Thursday, July 09, 2015

Automation of PR - Part 1



I am writing a new book.
It is about the automation of public relations.
I will be publishing some chapters here in the hope of constructive criticism.
There is even a definition of PR here!!!!

Introduction



Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, recently predicted that within 20 years most jobs will be automated. PR commentator Tom Foremski explored the idea and came up with some controversial  thoughts.


“Public relations has been pulled into the modern world  (complaining about the extra work of social) but not much has really changed. It’s still very much a hand-crafted, artisanal business, its use of technology is a Twitter hashtag and a dashboard of likes and shares.
But without a significant tech component PR is at a big disadvantage because it can’t scale, it can’t grow without growing more people. Which is also why valuations of PR firms are low compared to their revenues.
And it makes PR firms vulnerable to competitors outside of their field that can figure out and automate technologies of promotion.”
Tom Foremski


Why are PR jobs so special that some of the work won’t be automated?


Well, there is nothing stopping us, we can automate. That is what this book is about. But the warning that if PR does not do it, someone else will is not a hollow statement in Tom’s article. Since he wrote it AP Dow has started to write articles automatically - up to 3000 each quarter!.
When we begin to look more closely, we find that there are other instances of automation. For example anyone can use a wiki to learn how to organise and event (http://www.wikihow.com/Organise-an-Event) and there is software online to help automate the process (e.g. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/l/event-planning-software/, https://www.planningpod.com/ etc) and this means that anyone can run events and automate much of the process.


There are commercial drivers too: Jon Moeller, chief financial officer at Procter & Gamble, who said at an investor conference in 2015: "In general, digital media delivers a higher return on investment than TV or print."


In the USA  Advertising Age said that measured-media spending fell by 1.8% over the year while that on other forms of marketing – estimates by the Ad Age Datacenter of spending on other digital advertising formats along with promotions, experiential and direct marketing – increased 6.5%.


This puts pressure on PR now and it would seem there is a need to look to the future as well.


The list is long.


The purpose of this book is to explore existing and developing capabilities to automate what we do. Much as one would like a comprehensive 'How to Automate PR' book, it is impossible to write .... and that is a jolly good job. But a lot of what we do and will do will be part or fully automated in the coming months. New areas of practice, indeed, new and hybrid cultures will emerge. The stick-in-the-mud practitioners will find it harder to achieve the results they should be getting and the clued up will be disappointed because all this automation is not delivering magic margins.


It is not that PR is hard to define. The nature of knowing and understanding the culture (“the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time”) of elements of society is the starting point. For example, customers and the benefits they seek, the supply chain, employees and supporting communities that form cultures is a basic requirement for all PR. PR's role is in changing such cultures to benefit the client and is what practitioners do. This is true in consumer PR, Industry and sector PR, Corporate Affairs and HR development and all other forms of PR.


A survey 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.


To be able to interact with various cultures, it has always been important to use the forms for communication of most use and value to the communities involved.


Practitioners from a variety of fields use media, and are progressively using more of what can generally be described as CMC (Computer Mediated Communications). Some take a sociopsychological approach to CMC by examining how humans use "computers" to manage interpersonal interaction, form impressions and form and maintain relationships.


These practices have often focused on the differences between online and offline interactions, though contemporary research is moving towards the view that CMC should be studied as embedded in everyday life .


Furthermore, there is the use of paralinguistic features such as emoticons, pragmatic rules and various styles, or terminology (even slang) specific to these environments. The study of language in these contexts is typically based on text-based forms of CMC, and is sometimes referred to as "computer-mediated discourse analysis"


The way humans communicate in professional, social, and educational settings varies widely, depending upon not only the environment but also the method of communication in which the communication occurs, which in this case is through computers or other information and communication technologies (ICTs).


We shall examine the more popular media and how it is being automated, evolving technologies and evident current trends.


Of course, PR has a lot of new things to work on.It has to examine a range of different and evolving forms of communication.


The significance of visual communication from SnapChat to YouTube is a trend that is now very evident and has some high powered commercial applications.


The use of life size hologrammes for conference presentation has been well received and is now being used in healthcare, biotechnology and big pharma to bring scale to the speakers’ audiences and reach to many locations (national and international) on the big and small screens.


Speaker can be ‘present’, as a HumaGram, in multiple places at once, with the ability to fully interact as a human being would.


In other areas, communication is evolving by using the newer technologies.


The BBC reported that hospitals that have long relied on pagers to alert doctors to an emergency. But that the technology now looks embarrassingly primitive.


So some healthcare establishments are looking at ways to improve how doctors and nurses communicate, care for patients and manage treatments. One vendor is an Irish start-up which has developed a secure messaging app for hospital staff - like a version of group messaging platform WhatsApp (www.whatsapp.com). It is said to save ¾ hour per day - a major productivity enhancement.


The person in most organisations with communication responsibilities is often the PR person. She now has to be informed about opportunities to upgrade communication; can be very creative and change the organisation with technologies in common use today.


Thus, This book examines what is possible and evidently evolving today.


In addition, the second half of this book lifts the curtain to see what is about to be significant in the near future.


One could wish it was comprehensive but that would be a tome and out of date the day it was written. This is a fast moving development.


Where to start is a big problem. I have opted to follow route of the practitioner and begin with that discipline that examines the cultural landscape relevant to the client interests, its opinion formers and their interests and drivers.


Such an approach speaks to our agenda. As we shall see, most of such research can be conducted using internet based resources which are already rich and getting more comprehensive by the hour. As we go through these developments for this very diverse profession, it is obvious, there is work to be done. This is a great opportunity for the reader. Being first in this race offers great riches. The alternative is also true. As with the great industrial revolution, we will need to offer social and economic support to the practitioners who can’t keep up.


As I have assembled content, it has become obvious that I am only scratching the surface of what is now available and that you will find it is controversial enough.


We will see that the big issues of the day are are transient and that there are much bigger issues just over the horizon to be considered. The worries of practitioners on: how to measure the value of social media and online automation investment; integrating the new content and communication environment to the organisation all pales into insignificance as automation optimises culture shifting activities.


Later we will get to the sexy stuff such as Big Data PR with capability to create new dimensions for life and living. How on earth we create a strategy which are now uppermost in practitioners minds will fade as we explore automation further.


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


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 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.


The majority of respondents to the 2015 CIPR survey (76%) revealed that they spend some or most of their time working on media relations. In addition, 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 and, progressively, more technologies are usurping press relations activities. As we will see, a lot of press relations is being usurped by computers.


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


In this book I aim to introduce readers to a wide range of capabilities that are wholly or in part automated or automatable.


These will be the capabilities that those long in the tooth practitioners will need to out compete and react in a manner to match the emerging lifestyle of people.


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


Most of what I offer is already working or about to enter the mainstream.
Automated PR is very close. Lots of people use some of its advantages already. The new users of these capabilities are emerging and by-passing existing practitioners and agencies.


This book looks at how far technologies are etching away at past practice and extending it in so many ways. It is a book that presents many developments which will or can transform practice. It is not a ‘How To’ book but points to where the expertise may be found.


I don’t claim that 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 automate most of the practices we now undertake and more.


It is in this book that I can point to developments and evolution. It is here where the PR institutions, educators and practitioners can start out on the road of change that is gaining so much momentum.

We face change and a growing pace of change. It is a huge opportunity and a dark threat.