Together in perfect harmony…

Together in perfect harmony…

Sometimes, two things that seem poles apart ultimately show themselves to be more similar than they first appear. Last month, I read an absorbing article in The Times’ Saturday supplement about the Humanitas nursing home in the Netherlands which allows university students to live rent-free alongside its residents as part of a project aimed at warding off the negative effects of aging. A disaster waiting to happen? Actually no. Despite both parties apparently conflicting ways: loud music, drinking and late night shenanigans vs. loud quiz shows, knitting and early nights, it works a dream.

Gea Sijpkes, director of care home Humanitas, came up with the idea a few years ago. With many care homes in The Netherlands left with empty rooms, while students often struggle to find somewhere to live, it seemed a win-win situation. Students receive free accommodation, making their time at university more affordable, while the residents enjoy the energy of the youngsters who agree to spend at least 30 hours per month socialising with them, spent chatting, cooking, or helping them to get to grips with new technologies.

Is there anything that these youngsters can learn from their older and possibly more curmudgeonly housemates? Of course: Jurriën Mentink, an urban design student who has lived at Humanitas since the program began two years ago was quoted as saying, “Elderly people are very full of life. As a student, you can learn a lot.”

The feature made me think about the complementary merits of traditional vs digital PR. Just like both sets of residents in The Netherlands, although traditional and digital PR use different channels and methods of engagement, they are ultimately trying to achieve the same goal and should be seen as complementing each other rather than vying for one-upmanship.

Traditional PR strategies, using media channels such as newspapers and magazines, can reach an extended readership beyond their online counterparts, whereas digital PR coverage, appearing online, takes advantage of search rankings and links within coverage to connect readers to a company’s website and product pages – something print media can’t do. Digital PR also takes advantage of social media outlets and online channels of distribution to garner attention, often in the form bite-sized information such as tweets or Facebook posts. Digital PR capitalises on this somewhat recent phenomenon by making information convenient for viewers to read and discover more about the company. Often, these tweets and posts link back to the more formal press release or blog post, which gives readers the opportunity to delve deeper into the information presented. Also, digital PR is backed by data, and is therefore more quantifiable, and ROI analysis is more detailed, whereas results are much harder to measure in traditional PR.
Yet whilst search engines, blogs, forums, and online communication tools have offered fresh ways for brands to gain exposure, the need for unique content and strong relationships, vital components of any successful ‘traditional’ PR campaign, has remained consistent.

It could therefore be argued that both camps shouldn’t fight over which can achieve those goals better or faster but rather complement one another in achieving them together. Digital PR shouldn’t be about mocking the efforts of traditional PR, purely because it’s perceived as an ‘old school’.

Just as today’s millennials benefit from the sage advice – and fun company in the case of the Huminitas home which has seen both old and young residents taking part in mobility scooter races and drinking games – the smartest PR plans involve a mixture of new and traditional PR methods. While digital PR may have the advantage of capturing the intended audience’s attention, traditional PR reinforces those online messages to lend credibility to them.

Gail Titchener

Chief Writing Officer

Posted: 23 September 2016

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