Monday, October 19, 2015

Internet of Everything Public Relations


Padma Warrior is the CTO and Chief Strategist of Cisco, she is brilliant and visionary and one of the most important technology leaders of this decade.

Recently, she quoted a Cisco study placing the value of IoE as a $19 trillion opportunity for her company. It struck me that the PR industry should be investing some of its thinking time to the future into IoE too.

IoE will affect all aspects of business and, like all other sectors,  the PR profession has to find out the key things it will need to consider in this transition.

This paper examines The Internet of everything from a PR perspective and identifies where, in the short term, it will offer significant advantages to the PR sector.

We will discover that, with a new and developing set of professional skills and tools, practitioners will find new opportunities and the downside of underemployment will be avoided as a result.

We will also note that without developing such skills, there will be an opportunity for a significant deleterious effect.

What is the Internet of Everything?

IoE expands on the concept of the “Internet of Things” because it connects physical devices and everything else by getting them all on the network. It moves beyond being a buzzword and technology trend by connecting devices to one another and the Internet and offers higher computing power. This connection goes beyond basic Machine to Machine (M2M) communications, and it is the interconnection of devices that leads to automation and advanced “smart” applications.


IoE works to connect more things onto the network, stretching out the edges of the network and expanding the roster of what can be connected. IoE has a major play in all industries, from retail to telecommunications to banking and Public Relations.

There is a view that IoE will also include intangibles such as values, cultures and art and artistic interpretation. Also, it will encompass descriptions of features and benefits of products and services implied by the words and actions of the client and her many cultural constituencies.
By 2018, 20 percent of business content will be authored by machines (even Larry Dignan could not pick many holes in this Gartner predictions).

Technologies with the ability to proactively assemble and deliver information through automated composition engines are fostering a movement from human-to-machine-generated business content. Data-based and analytical information is already being turned into natural language writing using these emerging tools (AP-Dow is an example).

Such automation should be a feature of Public Relations development. Should they want to, PR consultancies can offer these services now.

Business content, such as shareholder reports, legal documents, market reports, press releases, articles and white papers, are all candidates for automated writing tools.

These outputs can include code to make it even more attractive to IoT devices.

For the past 100 years or so financial reporting has been paper based. Only in the last 25-30 years have reports been created electronically in a word processor and then printed or saved to an electronic format such as PDF or HTML.

But the information contained in PDF and HTML is not easily scraped by computers. Digital financial reporting, by contrast, makes much of this information readable by computers, vastly expanding the potential for automating creation, distribution and analysis of financial reports.

Such help from machines can reduce the time and, therefore, the costs of creating and consuming financial report information and improve its quality.

With machine readability of financial reports, computers can read the reported financial information, "understand" it, and help make sure mathematical computations are correct and intact throughout the report. They can compare reported information to mandated disclosure rules and make sure the report's creator complied with them. This is somewhat similar to how manually created disclosure checklists are used as memory joggers.

There are many benefits:

Reported information can be easily reconfigured, reformatted and otherwise repurposed without rekeying to suit the specific needs of an analyst or regulator.
Ambiguity is reduced because for a computer to make use of the information, that information cannot be ambiguous. This makes the information easy for a computer to understand also makes it easier for humans to communicate more effectively.

Processes can be reliably automated because computers can reliably move information through the workflow. Linking digital financial information together based on the meaning of the information can be much more reliable than trying to link physical locations within spreadsheets, which commonly change.

The software can easily adapt itself to specific reporting scenarios and user preferences because it understands the information it is working with.

No "magic" is involved here. Instead, digital financial reporting relies on well-understood IT practices, agreement on standard technical syntaxes and careful and clear articulation of already agreed-upon financial reporting rules in a form that computers can effectively understand.

Progress towards IoE will also mean that a salesperson's mobile will also provide details travel, meetings, and conversations. Such data will be matched to travel, phone conversations, perhaps even mood measurements and, of course, sales closures. 

Sooner or later, there will be robots that train your children and help them with their homework. That "might seem a little strange to us, but is it really stranger than being trained by a purple dinosaur named Barney?" said Daryl Plummer, a Gartner analyst.

Why should PR be involved?

In short - money.

If PR is at the centre of much of this development, it stands to make a lot of money through implementation and use.

