PR and Technology 2019 Trends

There’s no doubt that technology continues to have an impact on the PR industry. So much so that the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism issues an annual Global Communications Report based on survey results from PR professionals and students and, new this year, CEOs of small, mid-size, and large organizations.

Let’s look at the trends discovered in the 2019 edition of this report — PR: Tech – The Future of Technology in Communication.

Don’t Miss the Data Bus
When asked about their top communications goals, the PR pros and CEOs surveyed agreed that brand differentiation was important, with increasing sales topping the CEO lists. Neither group, however, gave analyzing data a high ranking.

SOURCE: Annenberg Center for Public Relations, USC & Weiss-Blatt, Nirit. (2019). 2019 Global Communication Report. PR:tech – The Future of Technology in Communication.

The report indicates what many of us already know: “Data and analytics are a means for building both brand and sales, and new technology needs support from the top if it’s going to be effective.”

Changing Channels
Before we look at the tech effect on PR, the survey results show an interesting disparity where CEOs and PR students place a higher value on shared media (defined as social media and online influencers). While CEOs and PR pros agreed that owned media is essential, PR pros continue to consider earned media a worthy goal. “…as a profession, we must prevent media relations from becoming a lost art. In every channel, earned-first will always be the most effective way to tell a story.”

SOURCE: Annenberg Center for Public Relations, USC & Weiss-Blatt, Nirit. (2019). 2019 Global Communication Report. PR:tech – The Future of Technology in Communication.

Technology: The Dominant Disruptor
Of all the changes to the PR industry anticipated by 66% of the PR pros surveyed, 83% of them point to technology as the driving source.

We already see this with Artificial Intelligence (AI). The report states that the practice of AI-generated stories is more widespread than we may realize:

“Bloomberg uses a system called Cyborg, which according to The New York Times is able to assist reporters in churning out thousands of articles on companies’ earnings each quarter. The program can dissect a financial report the moment it appears and spit out an immediate news story. In addition to covering earnings for Bloomberg, robots report on minor league baseball for The Associated Press, high school football for The Washington Post and earthquakes for the Los Angeles Times. These machines aren’t yet replacing reporters, but they are helping them modernize the more mundane aspects of their jobs.
 
As AI technology spreads, the PR industry will learn how to write press releases that optimize algorithms to ensure the most accurate, positive outcome possible (by the way, fancy diagrams don’t compute). In a few years, PR robots may pitch media robots, but will they meet for lunch?”

Technology also brings opportunities for PR pros. The report indicates that CEOs favor a use of technology to help them in customer experience, audience targeting, and measuring results. We’ll note that our Solo PR Pro smarties have long been advancing the effectiveness of tailoring messaging and tactics with an eye on measuring for success. This is a trend that will continue to grow within the PR industry.

SOURCE: Annenberg Center for Public Relations, USC & Weiss-Blatt, Nirit. (2019). 2019 Global Communication Report. PR:tech – The Future of Technology in Communication.

Tech Tools
The tech tools most of the PR pros favor are used in their work with social media. More than 50% of those surveyed acknowledged that increased focus is needed on tools assisting with social listening and social influencers.

AI – which includes voice assistants, conversational bots, augmented reality, and virtual reality – ranked lowest among the tools being used now and anticipated for the future. When asked if AI will be very important in future PR work, only 18% of current PR pros responding favorably while 53% of PR students said that it would.

SOURCE: Annenberg Center for Public Relations, USC & Weiss-Blatt, Nirit. (2019). 2019 Global Communication Report. PR:tech – The Future of Technology in Communication.

Stay Curious and Adapt
The increased presence of technology in our work may be exciting to some, daunting to others.

SOURCE: Annenberg Center for Public Relations, USC & Weiss-Blatt, Nirit. (2019). 2019 Global Communication Report. PR:tech – The Future of Technology in Communication.

Most successful PR pros have a curious nature. It is what helps us adapt and be prepared for whatever comes our way. Use that strength as we embrace how technology will help us serve our clients well.

Listen to the Solo PR Pro podcast, That Solo Life for a fun discussion on the report, and the surprising insights and implications for PR pros.