I'm noticing more and more businesses starting to take their PR in-house or trying to reduce their spending on PR. Maybe it's because they believe they'll be more efficient doing it themselves, or maybe they want to take their brand in a different direction.

While both of those are valid reasons to want to try and change things, a good PR agency is still a crucial asset to any business in the digital age.

I was luckily enough recently to work closely with Matei Gavril at PRMediaOnline.com and pick his brain about the future of PR and why it's still essential in today's world. Through these projects I've managed to gain a better understanding of why a good PR agency is still crucial to building a business. Below, I'll discuss my key takeaways from my time with Matei.

1. PR has adapted to the times

In line with the digital revolution there have been lots of big changes recently in PR.

The quality of content has increased massively. We all know that SEO is really important for driving visitors to your website and helping build your brand. Traditional press releases still work in some circumstances, but they don't provide the same benefit to SEO. Modern, forward thinking PR agencies have switched to supplement these press releases with sponsored content and editorials which are much more likely to drive quality traffic to your website.

Then there is the influence of social media. Social media has changed the way that consumers gather information. Previously an article in a national newspaper would have been the best way of getting 'viral' coverage. These days, power publishers are utilising social media to spread marketing materials all over the globe with social sharing.

While traditional marketing channels are still really important, PR agencies like PRMediaOnline.com are increasingly supplementing their traditional offline activities with online reach.

2. Relationships still reign supreme

This has long been the secret weapon of PR agencies.

Being able to reach publishers that 'ordinary' people can't is the key difference between PR professionals and everyone else. Using a PR agency will unlock a huge range of contacts for your business.

Getting content related to your business published on major sites can produce a wave of traffic to your site that's tough to replicate. The other benefit of being published on sites like Inc. is the ability to share content. These days, it's so easy to get people tweeting articles, posting them on Facebook groups and following the company page on LinkedIn.

3. Industry knowledge separates great PR firms from mediocre ones

Another unique benefit of working with a PR agency is the ability to call on them for advice when you need it. Many people thing a PR agency just gets you stories, in reality great firms help with all aspects of the branding process.

Working with huge publishers where guidelines on content are strict and visitor's intentions are different can be a real challenge. According to Matei, this is where seasoned firms can come in to the rescue.

Real PR pros know the process of working with both the writer and client to create a great story. They should be able to give you practical advice on what to cover, when to publish different kinds of content and whether or not your brand was being correctly portrayed.

Not only this, but linked with the first point I made in this article, they knew should understand your target audience, and which publishers would help you reach them.

4. Great PR firms save you time

Without inside knowledge on where your message should be promoted, it will take you months and months of research to fully optimize your press strategy, discover the content format that would work most effectively, and then get in contact with the publishers directly.

According to Matei, a great PR firm should take care of all of this for you. This will free up your time to do all the things you need to do to grow your business.