“Edit-bots?” The PR Game Has Changed

This post originally appeared on “May the Schwartz Be With You,” the official blog of Schwartz Media Strategies, on December 3rd, 2009.

by Julia Wakefield

Connect to Julia on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn

The public relations business and the strategies we use to achieve success are changing rapidly in an age of constantly-evolving technology.  In yet another example of how the game is changing, PaidContent.org (a news site covering the “economics of content”) reports that AOL is replacing its news editors with robots.

That is,

“rather than just rely on editors and journalists deciding on what kinds of stories to run, AOL will employ a system that relies on a series of algorithms that will predict the kinds of stories, videos and photos that have the greatest appeal to audiences and advertisers.”

Further, AOL is developing a site called Seed.com to coordinate article assignments for the 3,000 freelancers it employs.

“The new system will also help determine how much freelancers get paid, as it predicts how much marketers might pay to advertise on a particular article.”

The edit-bots will also screen for grammar and spelling mistakes – even plagiarism.

What does this bode for public relations professionals like us here at Schwartz Media?

Ask any PRer – our jobs are getting tougher as publications shrink and slash staff. We’re updating – or, more accurately, downsizing – our Rolodexes on a weekly basis as major magazines like Forbes lay off dozens of staffers.When our relationships with the media – the bread and butter of any public relations professional – are no longer relevant, how do we earn coverage in the digital age? What happens when we can no longer pitch a story to a human editor whose preferences, interests, and guidelines are familiar to us?

Yes, pitching media is getting more difficult; but publicizing just might be getting easier through social media. Savvy PR firms have plowed additional resources and focus into their social media strategies to adapt to the changing reality of how people access and consume information.

The “game changer” I’m describing is essentially this: that the traditional model of “one-to-many communications,” such as a television news broadcast or a daily newspaper, is giving way to “many-to-many communications”, or “social media,” where information is disseminated through social interactions. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the top three most popular examples of networks using this new mode of communication, and bloggers are quickly replacing traditional journalists.

What that means is that PRers have less power to shape their clients’ images or help drive conversation; now, we can only participate in the conversation and use it to organically spread the word about our clients. That may mean starting a blog, commenting on a blog, or writing a guest post for a blog. It may mean creating a Facebook fan page (one great example is the fan page we created for the Adrienne Arsht Center) so our client can interact with its clients in their own space. That may mean posting our clients’ videos and news video clips on Youtube, where they’re accessible to the entire world. It might mean profiling them on Wikipedia or even helping them record and broadcast “podcasts” to get their expertise (and thereby their image as experts) out into the world.

We also use our presence on social media networks to respond to and manage crises by staunching the outrage where it really matters – the clients and customers. We can monitor the conversation and directly address clients’ and customers’ concerns with personal responses and accurate information.

It’s an exciting time for those of us in the communications industry as we watch our old institutions crumble and new ones spring up. Meeting these challenges head-on is the key to surviving and thriving in the digital age of public relations.

For an example of how we use social media on behalf of our own business, connect to Schwartz Media on Twitter and Facebook.

How do you see the interactive information revolution affecting your business as we move into 2010?

Questions or comments?  Connect to Julia Wakefield on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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