Will PR Automation Put You Out of a Job?

Ironman: "Did you get my press release?"

Nine months ago, robo-journalism was in full effect when the LA Times used its Quakebot algorithm to report on an earthquake — three minutes after it happened.

It’s ironic to note the math of an algorithm is being used to generate the words of a newspaper article — 108 of them in the above example. In another example, the AP uses a tool called Wordsmith to help fill their pages. According to Arik Hanson, “they’re using Wordsmith to auto-generate quarterly earnings stories — 4,400 stories every quarter.”

This all begs a bigger question.

“As computers begin replacing journalists, could they replace YOUR job?”

 

Welcome to the Machine

With apologies to Pink Floyd, it’s important to note that this trend is far from new. More than a year ago, researchers noted 45 percent of America’s occupations will be automated within the next 20 years.

If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking. “I’m creative! I’m a strategic thinker! They broke the mold when they made me and no amount of math known to man could replicate what I do!”

And I’m inclined to agree with you. But you should know that people are composing auto complete song lyrics and getting robots to write fiction.

Even more relevant is Google’s Primer App. It’s designed to help startups with marketing tasks like Search Advertising, Content Marketing and what it calls “PR and Media” read: media relations.

The app won’t replace anyone, but it doesn’t suck either.


 

Game Over or Game On?

This post is not to get you freaked out or to get into the weeds on the pros and cons around this topic.

But it is motivation to continually improve your craft. Increasing your relevance and differentiating yourself from others — be they humans or math equations — can only help you. So consider some small, medium and large ways you can improve yourself in the coming year.

Small: Under promise and over deliver, ask more questions, challenge your own thinking.

Medium: Learn enough about the areas of marketing outside your core expertise that it helps you do better work. Compare seemingly unrelated data sources like Google Analytics and customer service stats to mine a new insight about your audience.

Large: Add a completely new skill to the tool kit – personal or professional.

So you can rage at the machine like the Luddites did. Or you can dive into the many benefits the machine has to offer. But your future is not black and white. Your future is up to you. (cues Bluto).

Headline Clickbait: PR Science or PR Fail?

A scan of current events this morning brought me to a news story angering me enough that I didn’t need my morning coffee.

Couple Killed After Posting Sunset Picture to Instagram

To be clear, it’s not the (tragic, local news) story that aggravated me. It’s the misleading, headline clickbait that pulled me into the article. I’m interested in Instagram, and the odd nature of the headline lead me to believe it was being served up by The Onion. It’s not a parody story. So I’ve re-written it below for accuracy.

Couple Killed THREE HOURS After
Posting Sunset Picture to Instagram.

My re-write wouldn’t draw in readers. But it may make you wonder why someone would point out this ironic, but completely unrelated, fact in the headline.

The Headline That Cried Click (see what I did there?)

Sites like Buzzfeed, Upworthy and Viral Nova are pretty polarizing. They’ve even inspired spoof headline generators and entire parody sites trying to tap into the craze simply by mocking it.

Love them or hate these traffic-magnet, sharing-fueled sites, Google analytics proves that headline clickbait works. But even Upworthy is acknowledging its an issue. The site announced it’s “on a mission to cleanse the web of content that exists primarily to be clicked on or shared.”

No, I’m not suggesting you avoid proven best practices around headline generation. I followed three myself for this post’s headline.

I am pleading with you to consider the bigger picture behind any tactic. I’m willing to bet that whatever the goal is behind content you’re publishing, you’d prefer to establish an ongoing connection with the audience your content attracts.

Tricks for Clicks

Or ignore me and follow Time’s lead. This once iconic, news magazine’s Twitter bio reads: “Breaking news and current events from around the globe.” And they’re publishing headlines like “Watch a Baby’s Face Sour While Eating A Lemon” and “Here’s a Half-Naked Man Wearing 100 Pounds of Bees like a Coat.” It’s embarrassing to see them chase someone else’s success. And it’s costing them their hard-earned credibility in the process.

Tricks for clicks may get you a short-term increase in traffic. But it won’t build audience in the long-term. If you’re worried you won’t attract readers without headline clickbait? Either spend money on headline syndication or come to grips with the fact that your content might suck.

Kevin Dugan, @prblog

Image via xkcd