The rise of digital channels has impacted businesses in myriad ways, not least how they can go about spreading the word about their products and services.

Marketing strategy has undergone a fundamental shift in the past 10 years as the behaviour of consumers and businesses has altered forever, and it will come as no surprise that public relations (PR) doesn’t work exactly the same way it did back in the days of little black books and networking lunches in London.

See also: What is PR?

PR is a way for brands to build a relationship with their customers and it is very much still a relevant and powerful tool to help your businesses grow. In many ways, I feel it is more important than ever in the digital world.

Not sure you agree with me? Here are my eight key reasons why PR is still as vital as ever.

  1. Social media has made marketing conversational – customers can voice their opinion in just as vocal a manner as your brand can. PR has always been about having a two-way conversation with the press, so a PR professional is very well-placed to help manage your online reputation should a challenge arise.
  2. PR is invaluable in creating brand trust. New brands pop up online and on social networks every single day, and consumers have to try to figure out which ones are trustworthy and offering a high-quality product or service. Good press coverage gives a brand bags of credibility as it is viewed by consumers as a key endorsement of a product by the journalist and publication.
  3. People research before they buy in the digital world and marketing has shifted as a result. It’s moving away from outbound (shouting to the world on billboards about why they should buy your product) to inbound (creating website content, social messaging and blogs that are helpful and interesting to share how your product solves a problem for someone). PR coverage is a vital element of inbound marketing, placing positive mentions of a product around the internet and in print for people to find when they embark on their research.
  4. Lots of brands are rightly concerned with boosting web traffic and SEO, and PR is an excellent tool to create backlinks and drive more traffic to a brand’s website. Coverage in blogs and online publications will be a great addition to your digital strategy.
  5. Journalists no longer rely on just press releases and calls from PR contacts to get their information. They’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn (and other social networks!), but the risk is that they use that information without truly consulting with a brand. PRs will utilise those channels to communicate your brand’s message out to the press and work hard to ensure they are working with the journalist to control the messaging.
  6. Linked to the point above, a joined-up PR and digital strategy is so important and can be very powerful. PR can be used to lead on messaging that is then reiterated by your social media, so it is critical that they match up - make sure your PR and marketing efforts are seamlessly aligned and sending out the same message.
  7. PR has never been an ‘office hours only’ role, and PRs are generally super-keen, ‘always on’ people who are perfectly placed to help you manage online reputation around the clock.
  8. News spreads like wildfire online, even if it isn’t entirely based on fact, and so brands need to recognise the benefit of having reputation management on call if needed. Doing nothing about bad news and hoping it will go away won’t cut it in a world where customers can talk to each other so easily online. A PR can step in and advise on how to take control of the narrative again.

See also: How to plan a PR strategy to make sure 2019 is your very best year yet

So, what do you think? Is PR still relevant in a world where social media has given a loud voice to customers, people research online before they buy, and brands need to stay ahead of the curve? I think PR is a way to stay in control of the narrative and delight their customers, not disappoint them. A modern, digitally-aware PR campaign is the best possible tool to help brands thrive in the digital world.

Tara is our digital and traditional marketing and PR partner, keep checking back for more.