Can Public Relations Be Automated?

Can Public Relations Be Automated?

The busier we get, the more tempting automation looks. Like my coffeemaker scheduled to start a pot of coffee at the exact same time my alarm clock starts buzzing, blending a certain amount of it into our daily tasks makes us more efficient and, when done correctly, it is completely seamless to the end recipient. It’s a good thing. (Unless taken to far and used as a replacement for live, human attention. But that’s another article.)

Social media is a perfect example. I don’t know about everyone else, but I typically spend about a half hour in the morning, scheduling out some curated content and tweets for the day- then I share other interesting content as I come across it. The tasks that I automate supplement live activity, it doesn’t replace it.

I also automate a few content marketing tasks, such as sending out a MailChimp email to my subscribers every time a blog post goes live and sharing the new post automatically across my social media platforms using a share plug-in. Certain reporting elements are also automated, so that I get a monthly report without manually pulling it.

Yesterday afternoon, a friend (Alex Yong – @ggSolutions123) passed along a VentureBeat article by Bryan Stolle, called PR Tech: The next automated marketing frontier.

While the article is packed with misinformation and clearly not written by a public relations professional, it started me thinking.  

Is PR ripe for automation? Will it be the Next Big Thing?

To a certain degree, it’s already happening. If you look at PR from a holistic fashion – including digital PR, meaning traditional PR tactics plus content marketing, social media and search engine optimization – automation software has been popping up like daisies for years. The challenge is that those solutions fit into just one bucket – just content, just SEO or just social media. Great things are happening, but they are not ubiquitous solutions.

On the traditional side, automation is limited to things like clip reporting, press release distribution and pick-up reports and…….. well, that’s about it. (Tell me if I missed something.)

Mirroring how marketing has struggled with silos, automation solutions are also limited to silos. I haven’t seen a single one that binds them all together.

Therefore, on the traditional side of the PR fence, opportunities are still out there. From that sense, yes, I agree with Bryan that it is a bit of a new frontier. The low hanging fruit is being addressed.

What is needed is a much larger, more complex solution. Something that combines information and metrics across ALL aspects of PR and marketing, both online and offline, and tracks conversions across all touch points. I don’t see it happening right now, but maybe it will eventually.

 

MY BIG IDEA: PITCH ALERTS

Putting aside digital, traditional PR still has opportunities for automation that aren’t being looked at.

The biggest PR automation idea that instantly comes to mind is related to pitching, and something that would be ideal for a media database company such as Cision or Vocus. Detailed pitch alerts! The opportunity isn’t with automating the pitch itself, but THE  BACK-END RESEARCH and timing. Something that can be tied to a database of journalists and publications.

Hear me out.

You are a PR pro, always sleuthing out the right editorial opportunities for your clients. One of whom happens to be a jeweler who creates beautifully artistic custom cuff links for men.

Once a year, maybe even quarterly, you do your editorial calendar scour. You might even keep them in a folder on your desk, or type up the hot ones as Outlook alerts. But odds are high that you don’t leverage those editorial calendars as much as you should, even knowing they are an indispensable part of our job.

This could potentially be automated!

Imagine getting an alert saying “This week: pitch Sam Smith, the men’s wear editor at Style Magazine for the July hipsters column on custom shirts. Deadline: March 16th. His three most recent articles include link X, link Y and link Z. He prefers to be pitched via email to sam.smith@stylemag.com or via Twitter at @samatstylemag.” (Yes, this is a fictitious person.)

The alert contains the publication, the correct reporter or editor to pitch, the issue topic, their deadline for the issue and their contact information. All delivered in one nice, tidy little email. You know who to pitch, where to pitch, WHAT to pitch and the ideal time when to pitch. And because you’ve already gone through a set-up process telling the system all about your clients and their products, the logic and semantics part of the software intuitively starts sending you the right alerts based on editorial calendar and journalist information already in the database. When it’s wrong, no problem. Like correcting voice recognition software or teaching Outlook what emails are spam by using junk mail designations, or maybe a “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” voting system, the software gets better with time.

Its sole purpose is transforming static information from the database into valuable information delivered at just the right time for action. Nice, right?

Once you get the email, you spend a half hour doing normal due diligence (looking at the publication, looking at their audience or reader demographics, reviewing some of that journalists work), then you put together a fantastic exclusive pitch and shoot off the email to them. Done, on to the next.

WOW. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? It’s a possible automation scenario that would work well. It fits a need, it automates a manual part of a process that is easily replicable, and it blends perfectly with pre-existing resources (such as that media database and Google Calendar or Outlook alert systems). Unless it were exhorbitantly priced, who wouldn’t want it?

Who knows. Maybe a variation of this is already out there and I just haven’t come across it. If not, cut me in on the profit when you steal my idea and run with it. <grin>

Do you have a great idea for something in public relations that could be automated, but isn’t? Share!

About Carrie Morgan

Digital PR, social media, search and content marketing consultant. 20+ yrs of agency/corporate experience. Author. Blogger for Convince & Convert, MarketingProfs, PR Daily & Social Media Today. Founder of #PRprochat.

3 comments
CarrieMorgan
CarrieMorgan moderator

@Frederik Vincx Using ten different tools for the simple tasks in this linked article isn't exactly a game-changer, IMO - especially given the competition for them - but if you could combine them into one dashboard? Now THAT might be interesting!!  


True change in an industry comes when major time-consuming tasks are automated in an integrated fashion that delivers real value. It isn't taking tasks and making them faster, or spending more time using multiple tools than the original task creates, it's a major platform and shift that does something in a big way. 


That's why I chose the example that I did - it's a gap opportunity. Plus, insteads of tackling the same social media, SEO or content marketing "buckets" - it is something that is not being addressed for a problem PR pros deal with every single day. It would be interesting!


Plus, instead of a stand-alone solution, it would dove tail perfectly with a pre-existing media outreach and editorial calendar solution such as Vocus, for example. 

Frederik Vincx
Frederik Vincx

@CarrieMorgan Thanks Carrie. 


People have to start somewhere. Most PR teams still work very old skool. Only using tools like Outlook, Excel and Word to reach out. Stringing together a few tools can already help them win a lot of time and get better at pitching the right stories to the right people. 


I agree that many solutions are 'buckets', and it can be tedious to string them together. Together with PR teams we've been working hard to make a one-stop PR solution. A large part of the separate automation issues that I listed are included in http://www.prezly.com Yet there's always room for improvement. 


Your example of linking up an editorial calendar makes a lot of sense. I'd be interested to see how your 'editorial calendar on steroids' works. That's a gap that could be bridged, and not just by behemoths like Vocus en Cision. Feel free to mail me an example to frederik at prezly :)