them as the victim in this complete incident. The brand value of the company damaged by the employee and this was used as a shield to protect the company.
  • The original video was further titled as ‘How to get yourself fired from Domino’s’.
  • The response video gained back the consumer trust and brought the public in the company’s favor.
  • Their Digital PR campaign worked so well that in May 2010 they received the highest honors the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).


  • Always have a crisis action plan ready.
  • Choose your response wise.
  • The media you choose in a time of crisis must be chosen in accordance with the media through which the crisis hit you.
  • Communicate on a smaller platform to get an insight of how the crisis is been perceived by the audience. Just like Domino’s communicated with the consumer on smaller forums and online discussion sites. This gave them a better understanding of the matter.
  • Present your case as it is if you are not at fault, along with the corrective measures you attempt to take so that such an incident does not repeat.
  • Continue working- do not let any of such instances put a halt to your work.

Traditional PR

The traditional PR strategies make use of the traditional mass media channels like newspapers, Television, radio, magazines, etc. The traditional method focuses more on manual tasks like circulating of the press releases amongst reporters and journalists, informing them what to publish and when to publish. The PR stories being published in the newspaper enjoyed huge readership when the newspaper was considered as the medium of the mass reach followed by radio which is known to have the highest reach of all the traditional media channels. Exploiting all these channels for creating the desired image, building reach and using relations with the journalists and editors, the PR stories were published to have a favorable effect.

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Traditional PR case study – Cadbury

Case Study of Cadbury in Brief –

About Cadbury

Cadbury came to India in 1948 and has stayed ever since. Cadbury was previously known as Cadbury’s. The Indian unit of Cadbury is named as Cadbury India and accounts for a 70%  market share, which is the greatest share Cadbury has in one country, globally. Cadbury India has five manufacturing units spread across the Nation. These manufacturing units can be found at Thane (Maharashtra), Induri (Maharashtra), Malanpur (Madhya Pradesh), Bangalore (Karnataka) and Baddi (Himachal Pradesh). Also, it has a cocoa operations office at Dharapuram (Tamil Nadu).

The market acknowledges Cadbury as the Ferrari of chocolates. In India, it has a gold status and sets the standard for other chocolates.  Cadbury has ventured in Cocoa cultivation in India since as long as 1965.

Business objectives of Cadbury

The primary objective of the brand was to maintain their market share accounting for up to 70% of the market.  However, things turned against them when worms were reported in its best seller, Dairy Milk, in Maharashtra. Overnight the brand’s name was soiled and boycotted by the Indian market. The consumers resisted their chocolate cravings and got into a complete ignorance mode towards the brand.

The news spread like a rapid fire burning the brand image. This was indeed the worst nightmare for the brand.

Approach or strategy adopted by Cadbury

The brand launched a PR campaign, employing the best PR professionals within two weeks of the instance. The marketers, communication professionals amalgamated by AICAR and Subhash Ghoshal foundation informed that the company made immediate arrangements to meet the damage. After 3 months, an Ad campaign was launched featuring Big B presenting the Cadbury Dairy Milk in an all new poly-flow packaging.

Digital PR

Old packing of Cadbury Dairy Milk

Cadbury used the reputation of Amitabh Bachchan in their advertisement, to gain back their reputation after their image was tarnished. There was an exchange of a series of allegation between FDA and Cadbury. The legal war got uglier between the two, further leaving adverse effects on the product sale by 30%. Cadbury passed a statement in defense, stating that infestation was not possible at the production level and occurred on the part of the retailer. The poor storage resulted in worm infestation. However, the statement was not agreed upon by the FDA and the legal suit continued.

This was back in October 2003, when the company was expecting a 15% festive hike since Diwali was around but instead faced 30% decrease in sales. First time ever, the advertisement of Cadbury did not telecast for approximately a month and a half after Diwali.

To back themselves in this time of misery they relaunched their product packaging strategy, which cost them an additional 15-20% charge. Yet, they chose to keep the price of the chocolate same. Along with this, a strong PR campaign was launched focusing on educating about 1,90,000 Indian retailers. This campaign was named as ‘Vishwas’. The major move that brought them back into the market was investing up to 15 crores into the machinery for metallic poly-flow packaging.

The resurrected packaging of the Cadbury Dairy Milk, the project Vishwas, and the newly launched Ad campaign, were all focused on getting back the lost market share.

Digital PR

Revamped packaging of Dairy Milk

Results Achieved

From the early executed PR campaign to the Ad campaign featuring Big B, it all worked in favor of the brand. The Ad was aggressively promoted by Amitabh Bachchan and he used his own goodwill to gain back the consumer confidence. The display ads saw a 15% higher investment from Jan- March. Having an emotional equity in the market, the consumers were especially more forgiving. By May 2004, they began to recover the damages and by June 2004, they were back in the game.

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  • In a situation of crisis, the earlier you launch a PR campaign, the better it is.
  • PR along with Ad is more effective.
  • Use people with a strong good will to associate your brand with.
  • If you are required to make a higher investment, just to gain back the trust of your consumers, DO  it.
  • The previous performance of a brand plays a major role in what latitude they are kept by the consumers in times of crisis.
  • To gain respect and trust of the consumers will take you decades to build whereas, it can be all shattered in a single day.

To conclude:

The above case studies give you the following learning and if you have your brand, you must pay attention to these.

  1. Digital PR is faster and has a wider approach these days.
  2. It is cost- effective.
  3. You get an instant response when you adopt to digital public relations.
  4. To lay down PR strategies for your own company, you can take help fromDigital PR Agencies.
  5. Make use of Digital PR tools along with digital marketing tools to widen your reach and increase the organic searches.
  6. You can keep a track of your reach with the help of digital tools.
  7. Outsource your Digital PR strategy to a digital strategy consulting firm in case of absence of in-house resources.
  8. Take a substantial time to understand the matter and respond wisely to it, choosing the right medium.
  9. Take necessary corrective measures in a situation of crisis to gain back your customer’s trust.
  10. Refer to PR case studies to have an understanding of how can you build a strong PR and stand still in moments of crisis.
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1 Comment

  1. Jerry Tait

    Yes, I completely agree that Google Analytics is perfect measurement for success in digital marketing. People are still doing traditional marketing but more emphasis has given to digital marketing as it is trending all over the world. From decades, traditional marketing has been done so people don’t give up completely as people are still reading news, articles, magazine and so on.


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