February 6, 2017

Why can’t a robot work in PR?

Why can’t a robot work in PR?

Robots seem to be firmly on 2017’s worry list; sitting nervously alongside Brexit, alternative facts, and Trump. Robots have made it onto this list because we keep hearing that they are going to steal all of our jobs – in fact just this morning Guernsey folk are waking up to news that we could soon have driverless buses on our roads.

In part this is true: there is a long list of things computers/robots/AI (call them what you will) can do really well and will do soon.

However there is good news for PR people everywhere…

According to an article in yesterday’s Sunday Times by Nicholas Hellen, a recent study by Oxford University on technology and employment has put PR executives on the low risk list,17.5% compared with very at-risk insurance underwriters at 98.9%.

On reading this I breathed a sigh of relief but quickly realised that, in fact, I already knew a robot would not be well suited to doing my job, because:

  1. It’s a job which is truly about relationships: building and maintaining them is absolutely key to retaining clients and succeeding with impactful media campaigns.
  2. A robot cannot plan for everything: working in PR you need to be able to plan for every eventuality – the daily news shapes your day and you often have to act quickly and be prepared for the unexpected.
  3. You have to be able to spot and generate engaging news: in today’s world of fake news and alternative facts people are increasingly hungry for real content. Being human, and not a robot, means you have feelings and importantly empathy. This is essential when planning communication campaigns – which are of course intended for other humans.

Now I’m not saying that tech can’t, and doesn’t already, help the world of PR. The days of evaluating coverage with scissors and glue are long gone and our clients can make and shape news via social media platforms in seconds, but with at least 20 more working years ahead of me I am heartened to see that the clever people at Oxford University think there will still need to be a real person at the heart of a PR role for years to come.

I will report back in 2037!

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