PR Roundtable | Episode 10

PR's big tech problem

PR is notoriously slow to adopt new – and not so new – technology. But in the modern world, those who don't adapt get left behind. Join data wizard Christopher S. Penn to learn:

  • What PR gets wrong about technology

  • Tried & tested tools to help you today

  • The comms landscape five years from now

techsavy

Data, AI, and other buzzwords

We’re nowhere near Skynet levels of artificial intelligence; frankly, we’re not even close to simulating the mind of a worm. So how can we possibly entrust our day-to-day to the machines? 

While technology can't stand in for us completely, Christopher S. Penn says that if a task relies on data entry, statistics or probability, let a machine do it.

I’m willing to bet a lot of your most mind-numbing everyday tasks fall into that category. And yet only a minuscule fraction of comms people delegate their work to tech. Why?

Chris thinks the problem is two-fold: 

  1. Most people don’t know how their tech actually works

  2. Many of the biggest PR tools are horribly outdated

We’re here to remedy that.

In this episode we cover: 

  • How technology can save you time

  • What tools you can start using today to get better results

  • Emerging comms channels & the PR of tomorrow

Show notes

02:07 Can we predict the future of PR through tarot card readings? (hint: no)

03:34 Christopher shares his background and how he got into the tech PR world.

05:18 A lot of companies claim to be data-driven, but what does that actually mean?

07:39 Tech tools can be great, if the user understands them. Without a proper understanding of the tool, "at best you're going to misuse it and at worst it's going to do nothing for you. It's gonna be a counterproductive waste of time. The same is true of data."

09:01 The importance of consciously understanding data in decision-making, and how data can be misinterpreted or ignored (e.g. the pandemic).

11:43 The importance of communicating data in a way that people understand and connect with (memes, TikTok, awesome baking analogies).

13:37 How the role of Public Relations has changed and how a publicist is no longer the only person in a company responsible for relating to the public.

14:33 PR struggles to adapt to technology because, according to Chris, "a big part of the reason why the industry has had such a hard time with all things data, and all things digital, is because it fundamentally misunderstands what is possible."

14:51 How comms professionals connect with their audience is changing with the internet and no longer relies on traditional media "gatekeepers" in the same way.

15:53 Comms professionals have an increasing responsibility to understand how to connect directly to their audience in the places their audience spends time (TikTok, Discord, OnlyFans, etc.)

16:58 The best qualities to hire for are aptitude and attitude.

18:10 "As a PR practitioner, do you need to be a Google Analytics certified professional? No, but it does help. Do you need to be able to look at Google Analytics and understand the basics? Yes."

18:24 Overcoming the binary perspective that you have to be an expert, or you don't know anything about a subject, and there's no in-between.

20:16 Technology is great if you're using it to solve the right problem. Knowing what you want out of technology is just as important as figuring out how to get it, because using technology in the wrong way is counter-productive, According to Christopher, "that's always a challenge is, do you have a problem we can help you solve? If the answer is no, then it's a waste of everybody's trying time to try and put a square peg into a round hole."

23:05 PR is about establishing awareness and trust. There are plenty of tools to measure those things, but they often seem to be underutilized by comms professionals. Google Search Console is one of Christopher's favorites, and he explains why!

25:34 What tools should comms professionals use? It's not exactly a simple question.

29:20 How to evaluate your PR tools and determine if they're working and what to do if they aren't working. Is it the tools you're using, the people who are using them, or the processes by which they're being used that need to be changed?

32:01 Learn to ask the right questions in order to get the answers you're looking for in terms of using data and technology to improve your communications.

The five things you need are:

  • What outcomes are you after?

  • What processes will get you there?

  • Do you have the right people to help you get there?

  • Do you have data to make sure you're on the right path?

  • Lastly, do you have the tools necessary to get to your outcome?

32:40 Christopher shares some examples of breakdowns in the steps and how each company has its own strengths and weaknesses.

34:53 They mention the livestream So What? and more info can be found here.

35:39 What tasks can we delegate to the machines? Christopher shares how he automates his social media content.

40:14 The fear or lack of understanding of emerging technologies keeps people doing things the "old school" way instead of adapting

41:54 Hire and surround yourself with curious people who exhibit a passion for their role, like Kate and her fan fiction and Chris with his Marketing Over Coffee podcast.

42:53 The role of social media algorithms and corporate communications. Should companies bother using social media? Christopher says it depends on the data.

45:14 What comms channels should PR professionals be focused on?

47:00 Where's your audience spending their time? Ask them!

49:30 What are Christopher's favorite communication channels? Slack and Discord! Putting relating to the public back in Public Relations!

54:40 The role of "personal branding" and reputation in PR.

Want more from Chris? Follow him on Twitter or listen to his podcast :)

Our expert

Christopher S. Penn

Co-founder and Chief Data Scientist of Trust Insights, Christopher S. Penn is an authority on analytics, digital marketing, marketing technology, data science, and machine learning. A recognized thought leader, best-selling author, and keynote speaker, he has shaped five key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, modern email marketing, marketing data science, and artificial intelligence/machine learning in marketing. As co-founder and Chief Data Scientist of Trust Insights, he is responsible for the creation of products and services, creation and maintenance of all code and intellectual property, technology and marketing strategy, brand awareness, and research & development.

Mr. Penn is a 2021, four-time IBM Champion in IBM Data and AI, a Brand24 Top 100 Digital Marketer, an Onalytica Top 100 AI in Marketing influencer, and co-host of the award-winning Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast. Prior to co-founding Trust Insights, he built the marketing for a series of startups with a 100% successful exit rate in the financial services, SaaS software, and PR industries. His work has served brands such as Twitter, T-Mobile, Citrix Systems, GoDaddy, AAA, McDonald’s, and others too numerous to list.

Mr. Penn is an IBM Watson Machine Learning Certified Professional, a Google Analytics Certified Professional, a Google Ads Certified Professional, a Google Digital Sales Certified Professional, a Hubspot Inbound Certified Professional and all-round hero. He has authored over two dozen marketing books including the bestsellers AI for Marketers: A Primer and IntroductionMarketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital MarketerMarketing Red Belt: Connecting With Your Creative MindMarketing Blue Belt: From Data Zero to Marketing Hero, and Leading Innovation.

Christopher S. Penn

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