As a PR agency that works with high-growth companies, including many technology brands, we talk a lot about why public relations is important for the tech industry. With complex subjects to distill and technical and product-based pitfalls to address, disruptive technology needs PR.
But it’s just as important to ask why technology is important to the PR industry. In other words, does PR actually need disruptive technology to succeed?
In my experience, PR is notoriously slow to adopt new technology, shunning advancements that could improve the quality, efficiency, or reach of our work until general adoption is well underway. I saw this firsthand at my last agency, where the early adoption of marketing technology for PR helped our team differentiate and win business, as well as during my time at Propel PRM, a SaaS solution that provides a CRM for public relations.
For the most part, the PR industry’s slow approach to technology adoption has worked fairly well. PR firms have withstood the rise of many possible “PR killers” including email marketing, digital advertising, and social media, often integrating or using those disciplines to grow their business or even make earned media more effective. However, as the pace of technology quickens, PR teams can’t be so cavalier about technology adoption. The industry needs disruptive technology to make it more effective, efficient, and indispensable.
Today, marketing and communications teams are being asked — over and over again — to do more with less. Faced with budget cuts, PR is a line item that is repeatedly scrutinized, and in-house PR professionals are not immune.
Amid budget cuts, tools like generative AI are ushering in a new era of creativity. Like it or not, applied AI, virtual twins, distributed infrastructure, and other industry-changing technology trends aren’t going away. As PR professionals, we can either embrace disruptive technology and learn to harness it, or wait, with fingers crossed, to see what (and whom) it makes obsolete.
It may sound like doom and gloom, but technology isn’t just important to PR as a means of preserving our jobs. It can also make our work better and time spent more efficient. Just consider the ways technology has already benefited PR.
Reach a Wider Audience
In the past, PR was largely limited to traditional media outlets such as newspapers, magazines, television, and radio. However, with the rise of the internet and social media, PR professionals can now reach a global audience with their messages. Digital-first publications, online video, podcasts, and even company blogs provide additional avenues for brands to connect with niche audiences.
Track Campaign Effectiveness
In the past, it was difficult to measure the impact of a PR campaign. However, with analytics tools, PR teams can now more easily estimate how many people are seeing their messages, how often they are shared, and how they are perceived.
Collaborate More Easily
In the past, PR teams often worked in isolation. However, with collaboration tools, PR people can now work with colleagues and teams in marketing, sales, and product development, to create more effective PR campaigns.
It’s hard to have a discussion about disruptive technology in 2023 without touching on generative AI tools like ChatGPT.
Many have written about the promise and perils of ChatGPT for PR — including PRSA (“The Promise and Perils of ChatGPT”), Newsweek (“How ChatGPT Is Transforming the PR Game”), and even our team (“What Chat GPT Brings to Public Relations”). Much of the fear and speculation around generative AI and the PR industry reminds me of conversations we had a decade-plus ago about social media and PR.
Consider this quote from The New York Times: “Gone are the days when snaring attention for start-ups in the Valley meant mentions in print and on television, or even spotlights on technology Web sites and blogs. Now P.R. gurus court influential voices on the social Web to endorse new companies, Web sites or gadgets a transformation that analysts and practitioners say is likely to permanently change the role of P.R. in the business world, and particularly in Silicon Valley.”
Reading that in 2009 — when it was published — might have led you to believe that media relations was no more. You might have thought PR professionals would be obsolete or would spend their days catering to mommy bloggers and YouTube unboxers (the TikTok stars of their time), and that no one would want media coverage ever again. That’s simply not the case.
Yes, social media changed PR. It demanded the addition of new strategies, new skills, new considerations, and even new job titles. But social media didn’t make PR obsolete, and neither will generative AI.
In summary, yes, PR needs disruptive technology. Technology is important to PR because it allows us to do our work more efficiently and effectively. Though PR professionals have been able to shy away from new and emerging technologies in the past, as the speed of technology quickens, PR teams should look to embrace and harness this disruptive technology to improve their work and to advance the evolution of the profession.