Friday, May 01, 2015

Mobile, Internet of Things, Semi Intelligent Pervasive - and a five year challenge for PR

Over the next few weeks, I will be examining the next wave of digital developments. These new Mobile, Internet of Things, Semi Intelligent and Pervasive (MITSIP) technologies are upon us. They are beginning to affect PR but will be even more pivotal than social media. MITSIP PR is a whole new form of PR and is almost upon us. already uses an artificial intelligence platform provided by the technology company Narrative Science to generate automated news from live data sets and content harvested from previous articles (The Guardian). 

On the 17th March the inhabitants of Los Angeles were woken by a mild tremor. Less than three minutes later the Los Angeles Times website published an initial piece on the subject, at first sight a wire drafted in haste by a press agency: 

“A shallow magnitude 4.7 earthquake was reported Monday morning five miles [8km] from Westwood, California, according to the US Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 6.25am Pacific time at a depth of 5.0 miles. According to the USGS, the epicentre was six miles from Beverly Hills, California, seven miles from Universal City, California, seven miles from Santa Monica, California, and 348 miles from Sacramento, California. In the past 10 days, there have been no earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and greater centred nearby. This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author.”
The author in question is on the staff of the Times, doubling up as a journalist and computer programme (The Guardian).
The Associated Press announced in February that it plans to use algorithms to write a number of its sports stories, after already introducing these 'robot journalists' in the newsroom by automating quarterly business reports last summer. So should we expect fully automated newsdesks in the near future? (
In no time automated journalism interfaces with Social Media: 

Hille van der Kaa, who runs the professorship of media, interaction and narration at Fontys University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands, has been researching robot journalism.

She explained in an email how systems currently being worked on could one day "take over an entire sports desk".

One project currently being worked on by Kaa's students is 'Windcatcher'.

"In this project, we put sensors on cyclists to collect information about their well being, for example heart rate. Further, we install a GoPro on every bike to grasp the view of every cyclist. We collect all the data in a second screen application.

"By doing this, viewers can select one cyclist and automatically receive real time information about the cyclist they like on their tablet."

"To go even further, we can make automated reports for different target groups. Using machine learning technology we can teach our algorithm to write an article with viral elements, using specific words or sentence structure, which will go viral on Facebook."

Could robots be the journalist of the future?

The Internet of Things - the network of physical objects or "things" embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service by exchanging data with the manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices. 

Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure. For example, Google maps on a mobile has turned the journalists' phone into a navigation system complete with spoken instructions which you can share with others on the other side of the world . But, of course, a mobile phone is also an instant television camera and TV set. 

Watching anything from a robin's nest to a sales conference remotely is now easy and, because it goes through a computer, a range of editing options are available, including automated responses (e.g. as the model walks past a small - all but invisible to humans - bar code, the computer transitions images from one camara to another from miles away). Such content can be broadcast via social media to a range of publics or to private networks.

With drones, there are options to monitor things a long way off from the sky and then broadcast to the world or an individual

As one might say 'an image is worth a 1000 words'.

ABI Research estimates that more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things (Internet of Everything) by 2020. 

The Chancellor, Rt Hon George Osborne, posited that the Internet of Things is the next stage of the information revolution and referenced the inter-connectivity of everything from urban transport to medical devices to household appliances.

It has been suggested by Nick Couldry and Joseph Turow that Practitioners in Media approach Big Data as many actionable points of information about millions of individuals. The industry appears to be moving away from the traditional approach of using specific media environments such as newspapers, magazines, or television shows and instead tap into consumers with technologies that reach targeted people at optimal times in optimal locations. The ultimate aim is of course to serve, or convey, a message or content that is (statistically speaking) in line with the consumer's mindset. For example, publishing environments are increasingly tailoring messages (advertisements) and content (articles) to appeal to consumers that have been exclusively gleaned through various data-mining activities.

A view, from the world of the Semantic Web[62] focuses on making all things (not just those electronic, smart, or RFID-enabled) addressable by the existing naming protocols, such as URI. The objects themselves do not converse, but they may now be referred to by other agents, such as powerful centralized servers acting for their human owners.

