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Automation in PR

The use of technology in PR, particularly in the Indian PR industry has never been very encouraging. Probably because it’s still largely a handcrafted business or like many say, it’s more art than science. Even if the agencies are talking about automation, what they actually mean is adding social/digital expertise to their offering and not automating processes.

As discussed in my last post, the biggest challenge of the Indian PR industry today is finding the right talent. One of the very important tool to fight this challenge is to automate as many processes as possible and use the human resource for more strategic, ideation and relationship building jobs. Anything which frees up practitioners from repetitive activities to be more creative should be embraced.

Calling journalists to check if they have received your emails/press release and then get snubbed by them has become routine for most practitioners. When there are easily available email solutions, which offers you detailed reports on open, clicks and bounces.

Employees working in small to very large agencies have their own individual prized media lists. A new entrant or someone who have not worked on a particular beat, still have to beg; plead and sometime try to even steal media lists from others. Why not develop software where the list is built and managed centrally. I am sure it won’t even cost as much as an average monthly retainer fee of one client. Any tech graduate will easily do the job for you, but guess what, yet no agency has been able to crack this rocket science.

Large part of tracking is still manual and hence many missed clips, delayed reporting etc. Though many outsourced providers have been able to establish themselves after a lot of struggle, but the acceptance amongst the industry players is still low. If your data acquisition is automated, efficient and smart, you can churn out analysis that can easily position you as a knowledge consultant. The so called Big Data is being ignored just for the lack of foresight. It is not about tracking client and competitor coverage or tracking industry articles, but there are also things like trend spotting, industry sentiment mapping, media mood analysis and more things. Things like columns and special sections in each publication, when it appears, who does it etc., can also be tracked through effective automation. But does the industry willing to invest? If the cost of developing a brilliant tracking mechanism is too high for one agency then can they combine forces and invest collectively to build a robust analytical and measurement system?

Why we haven’t yet looked at CRM software? Sooner or later someone will develop a CRM that works for the industry, but will the industry utilize it?

Is there a mechanism where we keep track of journalists, who are our primary target audience at a broad agency level? Any individual practitioner will never be able to gather intelligence of the entire media universe on his own. Can we develop a central intelligence system, where with one click we get to know who are the journalists covering a particular beat, the stories done by them in the past, their career history etc., Can we keep track of their movements or beat changes? Is it possible, of course very easily, but we are ignorant and get abused by the media for not doing our homework before initiating the interaction.

Every large agency manages over 100 clients (atleast there are 10 in India), if all of them collaborate and setup a newswire, the content generated on a daily basis will be more than any national newswire service. But again for that they will need to come together, which is highly unlikely?

Finally when will we move to the cloud? Why invest so much on hardware, when there are technologies available that will allow you to work from anywhere and save time and money. The myth that information on cloud can be compromised is baseless, if that was true then many reputed and large corporate would have never moved on to the cloud. Moreover 85% of our job is not really classified information, plus there are several layers of security to be able to penetrate the cloud security system.

PR firms always had to do more for less, but they can’t keep doing more without adding more people. On an average PR firms spend their 60% of revenue in recruiting and retaining talent, additionally there is increasing competition from boutique agencies. Nowadays even pure digital agencies have realized the power of PR and have opened up their own PR arms. Sooner or later these new age circumstances will force PR firms to automate as many functions of their work.

They need more investment in the technology component of their operations. Not only to automate parts of their business but also to sell to their clients and create a new revenue stream.

Let’s automate. Let’s get a tech-testing habit. This will enable PR pros to focus on what we do best: creativity and human connections. Share your feedback on why do you feel we are such laggards when it comes to technology? You can respond here or tweet @vikramkharvi


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