The busier we get, the more tempting automation looks. Like my coffeemaker scheduled to start a pot of coffee at the exact same time my alarm clock starts buzzing, blending a certain amount of it into our daily tasks makes us more efficient and, when done correctly, it is completely seamless to the end recipient. It’s a good thing. (Unless taken to far and used as a replacement for live, human attention. But that’s another article.)

Social media is a perfect example. I don’t know about everyone else, but I typically spend about a half hour in the morning, scheduling out some curated content and tweets for the day- then I share other interesting content as I come across it. The tasks that I automate supplement live activity, it doesn’t replace it.

I also automate a few content marketing tasks, such as sending out a MailChimp email to my subscribers every time a blog post goes live and sharing the new post automatically across my social media platforms using a share plug-in. Certain reporting elements are also automated, so that I get a monthly report without manually pulling it.

Yesterday afternoon, a friend passed along a VentureBeat article by Bryan Stolle, called PR Tech: The next automated marketing frontier.

While the article is packed with misinformation and clearly not written by a public relations professional, it started me thinking.

Is PR ripe for automation? Will it be the Next Big Thing?

To a certain degree, it’s already happening. If you look at PR from a holistic fashion – including digital PR, meaning traditional PR tactics plus content marketing, social media and search engine optimization – automation software has been popping up like daisies for years. The challenge is that those solutions fit into just one bucket – just content, just SEO or just social media. Great things are happening, but they are not ubiquitous solutions.

On the traditional side, automation is limited to things like clip reporting, press release distribution and pick-up reports and…….. well, that’s about it. (Tell me if I missed something.)

Mirroring how marketing has struggled with silos, automation solutions are also limited to silos. I haven’t seen a single one that binds them all together.

Therefore, on the traditional side of the PR fence, opportunities are still out there. From that sense, yes, I agree with Bryan that it is a bit of a new frontier. The low hanging fruit is being addressed.

What is needed is a much larger, more complex solution. Something that combines information and metrics across ALL aspects of PR and marketing, both online and offline, and tracks conversions across all touch points. I don’t see it happening right now, but maybe it will eventually.

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Putting aside digital, traditional PR still has opportunities for automation that aren’t being looked at.

The biggest PR automation idea that instantly comes to mind is related to pitching, and something that would be ideal for a media database company such as Cision or Vocus. Detailed pitch alerts! The opportunity isn’t with automating the pitch itself, but THE BACK-END RESEARCH and timing. Something that can be tied to a database of journalists and publications.

Hear me out.

You are a PR pro, always sleuthing out the right editorial opportunities for your clients. One of whom happens to be a jeweler who creates beautifully artistic custom cuff links for men.

Once a year, maybe even quarterly, you do your editorial calendar scour. You might even keep them in a folder on your desk, or type up the hot ones as Outlook alerts. But odds are high that you don’t leverage those editorial calendars as much as you should, even knowing they are an indispensable part of our job.

This could potentially be automated!

Imagine getting an alert saying “This week: pitch Sam Smith, the men’s wear editor at Style Magazine for the July hipsters column on custom shirts. Deadline: March 16th. His three most recent articles include link X, link Y and link Z. He prefers to be pitched via email to [email protected] or via Twitter at @samatstylemag.” (Yes, this is a fictitious person.)

The alert contains the publication, the correct reporter or editor to pitch, the issue topic, their deadline for the issue and their contact information. All delivered in one nice, tidy little email. You know who to pitch, where to pitch, WHAT to pitch and the ideal time when to pitch. And because you’ve already gone through a set-up process telling the system all about your clients and their products, the logic and semantics part of the software intuitively starts sending you the right alerts based on editorial calendar and journalist information already in the database. When it’s wrong, no problem. Like correcting voice recognition software or teaching Outlook what emails are spam by using junk mail designations, or maybe a “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” voting system, the software gets better with time.

Its sole purpose is transforming static information from the database into valuable information delivered at just the right time for action. Nice, right?

Once you get the email, you spend a half hour doing normal due diligence (looking at the publication, looking at their audience or reader demographics, reviewing some of that journalists work), then you put together a fantastic exclusive pitch and shoot off the email to them. Done, on to the next.

WOW. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? It’s a possible automation scenario that would work well. It fits a need, it automates a manual part of a process that is easily replicable, and it blends perfectly with pre-existing resources (such as that media database and Google Calendar or Outlook alert systems). Unless it were exhorbitantly priced, who wouldn’t want it?

Who knows. Maybe a variation of this is already out there and I just haven’t come across it. If not, cut me in on the profit when you steal my idea and run with it.

Do you have a great idea for something in public relations that could be automated, but isn’t? Share!