According to research by the University of Oxford and/or Deloitte, there’s a 3% chance that a robot will steal my job in the not so distant future. The PR profession in general fares slightly worse with an 18% chance that a machine could do the job. If PR became automated, would it be for the better? Would anyone notice or care? I, for one, might welcome our new PR-machine overlords.
We all know that many PR jobs, particularly entry-level, are the digital equivalent of working in a salt mine. Generally, the role consists of mind-numbing admin work and, if the exec is lucky, mass email pitching. Artificial intelligence will tackle the joy of updating media lists, creating briefing notes and activity reports with aplomb.
Given the way a lot of PR agencies approach pitching journalists – think monkeys and typewriters – robot PRs promise a brave new world of media relations. Through ‘machine learning’, where algorithms adapt to new data without the need to be reprogrammed, roboPR™ will be able to adapt, refine and target pitches until it reaches empirically the most precise and effective form and audience.
Of course, journalists will also have been replaced by machines too. Consequently, we will bear witness to a watershed moment in humanity’s technological journey as two ultra-complicated artificial intelligences independently collaborate to create the purest click-bate article for the Mail Online.
What about the more nuanced world of client management where experience is king? Arguably, the hardest part of PR is keeping your emotions in check when managing a ‘difficult’ client. Thankfully, the cold and calculating C3-PR™ will be able to put all feeling aside to provide, mathematically, the most comforting or useful statement or platitude to a client.
Would the purely creative aspect of PR also become the preserve of the machines? One would hope that truly original thought will always remain the differentiator between ‘real’ and artificial intelligence. Therefore, there should always be a role for fleshy humans to have creative control over PR campaigns. Wouldn’t that be the dream in any case – machines do the admin, mass pitching and management to the highest standard and then PRs spend all their time thinking about creative ways to help clients.
In the short term, it’s actually not fantastical to argue that artificial intelligence should play a role in PR. Using data science techniques to fulfil basic admin tasks can happen right now – the technology exists. All that is needed is a will by PR agencies to invest and experiment with this technology. Granted, going down this path could lead to the horrifying/utopian scenario where most PR tasks become redundant, but then again, progress often comes at a price.
This article was first published in PR Week and can be viewed here.