The robots are coming… or are they?

The robots are coming… or are they?

Eleanor Frere

Eleanor Frere

“Robots are taking all our jobs!” “Robots are going to take over the world!” These are the kinds of daily declarations that have become the norm, with the likes of Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk even predicting that robots will be responsible for the downfall of the human race. (A more terrifying possibility, given a pair of robots recently joking about it.)

Though we hope it will never quite come to that, if you haven’t already, it is certainly high time to sit up and take notice. AI is totally disrupting our society and the PR and marketing industry is certainly not exempt from its effects.

Robots are already making huge inroads into the industry and it is clear why. If it all came down to a question of speed, robots would certainly have us humans beat, as many journalists have personally experienced when putting themselves to the test against their machine counterparts. AI offers the potential to have all news in real-time and with the likes of Wordsmith from Automated Insights, robots have been producing data-generated news, such as quarterly earnings reports and sports scores, for a few years now. And their capabilities are only getting better. AI can do far more than just collate the facts into good copy but can also analyse and even contextualise them. A future where press releases and basic news are automatically created is looking pretty certain.

Beyond data and analysis

Beyond creating content from data, AI’s ability to monitor and track your brand and its presence across social and online media far outweighs any human efforts – however big your team or PR agency may be. Moreover, AI can continuously analyse this data, looking for correlations and trends to offer critical marketing insights and better measurement of your metrics. All of which is helping marketing teams to make better, data-driven marketing decisions reflecting what buyers really want.

But, if reading this makes you think you should quickly start making plans to replace your agency and team with an army of robots, perhaps don’t be quite so hasty.

AI will, and already is, taking over routine (and rather tedious) tasks – which is really no bad thing –but there are still areas where robots fall a little short. The use of AI is simply opening up the possibilities for us to concentrate on our “human” strengths. Robots offer us useful insights, noticing tiny changes and details that are on a scale and level beyond our scope, but it is humans who can actually transform this information into something meaningful.

Old-fashioned human thinking

Robots can identify the type of content and channels preferred by your audience, but there is also a vital difference between the right content for potential customers and for those customers who have already purchased your product. We know that “Do you need this piece of software?” is markedly different to “How to install it”, but robots are still unable to make this distinction. To effectively produce and properly utilise varied pieces of content, it is essential to have a real understanding of the purpose they serve.

And this is an understanding that robots still lack.

In a similar vein, robots may be able to generate a standard press release but this is not the same as producing an in-depth advisory or opinion piece discussing the future of your business and industry. Almost ironically, to position your business and brand as a forward-looking thought leader, you need old-fashioned human input.

Robot and human relationships

Robots are not just limited in terms of content production, so are their creative muscles. When searching for a new PR agency, you are looking for the one that bowls you over with their team’s creative ideas for a brilliant campaign – the one that you know is going to propel your brand towards success. If robots are failing to try and create some motivational posters, I think there is little doubt that they will not be able to live up to this.

Most importantly, PR and marketing still revolve around people and relationship management. As humans, we are far better placed to read human behaviour than a robot. Robots can rationalise decisions and analyse consumers but the problem is that often we are not rational. Humans are irrational beings. How many times have you done or bought something because, well, just because?  We shouldn’t forget that we are marketing to humans, not machines. Robots can track patterns to an extent – helping us better understand why consumers tend to drop out of a sales funnel for example - but on an emotional level, humans most definitely still have the upper hand. There is a reason why charities share the personal stories of those they help, showing us harrowing images to encourage donations - they are playing to our emotions. Machines aren’t capable of tugging on our heart strings in quite the same way.

Robots may not be running businesses’ PR and marketing efforts any time soon but that doesn’t mean overlooking the opportunities they offer, rather we should embrace them, working together with AI. We do not need to go quite so far as becoming some sort of human cyborg as Elon Musk may suggest, but we should apply machine learning to our own intelligence.  The robots aren’t coming, they are most definitely here - and they are staying. They won’t be taking over (just yet), but only if we use them to improve and better our own skills and capabilities.

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