OPINION: The Big Question - Which aspects of everyday PR practice could be automated?

21st century technology - such as Durrants' electronic cuttings and

distribution system - makes possible previously unimagined benefits . We

cannot be too far away from a fully-automated PRO



Simon Whale - Luther Pendragon



'"Automation" conjures up images of robots building cars. Our principal

asset is our people. In PR, clients pay for cogent advice delivered by

people they trust. For an organisation engaged purely in collecting and

distributing information, there's scope for greater use of software to

do work done by people with scissors and glue. Of course, we use

technological developments as tools to facilitate a better service.



Intranets, extranets and sophisticated database programmes are

examples.



But I think technological progress is required before microchips take

the place of people in providing strategic communications advice to

clients.



And by then, who's to say the clients won't have been automated as

well?'



Vicky Unwin - PR Newswire



'From the moment someone wants to put out company news, you need to know

who's picking it up, who's hitting it on Yahoo! or AOL, or through

specialist registered user websites, or on e-publications. The PR firm

of the future will need to say not only where the coverage was but

whether it was good, bad or indifferent. Evaluation will soon be an

automated service. We are working on electronic programmes with a

development partner at the moment to do just that and are confident our

customers will benefit in the near future. We will concentrate on

accuracy and speed, two critical ingredients for modern reputation

management.'



Nadia Gabbie - Frank PR



'We've started to develop a fully-automated account executive. We

currently have a team of robiticists at a leading university (whose

identity needs to remain confidential) working on a prototype. She's

called Clare and is six foot six and a size 10. This season she's

wearing fraying and faded Earl Jeans, Adidas shell toes and an

asymmetric top. When she's ready Clare will be able to write press

releases, do regional and national press ring rounds and have some

client contact. She won't be afraid of getting her hands dirty and will

be programmed to stuff envelopes and mount press cuttings. She will also

be pre-programmed not to expect a promotion every three months or sleep

with any staff. We've just started work on her male counterpart, Chris.

His sexual orientation is still a bit vague, though.'



Brian Beech - Leedex Euro RSCG



'You wouldn't go to your solicitor and say: "Can you just jot down a few

ideas?", you wouldn't go into a pub, order three pints but say you will

only pay for the one you like. So I would welcome any advance in

technology that would identify the following three things at pitch stage

and automate them: one, whether the potential client you are pitching to

is actually serious about appointing a consultancy, or just wasting your

time; two, whether the people in the room are the decision-makers, or

whether they have to present your ideas onto their boss, who was too

busy too attend; and three, whether, if appointed, it is going to be a

meaningful client/consultancy relationship. It would be like a lie

detector.



You will always get companies that have a beauty parade, but people on

the client side need to take PR more seriously.'



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