Using technologies to extend human capabilities is an interesting area of PR potential. The wearable computer is an example. There is a constant interaction between the computer and user, i.e. there is no need to turn the device on or off. Another feature is the ability to multi-task. It is not necessary to stop what you are doing to use the device; it is augmented into all other actions. These devices can be incorporated by the user to act like a prosthetic. It can therefore be an extension of the user’s mind and/or body.

While it may seem that Mobile, Internet of Things, Semi Intelligent and Pervasive (MITSIP) activity is an adjunct to modern PR, we will be mistaken if we do not realise its effect on the practice of PR.

This is an issue for PR courses run by the CIPR, Universities and the training organisations. This is an issue for discussion among the board members of PR consultancies and someone is going to have to explore the evolution of the digital world as it affects PR pretty soon.

There is almost nothing that is being done by a practitioner today that will not have been changed beyond recognition within five years.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

International Public Relations affects economic performance.

This study tested a causal relationship between international public relations (PR) expenditure and its economic outcome at the country level by using a time-series analysis. International PR expenditures of four client countries (Japan, Colombia, Belgium, and the Philippines) were collected from the semi-annual reports of the Foreign Agency Registration Act (FARA) from 1996 to 2009. Economic outcome was measured by U.S. imports from the client countries and U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) toward them. This study found that the past PR expenditure holds power in forecasting future economic outcomes for Japan, Belgium, and the Philippines except Colombia.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

If newspapers are written by robots what is available for PR's?

I have been showing over the last few weeks the extent to which intelligent automation has reached out and been welcomed by the publishing industry.

Yesterday, I asked what would be exciting for a teen student opting for an 'A' Level that would be relevant to a PR industry with the editorial function largely subsumed by algorithms.

The prospect looked pretty unappealing.

Today I want to cheer us all up.

I offer Google Developer Advocate Laurence Moroney who chats with Google Interaction Designer Scott Jenson about the Physical Web (, one of the approaches for providing effortless, on-demand interactions between smart devices that uses BLE technology to give you access to the information you want, when you want it.

It examines a future that our teen will use every day and it offers the PR industry a lot of openings.

This is the kind of thing that the PR industry needs to be dissecting to identify its role in such a society.

What is the advice CIPR and PRCA giving young students?

When the last Easter egg wrapper is confined to the bin, a lot of young men and women will be thinking about what 'A' levels they should take from next September. They will begin to make such decision based on a perspective of the career option in six or seven years time.

Now that we know that some stories in our newspapers are already generated by computers and not journalists, Is there a future in journalism?

Indeed, computer understanding of language, as  makes quite clear, is getting really good. In some applications is is good enough to 'write' newspaper articles and copy for car ads. This is not to be confused with article writing software designed to scam search engines or even mass book writing

If computers write, what will a PR person do?

Writing books and plays is also a job for computers. Some automated book writers have tens of thousands of titles to their name. 

Would one imagine a career in writing in six years time? It has come a long way in the last decade. Will there be careers in writing left in the next decade.

Perhaps the idea of developing relationship management seems pretty cool as a job. The meetings, briefings, receptions, events, parties and a list of friends as big as your LinkedIn connections? Ha! LinkedIn will have traveled a long way in ten years.

What of social media. We know that it moves fast:

It is changing very fast. How do I keep up. What will the PR industry in ten years want of me? Is the future of communication so difficult?

What are the experts telling us will happen? 

The YouTube engineers were shocked at the first record broken by Gangnam Style (1 billion views mark). It just goes to show how popular it is and, of course, how powerful YouTube is in terms of media consumption. 

Does this mean that communications has a big future but a very different one to today's TV led thinking?

As a young person should there be some idea as to change and preparedness for change in the communications industries?

There is scope for data driven cultures but will that last as a fashion?

What are the professionals saying?

What is the CIPR and PRCA saying. What is the advice they are giving to young students.....

Monday, March 30, 2015

William Ward offers this insight into the demographics of the US population use of social media.

