In no way is AI ready to replace the PR pro, but there are so many repetitive and mundane tasks that could be minimized or eliminated by using AI
Sandra Fathi, Affect
PR is a discipline where the most intelligent, creative, and innovative approaches are often seen. However, in many cases, they are spearheaded not by lifelong PR pros, but rather from individuals who have broader career experience. Specifically, it’s the marketing executive who is focused on results-oriented programs, measurable results, optimization, and efficiency in all areas.
A chief marketer’s primary responsibility is to generate revenue by increasing sales through successful marketing for the entire organization, using branding and positioning, market research, pricing, product marketing, marketing communications, advertising, and PR. That requires a tremendous amount of coordination and collaboration, as well as focus on consistency and execution.
In PR, the “human factor” is both our strength and weakness. Although we tout high-touch, relationship-driven interactions with the media and our clients to be the beacon of excellence, we often fall short. Part of the reason is that our model is difficult to scale (you must hire more qualified people) and inherently inconsistent (people are unique).
Now, I’m not championing for a future agency of robots managed by AI. However, I am advocating for the use of marketing technologies to make PR more efficient, consistent, and effective.
The PR industry has been using measurement and data in a variety of forms since its inception. However, almost all of the focus has been on analysis of past results, not future ones. Predictive analytics focuses on extracting information from existing data sets in order to determine patterns and predict future outcomes and trends.
What if we were using predictive analytics to forecast the media’s response to news? What if we used that intelligence to better understand how our customers or the public may react in a crisis scenario or to a new product launch?
Predictive analytics have been prolific in marketing for well over a decade, but the PR community has been slow to adopt these tools and technologies. It’s time it did so.
AI and machine learning
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the theory and development of computer systems to be able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. Machine learning is an application of AI that has the ability to learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. If a machine can mimic cognitive function to work and react like a human, the opportunities to enhance and optimize PR activities are seemingly endless.
In no way is AI ready to replace the PR pro, but there are so many repetitive and mundane tasks that could be minimized or eliminated through the help of AI. In turn, this will leave the higher-functioning tasks to us humans, which is where our time is best spent.
How many hours have we spent collectively on media-list building, creating reports, conducting research, scheduling interviews, or responding to public queries? Many of these AI solutions already exist, but we are still conducting PR much the way we did 25 years ago, albeit without the faxing and standing over the hot copier making clip books.
Click here for PRWeek’s guide to what every PR pro needs to know about AI.
Marketing automation refers to software that enables the automation of marketing actions — streamlining, automating, and measuring tasks and workflows. The focus of marketing automation programs is to help marketers manage communication with their audiences by building better relationships with prospects, personalizing content based on their interests, and ensuring a cohesive and consistent message. Don’t we want that in PR, too? Wouldn’t we benefit from leveraging these tactics in our communications with the media and the public?
If we used marketing automation technologies in PR, we could provide media with a steady drumbeat of useful intelligence about the companies or industries we represent based on their specific interests and desired modes of communication. It’s time to evolve beyond the mail merge and truly personalize the content, format, and timing of our communications based on our target audiences’ needs — and not our own.
As the number of outlets, publications, and channels continue to grow, PR programs need to be able to scale. In addition, with social media, often we are speaking directly to the public without the journalist as gatekeeper, requiring even more customization, personalization, and resources to manage communications. The good news: there are myriad marketing-technology solutions available today that can be adapted to the PR industry to make us even more effective and efficient.
Sandra Fathi is founder and president of PR, marketing, and social media agency Affect.