PR Futurist Stuart Bruce features in this episode of Smoke Signal Podcast, sharing his insight on how tech is impacting the practice of public relations.
Regardless of what you call it - CommTech, CommsTech, PRTech, one thing is clear, technology is impacting the practice of public relations at an exponential rate. Whether it is to enhance, augment, make us more efficient, there seems to be an app, website or tool for every aspect of our role.
The challenge we face though, as Stuart points out, is that PR professionals are notoriously slow at embracing technology. There is a list of examples - blogs, social media, SEO – where we’ve been late to the party.
Referencing a quote from long-serving Microsoft communication professional Tom Murphy, at a conference at which Stuart was in the audience: “PR people don’t need to worry about big data because they haven’t even mastered small data yet.” That was circa 2005 and for Stuart believes it is still very much true today.
Stuart gives listeners a first exclusive insight into a yet-to-be-released global survey his firm Purposeful Relations has just completed into attitudes of PR people to tech. It finds around 40% of people are using excel to manage contacts = further evidence PR people don’t embrace tech.
Talk about CommTech naturally falls into discussing AI and the launch of ChatGPT which has brought the role of technology in PR to the fore. Stuart is astounded by the varying degree of different attitudes when it comes to AI with some at a peak of inflated expectations and others in a trough of disillusionment (citing the ICCO survey that found 25% of PR leaders say they will never use AI).
While ChatGPT has been grabbing the headlines, looking forward, Stuart is most excited about the launch of Microsoft Copilot – the integration of AI into the day-to-day tools we are all using presents a phenomenal opportunity for PR professionals… The flip side of that is if you look at how most people us Word, PowerPoint or Excel, they can’t even use the basic features.
The challenge (and opportunity) for PR professionals is two-fold: using CommTech and AI to improve what you are doing – make it faster, better, easier; and on the others side it is really understanding the ethical implications and being knowledgeable enough to advise your organisation on where and how to use AI. Here, Stuart suggests taking a look at the Aletheia Framework which was developed by Rolls Royce as an open-source toolkit for assessing ethical issues and trustworthiness in using AI within an organisation.
As a PR futurist, Stuart knows it is way too difficult to predict the future. Especially in the case of AI which, as Bill Gates says in this letter, is as big an innovation as the personal computer, the Internet, and the mobile phone. But what he does know is that as PR professionals we need to stay up to date, we have to experiment, and we must keep an open mind about doing things differently.