The looming threat of automation has been a worrying trend for many. Yet, while automation has been such a useful tool for many Public Relations practitioners, we’re confident that Public Relations can never be fully replaced by automation. This may seem like a bold statement – but here’s why we think so!
What Automation Can Do for Public Relations
Undeniably, automation has contributed to Public Relations in many aspects. Consider social media monitoring and analysis – without tools such as Google Analytics, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the wealth of content that is generated every second. Automation is thus, in some ways, complementary to the work of Public Relations professionals. It improves efficiency, and takes the hassle out of menial tasks.
What Automation Cannot Do for Public Relations
However, at the heart of it, Public Relations is the business of forming human connections and establishing trust among consumers. This often comes in the form of highly personalised storytelling shaped for niche target audiences.
So, what does automation specifically lack that cannot replace the human touch?
1. An Understanding of Social Relationships
Public Relations is about one-on-one communication with multiple stakeholders and requires tailored relationship management strategies. This requires not just merely a mechanical exchange of information. Rather, it is an exchange of shared meaning, which requires empathy – to ensure that the audience’s culture, backgrounds and their needs and wants are fully accounted for. This can easily be skimmed over by technology, which may lack the same level of contextual awareness that humans possess. For instance, think about a Public Relations professional’s relationship with multiple journalists. It takes a keen understanding of each journalists’ perspectives to develop story angles that are specifically aligned with their interests, values and beliefs. This key ingredient – being able to understand others’ perspective – seems almost second nature to human beings, which can hardly be taken away from us, much less replaced by artificial technologies.
2. The Ability to Think on Our Feet
Because of the complex nature of communications, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for dealing with any unique situation. The process of relating to targeted audiences under specific circumstances needs an in-depth on-the-ground-sensing and a whole lot of intuition and adaptability. KFC’s response to negative social media sentiments is a prime example of this innate human ability, where they turned these negative comments into a positive opportunity to show how they care about their customers’ feedback.
Public Relations has a life of its own, a field with non-exhaustive possibilities, where extraordinary ideas take flight. The task of relating to audiences is tough work. It needs brilliant minds to know how to grapple with the audience’s emotions, to understand the kinds of information to foreground and what types of information to withhold. It needs people who colour outside the lines, to produce ideas that capture the attention of stakeholders. In essence, to tell compelling stories at opportune moments is an art form characterised by soul and fluidity. Public Relations communications is not meant to be boxed up in structured grids and computer screens.
In all, it’s time we start valuing automation as an efficiency-enhancing companion, rather than a competitor for Public Relations practitioners. With this mindset, we will not only move forward as an industry, but also be able to focus more of our energy on what truly matters – establishing and nurturing meaningful relationships with stakeholders.