Also, much of this evolution will disenfranchise the practitioner.  Part of what is on offer will make practitioners redundant.

Much of PR that is not automated will be very mundane.

Being part of the new forms of PR will be very interesting, if not exciting!

When will it happen?

You can get an impression of the range of sensors already available from Intel ( I like the ADIS16448 Accelerometer which I could put on my Ski's to prove I was jumping more than 5 metres.

Imagine the world in which everything is connected and packed with sensors.

50+ billion connected devices, loaded with a dozen or more sensors, will create a trillion-sensor ecosystem.

These devices will create what one might call a state of neo-perfect knowledge, where we'll be able to know what we want, where we want, when we want.

Combined with the power of data mining and machine learning, the value that you can create and the capabilities you will have as an individual and as a business will be extraordinary.

Over the next few months I will return to this theme but it gives a tiny insight into what happens on the way to PR Automation.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Digital Changes People and Habits

There are indicators of behavioural change showing a need for attention to the significance of online, including mobile, effects on people.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), and data consultants Springboard reported high street footfall was down -2.8% in June 2015 compared with the same period in 2014. Shopping centres also suffered, seeing a decline of -2.4% year-on-year.

Out-of-town retail parks fared reasonably well, Retail Bulletin reported. They are attracting more "click and collect" shoppers and reported a +2.8% rise in footfall, the 18th successive month in which the sector's footfall has increased.

Meanwhile 'click and deliver' services are booming.

Modern creatives must embody a "new way of looking at the world" that involves fusing data and the latest tech with big ideas according to Lynn Power and Eric Weisberg, of JWT New York. "Today requires a new breed of thinkers - a new way of looking at the world," Power said.

New cultures are emerging.

For example in managing an election campaign it is possible to identify the users 'n shakers in the campiagn and thier relationships with other opinion formers online. Below is a view of tweets for candidate in the CIPR presidential election 2015.

This kind of information changes the way campaigns are run and the way people engage in the election process.

Jaime Settle analysis of over 100 million Facebook updates in the US, discovered that 1.3 per cent more users in battleground states posted status updates about politics, and that this increased their likelihood of voting by nearly 40 per cent reports the London School of Economics.

For those working with technology in museums the catch-all “digital” has largely replaced “online” and even “web” as a description of what they do. From wearables to virtual reality, a plethora of new technology is emerging that challenges the primacy of the screen at the heart of digital experiences. At this year’s annual Museums Computer Group conference, Museums Beyond the Web, th agenda asked "what comes after the web for museums?"

The use of apps is a new PR dimention with examples ready to inspire the practitioner in the most obvious places. Apps change the way PR people behave and a lot of them can influence the way organisations operate as well. They also empower others who would, for example, want to spy on the paper that is still part of the professional's desk.  Withe CamScanner, your phone or tablet is your scanner. Take photos of documents and edit, store and sync them on-the-go!

The many apps are reported across the online media but come with a health warning. You do need to ensure that they do what they say on the tin and they don't steal too much infornation about you or your clients.

Dick Penny, director of Watershed, a cross-artform venue and producer based in Bristol, says: “technology allows people to choose between a more traditional, passive experience and a more active, participatory interaction … it’s amazing how regimented we have become in our cultural habits. Take theatre for example: you buy your ticket, have a drink, find your seat, sit, the lights go down, you know it’s time to be silent. Companies such as [immersive theatre pioneers] Punchdrunk and Watershed have turned those conceits on their head. Rather than devaluing the traditional approach, it just shows there is another way of doing it.”

Often written off as passing fads for teenagers, social media now have billions of users – not only with Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, Instagram and MySpace in the West, but with hugely popular sites like Tencent Weibo, Vkontakt and Orkut in the rest of the world, says Ciarán Mc Mahon. From the point of view of peer-reviewed psychological research, what do we know about what makes these websites popular, he asks and to a large extent answers.

Which brings us neatly to some other research: Eight in ten Brits get more exasperated online than in real life and experts reveal social skills can be hindered by social media.

Have you ever sent a tweet in anger? So many Britons have admitted to social media "road rage" that some experts are now classing it as a syndrome. BT have done some reserach and finds out that this behavioural change is significant and part of what we want to know in this new environment.

