PR is changing new technologies. Are new technologies changing PR?

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Nowadays, it is noticeable that the new technology sector relies heavily on promotion through PR activities. This is therefore a good time to reflect on how PR professionals themselves are embracing technological innovations today and how our work will be changed by them in the future.

Bill Gates, one of the most important figures in the IT world and the person who pushed the development of the personal computer to the level we know today, once said that if he only had one dollar left, he would spend it on PR. Today, this statement is only becoming more relevant - start-up IT projects in areas such as artificial intelligence, mobile applications or System_as_a_Service are now being developed more than ever. In order to ensure their chances of market success, as well as to achieve their goals in terms of attracting investors or establishing international business contacts, start-ups often turn to PR agencies, which help companies become known among their target groups. The high demand from IT companies and start-ups for public relations support means that the two spheres are increasingly intertwining.

A PR professional as your guide to the world of technology

Due to the nature of his or her work, a PR specialist dealing with a client in the new technology sector inevitably comes into contact with the latest technological developments on a daily basis. His or her role is, above all, to understand how his or her client's product works, what ideas and solutions are behind the technology and, ultimately, what impact it will have on the lives of its audience. In addition to this, he or she must have a good understanding of both the market, what the competition is doing and also know a lot about his or her target audience's awareness of his or her client's activities and products. All these factors enable the PR specialist to do his job - translating often very complex technological phenomena and relationships into language that everyone can understand. It is on his or her knowledge and ability to formulate thoughts that it depends whether terms such as 'neural network', 'machine learning' or 'radio-diffusion' will be valuable information for consumers, or whether they will remain just empty platitudes used to fill out a promotional message. What aspects of a product the PR people put more emphasis on in the press material directly affects how it is perceived by consumers. The 2017 Huawei Mate 10 Pro campaign was a good example of this. - That was when, for the first time, the aspect of artificial intelligence in a phone, and what it can actually be used for, was so strongly emphasised in a message to the media. Since then, all self-respecting flagship devices have been equipped with neural network coprocessors, and the launch of the aforementioned Huawei model, dubbed the 'smart machine', started a fashion for emphasising the importance of this smartphone component that continues until now.

And in the other direction?

Asking whether new technologies will change the way PR professionals work is completely pointless, because for more than a century of the industry's existence, scientific and technological discoveries have not only changed, but even defined the way information is communicated. Some people may remember that not so long ago, press materials were sent by fax, for example, which nobody can imagine today. Therefore, the correctly posed question should be: how quickly should PR adapt to technological progress? For technology influences not only communication tools (social media is already an almost immortal example of alternative contact with journalists), but also the very form of content created by PR professionals. For example, the way people consume media nowadays (the focus on fast "news", the increased share of media consumption on mobile devices) encourages the creation of materials with simpler messages, avoids multi-step translation, and forces diversification of the type of content delivered. In other words - PR professionals today cannot operate on text alone, as a brand message constructed in this way has little chance of capturing the audience's interest. In addition to this, images and sound are increasingly being used, seamlessly combining all available communication channels. Here, the @world_record_egg campaign was a great example. By harnessing the combined power of social media and an event such as the Super Bowl final in the United States, the Mental Health America Institute achieved its goal of raising awareness about the difficult area of mental health conditions. Despite the lack of exact statistics, it is safe to assume that the number of publications on this topic worldwide numbered in the tens of thousands. This PR success was achieved without even sending out a single press release!

What will be the PR of the future?

Wiliam Gibson once stated that 'the future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed'. In order for predictions about what the PR of the future will look like to be as close to the truth as possible, it is important to think about how today's trends will affect future communication activities. One such trend is the aforementioned increase in content consumption on mobile devices - it wasn't long ago that smartphones crossed the magic mark of 50 per cent share of the total media consumption pool. At the same time, the role of so-called content aggregators is growing - Google News is developing rapidly on the market, and we are soon expecting the launch of its competitor, Apple News. These types of solutions seem inconspicuous, but many technology enthusiasts suggest that the rise in their popularity could mark another shift in user habits. Searching for content on their own (accessing portals, buying newspapers) is being replaced by waiting for a push notification from an app that material of interest to the user has appeared. These aggregators have the potential to completely reshuffle the media market, in which the PR professional will have to find his or her feet. On the other hand, PR'ers must not forget that the dominance of smartphones is not forever. Already, new product categories for content consumption such as voice assistants, VR goggles or devices that allow the construction of augmented reality (AR) are experiencing significant growth. All these technologies allow us to consume media in a different way than we do today. Sooner or later, PRs will therefore have to start including users of these devices in their campaigns, otherwise they themselves run the risk of their message not reaching a large part of their audience.

The only correct answer to the question of how quickly PR specialists should adapt to technological developments therefore seems to be: as quickly as possible. After all, effective use of new technological solutions in one's PR activities allows not only to achieve a "wow" effect, but above all - to gain very valuable skills. The value of gaining experience early on can be compared to the situation with Bitcoin in December 2017. Back then, the most money was made by those who took an interest in the currency years earlier, when Bitcoin could be purchased for less than a zloty, rather than when you had to pay $20,000 for it. It is very much the same with new technologies that can influence a PR professional's work - if they become popular, a good PR professional should have known them for a long time and, more importantly, know how to use them in their work.


Text author: Krzysiek