The advantages of the proactive public relations techniques which seek to build a buzz around a campaign or to gain favourable mentions and links on third-party sites are:
Reach. E-PR can be relatively low-cost method of directly reaching a niche audience or a mass audience if the brand is amenable to stories that are of interest to publishers. This is often the case for new online brands and startups such as Zopa (www.zopa.com). If buzz around the online campaign orchestrated through PR is successful then additional reach and impact may also be generated by traditional mass media such as TV, print and radio.
The costs for online PR are the agency or internal staff fees for developing the online PR plan, concepts and content. Since there are no media placement costs, this can be cost effective.
Independent comments that are made by a person independent from a company are considered more authentic and can so help raise trust about an online provider such as a retailer. Personal recommendations are particularly important and seem to be trusted more than content sites giving reviews and opinions.
E-PR can help generate backlinks to a site which are favourable for SEO, often from large sites such as online newspapers or magazines which have good link quality.
Favourable stories can enhance the reputation of a brand among its target audience and amplification through influencers can help reach a new audience, But since unfavourable media mentions may damage a brand, so monitoring and response to these is a necessity for most brands.
The main disadvantage of e-PR is that it is not a controlled discipline like online advertising techniques such as pay-per-click marketing or display advertising where the returns generated will be know for a given expenditure. In other words, it could be considered a high risk investment.
Many marketers are also wary of creating blogs or forums on their sites which may solicit negative comments. However, there are counter-arguments to this, namely that it is best to control and be involved with conversations about a brand on the site rather than when it is less controlled on third-party sites. For example, brands such as Dell and Honda enable web users to make comments about their brands so this shows they are listening to customer comments and gain valuable sentiment that can feed intro new product development ideas.
Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F., 2012. Digital marketing: strategy, implementation and practice (Vol. 5). Harlow: Pearson.