A Careful Balancing Act: Science Meets Art

Credit: James Jordan
Credit: James Jordan
Credit: James Jordan

Tech and PR. PR and tech. It has all been a very one-sided relationship. But as Tom Foremski recently pointed out, that relationship is in the process (or should be in the process) of changing.

We can’t really be surprised. Tech has gone beyond just automating routine tasks. It has advanced so far that the smart folks over in Oxford are predicting that there’s a 50:50 chance of a robot taking our jobs. And this isn’t some futuristic vision. We already have robots and various other automated processes changing the jobs of journalists, surgeons and venture capitalists. So why should PR be any different?

It shouldn’t. We should always be looking at ways to integrate new technologies into PR programs. It’s a natural fit for areas like research and measurement—we’d still be counting the tweets from Oracle OpenWorld 2013 if we were analyzing the conversation manually—but there are also opportunities to take advantage of tech in areas ranging from client collaboration and media relationship building to campaign reach and engagement.

Just don’t go too far. For example, removing some of the more tedious work sounds good on the face of it.  But when you are starting in tech PR and trying to learn about technologies you have never heard of and the different media landscapes, wading through hundreds of articles to produce coverage reports or building media list after media list might not be such a bad thing. It’s tough and seems repetitive at the time, but in the end it’s what helps us build the intimate knowledge of our clients and their industries. Or at least that’s the way we look at it.

The point here is that even in areas that seem perfect for tech, we should all think very carefully about how it’s integrated. That’s not to say we stick with the old way of doing things or ever use the argument of “that’s how it has always been.” Instead, it simply means that as we integrate tech further and further into PR programs, we keep an eye on the balance between art and science and stay focused not just on efficiency, but also on all the other areas that drive great results.

So smile in the face of disruption. Put ingenuity above innovation. And as you integrate new technologies into your programs, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.