Being as, I am, in that minority to the right but for the UK, it says a lot that most of my US friends are of that extreme right group as well. Knowing for so long so many of the 10% or less suggests that long before social media became so significant, we already sensed a lot about the future of the media a few decades ago.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The post-Social Media economy - and a big role for PR

I admit that I have been remiss in writing blog posts of recent months and it is because I have been thinking about the next evolution and the human process that we are beginning to see already.  It will affect PR as much as social media has done and more.

I am prompted by this article in MIT Sloan Management Review:  

"Social media is now replete with examples of companies enabling knowledge integration outside the confines of traditional organizations. Wikipedia and open source software are perhaps the classic examples, where groups of volunteers come together to create products that directly challenge commercially produced competitors." 

There are examples. Services such as Zen99, which helps workers handle their taxes, services to access accounts from a Mac, PC, tablet or phone with full transparency for accounting professional to manage accounts. There are services that provide valuable real-time advice stand alongside virtual services to check driving records as in Checkr and Task Rabbit,

Online customer-support communities, such as those created by SAP and Dell, allow customers to share knowledge. 

Social media increasingly allows knowledge integration to occur outside and across traditional organizational boundaries, it  is beginning to change fundamental aspects of the firm and how it is managed and professor Gerald C. (Jerry) Kane, is happy to promote such ideas

Globally, the sharing economy’s size in five key sectors was approximately $15 billion in 2014. It’s projected to reach $335 billion by 2025. The success of Uber, Airbnb and TaskRabbit isn't a fad -- it’s a new way of doing business, reports Entrepreneur.

The divide between the actual, virtual and digital is diminishing.  CamCard is a way of using your mobile phone to turn  business cards into digital data in your address book. 3D printing goes the other way to print along three axis. In China, a 3.6-metre-long, 1.63-metre-wide car has been printed with low-cost composite materials in five days and then assembled for a test drive. The vehicle is powered by rechargeable batteries and can travel at 25 mph

Britain’s digital economy is booming outside London, with 74pc of digital firms now based beyond the capital, and Bournemouth, Liverpool and Brighton emerging as the industry’s runaway success stories.

In fact,we are on the cusp of something much bigger. The digital economy, digital banking (with the "PayPal Here" invoicing app) is well equipped to work without high street banks.

Trust, Identity, Privacy and Security are big issues and the growing role of the digital economy in daily life has heightened demand for new data and measurement tools.

The UK government is a bit po faced but on board:  "Europe’s electronic communications landscape has transformed into a digital world. A world dominated by internet platforms, constantly altered by new and at times disruptive technologies, and full of opportunities for start-ups that pay no heed to geographical boundaries when creating new products and services."

American Baroness Shields was appointed technology adviser to the Prime Minister last year and now holds dual citizenship.  She has a large role to play in this new form of economy.

“12.4pc of our GDP is attributed to technology and digital business, that’s the highest in the G20,” she told The Telegraph. “We are the most digital nation in the world and it is important that government policy makes the most of this enormous potential.”
The FT reports that  "The transformation of the workforce is rapidly expanding as the UK embraces the digital economy, with about 1.8m people — 6 per cent of workers — now employed in a type of job that did not even exist in 1990.'

In the UK, marketers are plunging more and more resources into bolstering the online profile of their brands via PR says Marketing Profs.

Rather begrudgingly and narrowly they highlight reasons why:

  • The Public Relations Consultants Association recently found that 72% of PR agencies are now offering SEO services.
  • The most in-demand services were content creation, outreaching/engaging with influencers, and social networking strategy.
  • More than 60% of agencies have increased their digital marketing budgets, with a particular focus on monitoring, SEO, content creation, and PPC/online advertising.
  • Compared with 12 months earlier, agency revenues from digital sources have increased significantly.
  • Businesses in Britain are increasingly devoting resources to social media; though most of them are keeping this activity in-house, a significant portion are splitting responsibility for social with an agency or completely outsourcing altogether.
  • In the vast majority of cases, responsibility for content creation and social media is handled in-house by the PR and communications team.
  • There's also growing confidence in the ROI gained from social media, with levels nearly matching those of traditional PR activities.

As the economic impact becomes more evident, this activity will draw the PR sector more and more into a new intangible economy and the time look at what this means is now.

What the PR sector thought was its role in social media is now open to question. It now has a much bigger role and I will be exploring it over the coming months.