Why do PR professionals still prioritise print coverage over online?

They might not want to see their names on the front page of The Daily Mail – front-page news is always bad news – but PRmoment.com believes that clients do love to see themselves quoted (ideally with a flattering picture) in the features pages of newspapers and magazines. Online coverage may not be so glamorous, but it does have other advantages. First of all, it is easier to target specific audiences online, and when they have been reached, track their reactions.

As Donna Chessum, director at PR agency Tribe says, such measurement can sometimes be tricky, if not impossible, with print media: “For the first time, PROs can point to tangible evidence of the power of PR in terms of driving traffic to websites, creating buzz and shifting sentiment.” Chessum gives the example of how you can follow brand conversations over a social media campaign to show how the tone changes as a result of online coverage, and how you can also target Tweets and email links to video content to attract the interest of specific journalists and bloggers.

The other big pluses about online mentions is that they are permanent and vital for search-engine optimisation (SEO). Independent PR consultant Jeremy Walters explains:” Where online scores so highly is that it is ‘sticky’ and lasts for years, whereas today’s newsprint is still tomorrow’s fish-and-chip paper (forgive the cliché). The little-known reason that online PR is infinitely more appealing than print PR is that online PR helps a company with its SEO – so much so in fact that SEO and online PR are being merged together in some organisations.”

Victoria Shortt, founder of PR agency Little Red Rooster, agrees with Walters about the benefits of the long-term nature of online mentions and also points out that online media reach a large audience immediately, saying: “The numbers of unique users on some of the best websites are much higher than circulations in some of the print mags.”

But this isn’t to say that online rules. For some clients, there may be a particular print title or section of a newspaper, that can’t be matched. Shortt says: “For some of my clients a mention in the Mail on Sunday’s Live magazine really is the Holy Grail, and they will see a massive uplift in sales as a result.” The key is deciding the right approach to take depending on the client.

Different sectors need to reach their target audiences in appropriate ways. James Staunton, account director, at PR consultancy Wriglesworth, points out the difference between those selling to consumers and those talking to other businesses: “B2C clients whose new business referrals come from the web are smart enough to value links – and they know the best way of getting them without paying for them is via news coverage. Those links will also help them with their SEO. B2B clients are less interested in the nitty-gritty of links and SEO. They are aiming to build up long-term brand equity and thought-leadership. They’re the ones who want to see stories printed on dead trees.”

Case Study

Sean Williams, associate director at PR agency Brazil, gives an example of a recent campaign that harnessed both print and online media. It was for car insurance quotation site swiftcover.com, aimed at those in their mid-to-late 20s, to warn them about the dangers of drunk passengers in the run-up to Christmas:

"We prioritised social media activity alongside targeting major online news channels such as MSN and Yahoo! as well as the national newspaper websites such as the Mirror, Guardian and Daily Star – all of which we gained coverage in. The knock-on effect and planned seeding of the story resulted in thousands of Tweets, not necessarily mentioning the brand, but each and every one linking to the coverage mentioning swiftcover.com throughout. A hugely successful campaign based through an online strategy – and we got significant articles in a few national newspapers too, which was nice.”

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