Research into the effects of the Internet on social involvement and psychological well-being is now being published. Greater use of the Internet is associated with declines in participants communication with family members in the household, declines in the size of their social circle, and increases in their depression and loneliness. These findings have implications for PR, research, for public policy, and for the design of technology.

This post was created to provide evidence across many aspects of modern relationship evolution to show just how far PR practice has to re-adjust in the new world.

There is a good case for much more detailed and structured research.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Why are we certain that much PR will be automated?

Now to consider the very thought of ‘Automating’ PR.

It is a big subject for quite a lot of us. Automation is coming.

The thought of automating Public Relations is crossed between a joke, a possibility and a certain fearful prospect for most practitioners.

Long in the tooth consultants and senior practitioners are well aware of the range and creative capabilities needed in PR practice day-to-day.

They have the creative and professional capability in campaigns and issues management as well as an ability to bring calm and insights to top managers and interest groups such as journalists.

“You can’t automate it! It's creative!” They cry.

A majority of respondents to the 2015 CIPR survey (76%) revealed that they spend some or most of their time working on media relations. Also, digital knowledge and skills were the weakest competencies among survey respondents – particularly among in-house and senior practitioners.

The reality is, advertising, SEO and social media marketing agencies are combining their ‘paid for’ strengths in with the ‘earned’ capabilities traditionally considered the unique domain of the PR sector. Progressively, more technologies are usurping press relations activities. As we will see, a lot of press relations is being usurped by computers.

US economist Tyler Cowen puts it, machines aren’t only replacing human brawn - as they become more advanced, they’re increasingly replacing human brains. Or to put it another way: if the most precarious place to be working in the British economy in the 1970s and 80s was as a blue collar worker in a factory, today it’s the kind of white collar job occupied by the middle classes.

This is not all. Some social media activities can be automated and are strangely programmable and are not a long-term saviour for the PR profession.

Here we aim to introduce readers to a wide range of capabilities that are wholly or in part automated or automatable.

They go far beyond Facebook, G+, Twitter, LinkedIn and Search Engine Optimisation.

Automated PR is very close. Lots of people use some of its advantages already. The new users of these capabilities are emerging and are by-passing existing practitioners and agencies.

Automation creeps up on us.

It begins with a capability to assemble resources. It structures or re-structures the resources and then produces the result all without human hand.

I don’t claim that all PR is to be fully automated any time soon. But it is here that I begin to explore the many intrusions now taking over which, in time, will progressively automate most of the practices we now undertake and more.

The machines are far too clever to be left out!

For those who hang their hat on the uniquely creative nature of PR will be disappointed to discover that, progressively, technologies are beginning to automate many of the most creative of aspects of modern civilisation. PR will not be exempt.

Perhaps, over the next few days we can look further and see what is really happening. But here is a taster.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

A Definition of Public Relations

As industries are automated some or some parts of the activity are subsumed into a more robust realm of activity.

For this reason, it is very important that we know what we are talking about when we examine PR Automation.

Perhaps it is now time to be very sure about what PR is and can achieve.

There is a number of definitions flying about:

Public Relations is about reputation - the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. Public Relations is the discipline that looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.

Says the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

Lots of people try to define PR. In the digital environment, it is important to be precise and not to drift into other realms of management or to confine the practice to a future of obscurity.

The nature of PR being used in this blog recognises that:

Public Relations requires:

Knowledge and understanding of cultures, (namely “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time”) in society;
Knowledge and capability to identify those values that contribute to and define cultures and groups.

The ethically sound ability to align values in a process of refining cultures to the benefit of cultural groups and the client.

Perhaps we need some evidence to give credibility to this for of thinking.

Her I offer some examples including analysis of employees in a company as evidenced in LinkedIn.

(Picture: The skills (values) of Nationwide employees as expressed by them in LinkedIn)

This approach is consistent for consumer PR, Industry and sector PR, Corporate Affairs and HR development and all other forms of PR.

Our ability to identify, for example: cultural icons in Twitter exchanges; semantic themes in social media discourse, locations of participants, and much more through the use and application of online actions (including social media, location mapping, etc) means we can examine such evidence as values that attach to an individual or group. 

It is then possible to look for common values as between a cultural group, many cultural groups and an organisation (lets call it a client) and identify where there is a mismatch and seek to change the values of the organisation and or the cultural group.

