The technologies of public relations are on their way....

The technologies of public relations are on their way....

Summary: PR firms are missing a vital component in their operations.

TOPICS: Emerging Tech

The media industry has been dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world and forced to adopt new media technologies and drastically overhaul its operations.

The successful new media model is a combination of three components: professional media, user generated media, and smart machine media (e.g., automated news aggregation).

Buzzfeed is an example of this trinity: it has top journalists producing original content; it makes great use of social media; and it has a tech platform that leverages the algorithms of distributors such as Facebook and Twitter.

Forbes is another example of a large media company with professional journalists, user generated articles, and a good technology platform.

Public relations has been pulled into the modern world  (complaining about the extra work of social) but not much has really changed. It’s still very much a hand-crafted, artisanal business, its use of technology is a Twitter hashtag and a dashboard of likes and shares.

But without a significant tech component PR is at a big disadvantage because it can’t scale, it can’t grow without growing more people. Which is also why valuations of PR firms are low compared to their revenues. 

And it makes PR firms vulnerable to competitors outside of their field that can figure out and automate technologies of promotion.


The three components in the media operations stack are like the three components of gunpowder: charcoal, saltpeter, and sulphur. It’s important to get them in the right mix. If you get the proportions right the result is explosive, if you get it wrong it fizzles and smells bad.

The PR operations stack is mostly fizzle. 

PR needs to figure out how to automate some of its capabilities and keep up with the changing trends affecting their clients. The major trend is in helping companies become media companies simply because there are fewer reporters around to help tell the stories of clients.

I’ve worked with Intel on its Intel Free Press and other media projects, for example. And PR firms need to do the same, help every company to be a media company and how best to use the media technologies available.

Impress Labs, is a good example, it publishes newsletters about solar and clean energy and is aggregating other publications into a Solar channel.

I see lots of PR firms helping clients spruce up their web sites and offer design services.

But the publishing, etc, is not enough. There needs to be a large technology component inside the future successful PR firm. It needs technologies of promotion that can scale the work of its practitioners in the service of its clients.

This has to happen quickly because PR is being challenged from sectors that already understand technologies of promotion. 

The PR industry is heading for a serious showdown with ad agencies gunning for PR budgets. Ad agencies have algorithmic buying and selling of ads, there is already a large automated component to their business.

Where is the equivalent component for PR? 

PR has competition from other sectors such as SEO, marketing agencies, and even more troubling in the long term, Google itself.

Art for art’s sake…

PR is certainly more art than it is science but that doesn’t mean there is no opportunity to automate some of the work.

Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, recently predicted that within 20 years most jobs will be automated. Why are PR jobs so special that some of the work won’t be automated? 

Metrics tied to ROI are imperfect today but that won’t last forever. The rise of more accurate metrics that can be tied to long-term results will force PR firms to change.

That front page story in the New York Times is great but it doesn’t mean much if it doesn’t move the needle for clients — and that needle is the metric of revenues. 

PR firms will need to do more for less, but they can’t keep doing more without adding more people. Which is another reason why PR will need technologies that leverage its work. 

PR firms 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.

What will these technologies look like? What technologies will you be able to buy from PR firms?

I know what some of those technologies will look like and what they will be able to do.

Scalable technologies of promotion are on their way —  just make sure you aren’t in the way. 

Topic: Emerging Tech

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  • technology for PR.

    Maybe for the "big guys" in PR that blast out press release after press release, but for the "little guy" sending out targeted, focused email pitches, not so much. I coach small businesses how to pitch the media and certainly staying up with the latest technology is key, but only to the extent it is "low hanging fruit". Smaller clients have to watch every penny and make sure it is the most efficient use of their money at the time. This kind of stuff is higher up the tree for now. I will be watching, but for now, not moving into this technology for PR. OK, thanks for keeping us up to date. Edward Smith.
    Edward Smith
  • Technology and PR? We're there...Where were YOU??

    While this post..."The technologies of public relations"...does make a semi-decent point about the need to be or become proficient in the technologies that drive the communication business, it's slightly off target in proclaiming that the public relations profession is woefully behind the eight-ball.

    Public those who have only a superficial grasp of the art and science of the all about hype and spin and shotgun-marketing. "Throw enough XXXX against the wall, and something will stick."

    THAT misperception is SO mid-1990s.

    Public relations professionals have embraced the technologies and have proven the value of their work in the process.

    At the end of the day, it's about the HUMAN touch, which the author of this post seems to have either forgotten or ignored. It's about forging and nurturing HUMAN relationships. It's about providing VALUE, not quantity.

    Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA
    Associate Professor, Communication/Public Relations
    Curry College, Milton, MA
    Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA
  • It's a start

    While we can agree that PR takes a certain level of human interaction and relationship-building, as other comments have noted, There are still many parts of PR that can benefit from automation and help improve PR.

    Take, for example, measurement. PR agencies and corporate teams still spend a great deal of time manually counting up "clips" (media coverage) and analyzing it to present and prove their value to clients or the board. And yet, many still fail to analyze the quality of such results, in order to improve what's working and pivot from what doesn't. Or, they spend ungodly amounts of time trying to pull those values out by combing through media hit after hit. That's ap lot of time, especially if you're a big brand with large amounts of coverage to analyze.

    We're changing that with our automated SaaS platform to measure the quantity and quality of PR programs. We're going beyond counting clips or circulation or AVEs (monitoring companies do that) - our algorithm scores results and allows PR professionals to automatically see what values are repeatedly driving interest and leads - what messages, spokespersons, brand promises are working across all PR programs.

    It's not automating the daily relationship building of PR work but it's a start at measuring its value - and helping to clearly showcase it to the executive team. Measurement is a big challenge across the industry and we believe automating it will allow PR executives to focus more on executing great work - not spending their time pulling and culling reports to prove their value.

    You can sign up now for a demo at - we're in stealth beta and launching to the public soon.
  • The biggest change is for those not doing it right in the first place

    The practice of public relations is NOT more art than science. That "PR is art" argument has sustained many a practitioner who, wrongly in my opinion, measured things having little to do with outcomes or overall organizational goals and was never pressed to mesure anything else because it's all "art." Solid PR practice uses communication theory, sets measurable objectives based on solid research, applies strategies toward the right messages and channels to reach the right audience and then directly shows the outcomes or impact. Social media and technology have not changed that one single bit. That is science and is public relations at its best. For those who lament that everything in the profession has changed because of the changes in traditional media, I'd say their viewpoint and their practice of public relations has been severely short-sighted.
  • Technology of PR

    The biggest technology of franchise PR is to do it correctly in the first place. You establish connections, have good writing an people skills, and be willing to learn.