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PR and automation – will a machine take over our jobs?

By April 15, 2019 June 28th, 2019 No Comments

By Sabina Reghellin, Account Executive at Eskenzi PR

When I read reports about how certain jobs will be completely replaced by automation, I usually have one of two instinctive reactions: I either panic and start thinking about ways to keep myself relevant (so much so that I was very close to take up coding classes, until I read that that, too, is likely to see some redundancies due to automation), or I brush it off as a scare that won’t materialise and that I needn’t worry about. But, really, what is the forward-thinking thing to do? Carry on with business as usual, or start planning for a changing job market?

Probably, a bit of both. Panicking is not a useful reaction, but it cannot hurt to reflect on the possibility that our skills may not be useful in 5 years’ time, or that a machine will be able to do the job that took us so long to master and will do it better and faster than us. Afterall, that’s what much of what is written on the topic seems to point at…

However, at a closer look, the picture of automation taking over certain responsibilities might not be grim at all. The prospect of a software learning to perform your job can be scary, but after analysing which tasks are likely to become automated, many professionals won’t feel worried, but rather relieved.

PR on Social Media

Post scheduling is already largely automated, which relieves teams from the burden of having to set reminders to post at a certain time and perform the analytics of a post popularity by hand, one by one.

The automation of social media PR is a useful tool that shouldn’t scare us, as social skills are still at the basis of any social media interaction. As much as AI will sooner or later be able to respond to most enquiries, it is the personal touch that makes the difference between an effective interaction and one that really makes a good brand impression.

Media Monitoring

With the quantity of content that is published every day on the internet, the task of finding every article that mentions one of your clients is almost an impossible one. Thankfully, this mundane job can be outsourced to a software that performs a better, quicker and more thorough search than any human. Instances in which the search algorithms are disappointingly inaccurate still occur, which is why the role of people with the expertise of knowing where to look comes into play.

Furthermore, it is people who are able to capture the nuances of language and the subtle differences in how a message is phrased, not software. Automated news scanning is useful to save precious time that can be used for more important tasks, such as nurturing relationships and perfecting original, thoughtful content, but it won’t replace the need of having someone knowledgeable going through each piece of coverage to ensure it aligns with the client’s message.

Reporting

I cannot imagine any PR professional crying over the loss of weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly reports. Crunching the data can be time consuming, and it only makes sense that when the technology will be ready to take over that task, we will gladly resign it to a machine.

I haven’t spoken to many PR professionals who think their day is not busy enough: if administrative tasks will eventually be replaced by technology, more time can be allocated to thinking creatively about campaigns, surveys, research and initiatives that can increase clients’ visibility and perfect their public presence.

Journalist Relationships

Building a solid relationship with journalists is the basis of any successful PR professional. Providing the press with accurate, relevant and newsworthy material – without falling into the terrible habit of sending out sales pitches – is ultimately what will build the rapport, but a good dose of social skills won’t hurt.

Automated tools that allow to send multiple emails to journalists in a particular field, as well as search tools that identify who is talking about a certain topic, are already available and widely adopted. But don’t be fooled: journalists know when a pitch has been sent out widely, and there will need to be something other than a mailshot to create a meaningful working relationship.

The occasional mailout can help, but nothing beats picking up the phone to trusted reporter to give them an exclusive, and it’s unlikely that AI and automation will be able to compete with the good old best practices of the trade.

Paradoxically, the introduction of more automation in PR should be a drive to go back to the basics, and invest the time saved in slowing down, think imaginatively and refine those skills that AI will never be able to replace: creativity, social intelligence and intuition.

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Eskenzi is a London based Queen’s Award-winning tech agency dedicated to cybersecurity.