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How technology is transforming PR

New technologies, from the latest smartphones to ways of monitoring the media, make PR so much easier these days. Or do they? There is definitely a need to be geekier in PR, which doesn’t always sit well for those who are traditionally drawn to work in PR, such as the humanities graduate, or the person whose main talents lie in networking or coming up with creative campaign ideas. In today’s PR office, real-time customer and social media software, mean that having an instinct for communications may not be as important as understanding metrics.

Always on

Perhaps it would help if you are a robot. This would mean that not only are you more adept at analytical tasks, but that it is easier to be “always-on”.  As Ian Burge, UK and Ireland communications lead at payments company Visa, says: “PR was never nine-to-five, but now the job is truly 24/7. It’s now possible to react to news in real-time, at any time, from anywhere. Advances in media monitoring mean you no longer wait until the next morning to read the news; it hits your inbox every few minutes.”

Another pressure on PROs is the greater demand for content from newspapers and magazines as they employ fewer reporters. The good news is that these opportunities allow PROs to shine, but as Burge points out, they also pile on a great deal of stress: “PROs are in a perpetual state of wondering where the next flashpoint is coming from. Social media have accelerated the news cycle; Twitter is a goldmine for journalists short of a story. A rogue social post, wherever it comes from, can fuel the front pages.”

How Technology is transforming PR

Peter Rogers, associate director at PR firm Weber Shandwick: “Technology has already significantly changed our industry by making journalists easier to find, coverage simpler to compile, and networks more straightforward to manage. Collaboration and collective working at global agencies is more streamlined than ever before. We should expect this trend to accelerate, with automation and machine learning significantly speeding up more basic admin in particular and making tasks such as compiling the cuttings book a thing of the past. This will free up consultants to focus on their specialist areas and spend more time giving their clients high-quality counsel.”

Nick Hadjinikos, director at agency Kallinos Communications: “PR is going through a transformative moment when it comes to both method and measurement due to the increasing impact of social media. Coverage and distribution has previously been solely the domain of press releases, a strong contact book and press clippings. The modern PR professional now needs to be social-media literate – both in the wording and style of messages that are sent, but also in being able to measure the impact of their efforts across global, ever-changing social networks.

“The truth is, it’s no longer possible to keep up with ever-shortening news cycles without the help of new technology. As the methods of producing and distributing news or “content” change, it’s only natural that PROs need to make use of the latest innovation and methodology to keep up. This means automation, particularly when it comes to collecting coverage and analysing it, but it also means the creation of new opportunities.

“Technology like Talkwalker's social listening and analytics platform is able to provide new forms of insinght. The ability to listen to what’s said on public social networks sheds more light on brand reputation and sentiment. The collection of data in real-time means being alerted to a brewing crisis before it hits the point of no return. The vast amount of data produced online allows for new methods of PR measurement that offer more accurate measures of success and failure.”

Despite the need to do much more, in much less time, and to be comfortable with new technologies, there is no need to panic. After all, many of those working in PR today have grown up with tech, and are naturally able to withstand continuous change, as well as being happy to constantly check screens and react to new situations.

A human touch

As Nick Hadjinikos, director at agency Kallinos Communications, concludes: “The key is for PR professionals to become adept in the nuances and intricacies of this new kind of data and understand how it relates to their specific business goals. Although automation and digital intelligence is key, the human touch remains crucial. It’s not out with the old, in with the new. It’s about using the best of both to make sure you’re able to protect reputation, measure performance and promote your client/company in the most effective way possible.”

So in other words, no, you don’t have to be a robot to work in PR these days. But having an appreciation of what latest technolgies and automation can offer is definitely as asset. And just because our news environment is 24-hours, this does not mean you have to work every hour of the day too… remember to switch off, in order not to burn out (but make sure you are using a tool to monitor what you are missing!).

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