October 18, 2017

The future of PR in a big data world

The future of PR in a big data world

AI informs but it doesn’t explain.

Big data and AI came into sharp focus for me last week at the Guernsey Data Conference 1.0. One panellist likened the onset of big data and AI to the analogy of the frog boiling so slowly in water that it fails to realise it is going to die until it is too late. There are certainly parallels to Big Brother and a world where the machines rule us rather than us ruling them.

Before we all run screaming for the hills and live a life “off grid” what came through loud and clear at the conference was that every industry will need to evolve and adapt but one key element remains true in this world and the new one – human beings.

For public relations consultants (and many other business sectors), there will always remain something integral that machines cannot do; they cannot feel. As much as there may be moves afoot for them to anticipate, they will only ever be as good as the information plugged into them. The algorithm works because a human made it work. The PR campaign works because a human, with specialist communications knowledge, intrinsically understood what was necessary for success.

It is hard to believe that being a human being will become a unique selling point in the years to come but we will and none more so than those of us in PR. When all the jobs of media monitoring, campaign measurement, drafting rudimentary communications are taken away by AI what is left is a communications specialist with specialist skills; empathy, ethics and humanity.

Big data will enhance something PR consultants have been doing for years – identifying audiences and tailoring our clients communications to meet those audiences. We have gone from a scatter-gun approach in the old days, to a honed approach, thanks to social media, and the next leap will be pinpoint identification of individuals and how they relate to our clients in a truly meaningful and relevant way.

The fairy dust is being the specialists that take those trends and patterns and aligns them with specific communications and business goals. That’s the stuff AI is not going to be able to do. With real-time data being used as an asset, PR professionals are able to provide their audience with content they want, rather than content they find annoying, in a market that is only going to get noisier.

The ability to interpret the data and come up with extraordinary ways of grabbing the attention of our clients’ audiences will mean those of us doing it well will be in hot demand.

AI informs but it doesn’t explain. We need to recognise its imperfections and be better at being human.

To steal from one of the Big Data conference speakers… “In a world of big data it is the most human traits that need to be fostered – creativity, intuition, intellectual ambition, morality.”

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