(Picture: Where my Twitter followers live - to the nearest city - showing location values) 

The is a much that has evolved for Public Relations. 

The developing technologies offers much more accurate, much more grounded, much more effective and much better value for money PR.

(Picture: Semantically derived values expressed through Twitter about The Bank of England. Snapshot taken in early 2014)

The idea that values defined cultures is a way forward for Public Relations and  is quite a broad remit, but it also has boundaries.

Being bounded by the effects of culture is useful and prevents us being drawn into the debate about advertising or marketing in that if the activity is not to affect culture, it has no place in PR. Thus, hits on a website are not necessarily an indication of cultural change but events, actions or reactions driven by such hits are cultural effects and thereby are a PR issue.

Online PR is is much more definitive than the Grunig and Hunt (1984), proposition 30 years ago but has some common elements:

“The management of communication between an organisation and its publics.”

Or the description provided by search engines:

"The professional maintenance of a favourable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person (is this ethical?)

"public relations is often looked down on by the media." (from what great height, one might ask).

"The state of the relationship between a company or other organisation or a famous person and the public."

There is a need to be more precise because the range of influences on any individual through communication and other drivers is extensive (no WiFi is an example where equanimity in message reception might be missing).

The range of media and mechanisms and means to influence cultures available to public relations practitioners is extensive, growing and powerful. 

Automation is one such development and adds to the power of the profession and its practices.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Press Officer's New Hats

When the President of the CIPR wore a cap to school, there were people employed in big organisations called Press Officers. 

It seemed to me that this is a great time to review the many tasks that now (or will soon) drop on his or her desk.

The Press Officer now needs many hats, it would seem.

It's budget time. She is looking ahead. A future in which she will identify the nature of the sector (culture) and in which her client operates. 


It has also changed!

The professional in this arena now has to:

  • Identify the sector (culture)
  • Identify the key descriptors (concepts/values) common to, and unique to the sector (culture)
  • Identity changes and the rate of change
  • Identify the media of most significance to the culture e.g. Newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, digitally enabled channels (from Netflix to Twitter), Internet of Things, Stories and intelligence drawn from Big Data.
  • Develop capability to affect cultures.
  • Deliver
  • Evaluate/extract intelligence

Combined, More news is read - boosted by online

The extent to which people have withdrawn from reading print media is now well versed. The trend is continuing. The Newspaper Readership Survey shows the total newspaper and magazine readership on and off-line covers most of the population of the UK.

In 2015, Digital delivered (year on year):

  • +12.3%  incremental increase in printing readership across newsbrands & magazine brands,
  •  +27.3% incremental increase to print readership across newsbrands and 
  • +18.5% incremental increase to print readership across magazine brands.

By mid-2015, The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and The Independent had a larger online readership than print according to the National Readership Survey.
Overall, the readership figures tell a story of traditional print titles not only losing circulation but also losing their relevance online and offline as, for example, women turn to alternative authorities – new blogs, online and tablet brands – for their fashion and lifestyle advice.

Time Online

Ofcom’s Media Use and Attitudes 2015 report, now in its tenth year, shows that internet users aged 16 and above claimed to spend nearly 10 hours (9 hours and 54 minutes) online each week in 2005. By 2014 it had climbed to over 20 hours and 30 minutes.

The biggest increase in internet use is cited among 16-24-year-olds, almost tripling from 10 hours and 24 minutes each week in 2005 to 27 hours and 36 minutes by the end of 2014.

Media Changes

For traditional PR people, this is an issue. For half a century, PR turned used communication to negotiate with groups of people. It remains a  robust if narrow, form of communication and PR as we move towards seeking influence over cultures.

