Can robots pitch? PR is hard to automate

Press reports suggest that a main motivation behind the proposed Publicis-Omnicom deal was to create the heft needed to make a big tech investment.

Press reports suggest that a main motivation behind the proposed Publicis-Omnicom deal was to create the heft needed to make a big tech investment.

This would help the new entity protect the most profitable part of its business: buying and directing ads. It's all about how the new Publicis Omnicom Group will compete with the likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon.

Technology is automating or changing jobs and business models permanently. While ad agencies will always need thinkers to create campaigns, automation has also brought irrevocable changes. Could the public relations industry be next in line for a tech-infused transformation that will change the whole agency model and eliminate certain jobs?

I don't think so.

Although some of our business is vulnerable, I'd argue the most profitable parts are not. Crisis communications, campaign creation, even media and influencer relations are hard to outsource or automate. MIT Sloan School of Management professor Matt Beane says, “The next frontier for automation is non-routine work.” Among those at greatest risk, Beane says, are surgeons, journalists, and technical writers (close to home), venture capitalists, and college professors.

Does this put PR professionals in a more protected class? I'm not sure I would go that far, but I would say we are faring better than other professions. In a world where cars drive themselves, robots can pick crops, and computers can write their own articles, we should all be sleeping with one eye open. And, as Jim Collins tells us in his book, Great By Choice, great leaders and firms should always have a good dose of productive paranoia.

Jennifer Prosek is founder and CEO of Prosek Partners.

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