I’ve spent 20 years in journalism and PR and I feel like I’m learning more now than at any point.
Why? Because the media as a channel is changing beyond recognition. We now spend as much time talking about Google, Buzzfeed and Facebook as we spend musing over pitching stories to the FT.
We’re also trying to make ourselves heard in a world of data and insight. Throwing-out company-centric and subjective ideas to the wider world isn’t viable when the world can respond in real time, share contrary arguments and hypothesis and blow holes in anything but the most carefully constructed argument.
Even more challenging is fake news. We’re not only trying to make our case in a world of real-time, global dialogue, we’re also competing for attention against salacious stats and stories (fake, alternative or real) that will generally gain more ‘eye-balls’ that most corporate news announcements.
On top of this, the power and influence of traditional media channels is under constant attack. The emergence of the ‘citizen reporter’, using social-media as a channel, is well-charted but now Twitter is the communication tool of choice for the elected champion of the free world.
President Trump has re-written the rules for the way Government and the people communicate and he’s deliberately by-passed the media in the process. It could be argued the result is a victory for those who want more direct contact with politicians but the 140-character trading of insults doesn’t do much to advance intelligent debate and the sharing of real knowledge.
This tide of change isn’t just engulfing media channels. As PR consultants we sit in meetings with advertising agencies and marketing consultancies and increasingly we’re using the same tactics and content strategies. We’re looking to express our differences through the creative not the implementation. Advertising, PR and marketing are inexorably entwining.
All of which leads me to conclude that I need help navigating this world of change.
The profession I joined predominantly focused on how effectively it could broadcast clients’ news and views to the outside world. The ‘human skill’ was rooted in how well you pitched the story and how strong your relationship was with the recipient.
PR today is about how well you listen, and how intelligently you respond – empathy and understanding are the human currency that this business will be built and judged on in the future.
So for that reason I’d be quite happy for a robot to take my job, or at least part of it.
My human form is limited by two ears and two eyes. I can’t physically track all the social media conversations, shared content, fake news, print and broadcast media content and conversations that could impact all my clients – I have to curate, with care. But a robot doesn’t.
In an ideal world our robot account executives would farm and flag a world of data and stories that matter and leave us, the humans, to invest all our time in the empathetic analysis and creative response to the data and information that is flagged.
As in many industries, Fourth Industrial Revolution technology will change the way we do our jobs but if we open our eyes to the future maybe robotic PRs will help transform us humans into better communicators not obsolete ones.