  • The revenues of news channels are disappearing.
  • In the USA, Advertising Age said that measured-media spending fell by 1.8% over the year to June 2015.
  • In July 2015 both the Pew Research Center and the Knight Foundation found that Facebook and Twitter users across all demographics were increasingly using the social networks as news sources. They are however seeking out different types of news content on each platform.
  • There are commercial drivers too. Jon Moeller, chief financial officer at Procter & Gamble, said at an investor conference in 2015: "In general, digital media delivers a higher return on investment than TV or print."
  • In 2015, the UK became the first country in the world where half of all advertising spend went on digital media.
  • Just over £16.2bn will be spent on all forms of advertising in the UK. Digital advertising is expected to grow by 12% in 2015 to £8.1bn to overtake TV and become the largest medium for advertising in 2016.
  • Meanwhile, A fifth (19%) of consumer-facing brands and a quarter (27%) of ad agencies worldwide say mobile advertising is a top priority for their business, yet concerns linger over measurement and privacy. xAd polled 574 ad agency across 11 countries in North America, Western Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.
  • Mobile is a manifestation of the Internet of Things. Our press officer will, of course, now want to master communication using the IoT. 
  • The reason advertising revenue has moved from traditional media to digital media is because it is effective. As for advertising, so too for all other forms of cultural influence.

The net effect, says Moeller, ‘has been to decrease the demand for low-skilled information workers while increasing the demand for highly skilled ones.’ 

Creatives Bow to Technologies

As we shall discover, much of what the PR industry thought was creative and skilled has already been usurped by technologies and only awaits mass implementation.

This trend in the labour markets has been documented in dozens of studies by economists: Author, Lawrence Katz, Alan Krueger, Frank Levy, Richard Murnane, and Daron Acemoğlu, Tim Bresnahan, Lorin Hitt, and others have documented it. 

Economists call it skill-biased technical change. By definition, it favours people with more education, training, or experience.

This puts pressure on PR now, and it is evident there is a need to look to the future in some detail.

An example of the significance of the above trends would suggest that half of all the Press Relations practitioners in 2005 should now be fully trained and equipped digital media experts.

Another group of practitioners might be more active with mobile capabilities because eApp stores and tablets helped drive 157% year-on-year growth in 2011, according to an IAB/PricewaterhouseCoopers report.

Twits for Journos

Meanwhile, the nature of traditional channels is changing fast as well. There is a much wider range of communication platform.

A survey in the UK by Cision in 2014 showed 54% of journalists who responded couldn't carry out their work without social media (up from 43% in 2013 and 28% in 2012). Fifty-eight percent also say social media has improved their productivity (up from 54% in 2013 and 39% in 2012).

If the survey is representative, this means a majority of UK journalists are open to a form of communication that is very different to the traditional press release. It is a change that took less than a decade to emerge.

But these developments are but drops in the ocean. There are examples, case studies, if you like, That show how powerful the internet and notably social media, and the application of technologies can be.

So far we have seen publications, broadcasters, journalists and some PR practitioners, together with advertising agencies gently move into the digital arena. 

Meanwhile, the general population is tearing into this new digital environment.

Political leaders, like Jeremy Corbyn, can point to successful election campaigns driven by Twitter and Facebook.

Picture: Jeremy Corbyn as James Bond. Photograph: @sexyjezzacorbyn.

The dynamism of the Corbyn social media presence is described by Stuart Heritage in the Guardian In which he describes the elements that add up to internet gold. 

'All of a sudden, you can’t move for Corbyn parodies and memes. Want to see a Photoshopped picture of Corbyn as Obi-Wan Kenobi promising a new hope? Check the internet. Want to scroll through endless pictures of his face pasted onto the bodies of rippling vest models? Check the internet. Want to read a weird stream of mothers declaring their berserk lust for Corbyn, based on the fact that he reminds them of a “salty sea dog”? Check the internet, and then go and scrub your face, hands and brain with Swarfega.'
At one point, the hashtag #JezWeCan was being used once every 25 seconds on Twitter. Over on Facebook, a tentative Jeremy Corbyn victory party was being planned for the evening of 12 September in Trafalgar Square, London.

Many, many personalities, not to mention brands would like to replicate such a movement.

There are other indicators of behavioural change showing a need for attention to the significance of online, including mobile, effects on people.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), and data consultants Springboard, reported high street footfall was down -2.8% in June 2015 compared with the same period in 2014. Shopping centres also suffered, seeing a decline of -2.4% year-on-year.
Out-of-town retail parks fared reasonably well, Retail Bulletin reported. 

They are attracting more "click and collect" shoppers and reported a +2.8% rise in footfall, the 18th successive month in which the sector's footfall has increased. Meanwhile click and deliver services are booming.

There are behavioral changes to take into account too.

New cultures are emerging.