Can PR be automated?

Can PR be automated?

Automation has become the discussion of the year—the zeitgeist of 2017. What will the future of work look like with AI and automation becoming more prevalent? Will any of us actually have jobs in an imminent new world driven by computerisation and robotics? Valid questions—which have been at the forefront of our collective thinking. For PR professionals the automation debate has suddenly been brought into our domain.  Chris Chong, former social media editor at the South China Morning Post and co-founder of Groupon Singapore thinks it can be done—so much so he has launched SumoStory a platform which automatically targets journalists with press releases without the assistance of PR companies.

The genesis of Chong’s idea is PR for start-ups.

Start-ups are promulgating, thick and fast around us, within every industry. Many of them have fantastic ideas, products, technology, but potentially limited PR budgets. Chong told Mumbrella Asia, “Right now our main focus is helping companies with their media outreach. Start-ups have very simple PR needs – many just want to fill the ‘As seen in the media’ section on their website.”

While Chong is currently employing four people to write the press releases, his intent is to eventually outsource this task to another automated service – a natural language processing technology.

What does this mean for the PR industry in Australia? Should we be expecting to be replaced by auto-bots in the very near future?

Arguably, the automation debate is conflated to begin with—there will always be services which require a human-skills component. Perhaps it’s the zeitgeist of 2017, but it might be flattened in 2018 by the next trend—the new dominant media paradigm.

Secondly, it can’t be overlooked that an Asian communications market is very different to Australia. We’ve seen an unparalleled diversification of the media landscape—with traditional media being transformed into a juggernaut of things, from social and digital media, to the growth of rich content and the proliferation of independent publications—it’s difficult to see an automated and generic approach taking off here.

Australia is rich culturally and socially, with recently released Census data indicating substantial changes to the multicultural landscape. In 2016 Australians identified more than 300 languages spoken at home, and 21 percent Australians spoke a language other than English, with the most common being Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese and Vietnamese. Similarly the number of people identifying at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rose increasing from 2.5 percent in 2011 to 2.8 percent in 2016, which equates to more than 650,000 people.

This means that communication needs are ever shifting given audience requirements are largely varied and always changing.

If anything, greater specificity is required in our PR approach. Targeted and tailored.

In this case there are too many channels and audiences in the market to attempt a nonspecific approach. One size fits all, certainly doesn’t fit all.

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