There’s always some concern that disruptive technology will automate people right out of jobs. How long will it be before self-driving cars and drones displace cab drivers and delivery folks? Are grocery store clerks about to be a thing of the past? These questions beg a serious conversation about what we do when devices and artificial intelligence can perform tasks more cost-effectively than humans. But information work is largely left out of these discussions because it takes people to do things like run marketing and public relations. Or does it? PR technology is becoming far more sophisticated and machine learning is making it smarter every day. Does that mean that you will soon be superfluous?
Perhaps, if you don’t adapt. PR software won’t replace people doing the work, but it absolutely will change the skill requirements of those who get hired and retained. Now that the data is available to accurately analyze the effectiveness of PR and tools are ready to significantly impact results, PR professionals must adapt and become more than creative thinkers with good networks. We’ve got to add analytics to the equation to make the most out of our clever thinking and good relationships.
Surviving in this new digital age of PR will require letting go of some old beliefs and embracing new skills and technologies. Here are some ways that successful PR pros will evolve.
Vanity Metrics Don’t Increase the PR Budget
Marketing budgets have ballooned in the internet age, while PR budgets have been stagnant or even cut. Why is that? Marketers and marketing automation software providers have embraced the new ability to trace marketing spend directly to revenue. Marketers no longer need to put up an add and hope for the best. They can now target, sometimes down to the individual buyer, the audience who is most likely to buy. They know exactly what the ROI is for every investment and adjust spending accordingly. This level of precision is attractive to executives and it makes it easy to justify a bigger budget. Want more sales? Just turn up the dial on marketing.
Unfortunately, PR has lagged behind this mind shift. We’ve clung to old-school metrics like the horrible, no-good, very bad AVE. We’ve relied on bad assumptions like all press is good press, vanity justifies PR spend, and earned media is “free.” Part of this isn’t the fault of PR pros. Until recently, the technology to track PR effectiveness has not been very good, but that is no longer the case. Today, solutions exist that reveal the PR influenced pipeline. Rather than talking about media mentions in vague terms, as if they are important in their own right, we can now talk about them in terms of lead generation, pipeline activity, and revenue. These are the words that executive budget makers like to hear.
Your Network is Only as Good as it Does
Before everyone was connected through social apps and online professional organizations, your Rolodex of media contacts may have given you a leg up on rivals for your job. To be clear, relationships are an important part of PR, but they no longer are the qualifier they once were. It is easy now to make connections with journalists and influencers. Well, easy in the sense that people’s identities and contact information are no secret. What’s far more challenging is identifying exactly the right contacts for your particular message and getting their attention.
People’s inboxes are overflowing and information is coming at journalists and bloggers from all sides. What gets your pitch opened isn’t going to be the fact that you’ve worked with them before. It will be that you are presenting a relevant, timely message just when they need it. How is that possible? That’s exactly what PR software can help do for you. The best solutions help you pinpoint the publications and people who are talking about relevant topics. You don’t have to take a guess at the most effective way to reach your audience, the software shows you the way. Spotting trends in coverage on both a macro level (a whole industry, perhaps) and a micro level (an individual media contact), gives you insight into what may resonate right now.
PR is a Powerful SEO Tool
If you think that by saying, “PR is a powerful SEO tool,” we mean that keyword stuffed press releases are a great way to get ranked, please just stop and erase that thought from your mind. Google and others caught onto that trick years ago and it is not only useless, it can actually damage your SEO efforts. (That’s not to say that the press release is dead, it now has a new purpose.)
What we do mean by PR is a powerful SEO tool is that earned media from relevant publications and authors can have a huge positive impact on search rankings. Not only that, but people trust earned media far more than content coming directly from brands. This means that your audience is likely to see your earned media mention and to be interested in what it says. PR software doesn't do the job of humans in getting these ranking boosting earned media mentions, but it can help you track and make the most of them. Once you learn which publications and journalists give you positive SEO impact, you can use your limited resources far more effectively.
PR software is poised to make you better at your job and protect you from being replaced by a rival who comes armed with better insight and more well-defined impact metrics. PR software isn’t a risk to your job unless you fail to take advantage of it.