Can We Automate PR? Not so Fast…

There are a lot of things in life that get better with automation. Alarm clocks. Coffee makers. Calendar reminders of your wedding anniversary. But as PR pros, could we make our written communications and messaging better with automation?

That’s the question apparently attempted to be answered by a slate of new automated news reporting services, including one called StatSheet, according to a recent New York Times article.

It’s an interesting question to ponder. The Times article notes that so far, StatSheet is mainly being used as a sort of fill-in news service for collegiate sports programs that lack the level of media attention and coverage that their big-time brethren get.

As a former collegiate sports information director, this obviously piqued my interest, so I gave StatSheet a closer look. It’s worth a quick glance at one of the service’s customized news sites for every NCAA Division I school . . . if only to see for yourself why the concept of automated news, and possibly automated PR, is doomed.

Perhaps, I thought, the same concept could be applied to the broader PR world? Then again, maybe that’s not such a great idea. Let’s take a look at what automation of certain tried-and-true PR tasks might look like:

Well, we could robocall our pitches to reporters:

“Hello. This is <NAME> calling from <COMPANY NAME> on behalf of <CLIENT> …”

Oh wait, you can already do that. . .

Or, we could set up automated tweets, replies and DMs on Twitter for our clients. Oh right, you can already (unfortunately) do that, too . . .

In all reality (and seriousness), PR is a business, thankfully, that requires a significant amount of good old-fashioned real work, strategy and intellect from real humans. Meaning, automating tasks often causes more issues than it solves, not to mention is just plain creepy.

Much of our value comes from the non-formulaic aspects of our jobs – from counseling executives on the best form of messaging to address a pressing business issue to developing strategy for a client campaign. Like many professions, PR is not one that can easily fit into a tidy box where what you want accomplished can be checked off and spit out by a computer program.

Could automation of some of our services add any value to our work? Possibly, though I wouldn’t bet any part of my career (or yours) on it.

Automation is supposed to enhance our lives and improve the quality of products and services we use. Yet, in the case of Stat Sheet Network and similar auto-communcation services, the hype often falls far short of reality.

And that’s a good thing . . . for all of us human PR practitioners.

<sarcasm>Note to fellow PRBC editors: We really need to invest in a StatSheet-like program to write all of our posts. That would make our lives so much easier!</sarcasm>

PR Autotask 6000 wrote this post for Keith while he was out on a run. So blame the computer program if you didn’t like it.

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(CC) Image courtesy TMAB2003

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  • Anonymous

    Come on Keith, that automated post was pretty darned good

    • Who can’t be serious! 🙂 It was about as painful to read as the performance my Jets put out on the field last weekend versus the despised Patriots. UGG-LY!

      • Did I really write “who can’t be serious” instead of “You can’t be serious”? Wow. I guess that coffee I drank this morning didn’t wake me up quite as much as I was hoping …

  • Good points Keith,
    I think it’s funny that in an era when consumers, pr people, and literally everyone else seeks greater personalization in the information that comes to them that anyone believes that generic content will be a winner. It’s particularly funny when applied to media professionals. They will recognize an auto-pitch faster than anyone- especially when five of their colleagues get it at the same time.

    • Exactly. And that’s the odd thing about automation of almost any service: the more we automate, the less personalized it becomes. And in a business like PR and social media, which is inherently built upon (and provides its greatest value because of) relationships, we really can’t afford to deliver communications, messaging, etc. that reeks of a robo-calling former Alaskan governor seeking support for her buddies in Congress 🙂

      But in all seriousness, that’s a great point about how automation leads us down the road of impersonal communications.

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