The time has come for public relations and communications firms to reinvent themselves to stay relevant.
I had a conversation yesterday that made me think a bit about my own future. A dear friend whose job keeps him in touch with cutting-edge technologies had recently read an industry report “an inch thick” that had been entirely generated by machine intelligence, with a human involved only in last-stage editing. “One could literally not make out it was machine-generated,” he insisted, leaving me wondering whether my one-year old content firm was obsolete even as it learns to walk.
This trend is not that far in the future really: media outlets such as the Washington Post are using homegrown software to automatically produce hundreds of real-time news reports about the Rio Olympics for its website as well as Twitter account. It’s a testament to the confidence of the Post in this technology that these articles are appearing without human intervention or approval. Companies such as Narrative Science and Automated Insights now offer this service full-time to media outlets and others.
The blurb on the Automated Insights home page reads: “An artificial intelligence platform that generates human-sounding narratives from data… from data to clear, insightful content…”
That’s exactly what PR people and content marketers produce on a daily basis!
Stop panicking and look on the positive side! I tell myself. So if the machines are taking over our jobs, how can we move higher up the value chain?
It seems to me that PR now needs to move away from the write-the-release-and-pitch-the-story model that has kept it going for decades.
- We need to work harder at understanding the product and presenting it creatively and accessibly – whether through the written word, visually or through video.
- We must add value to the marketing process through intelligent, qualified content that resonates with the needs and preferences of target audiences around the world.
- We should embrace AI to produce the routine stories, the clippings, reports, databases, updates and other routine tasks that make up many of our hours at work.
If we don’t, we might just find ourselves pitching stories to robots. Which, on second thought, might be easier than pitching them to humans – because computers don’t have emotions, and so an inconveniently timed phone call at least won’t get us flamed on Twitter.