Value of PR driven by good judgment

We all know that we're living in an era of automation.

We all know that we're living in an era of automation. We use Facebook to manage our relationships, GPS to direct us to our next destination, and iPhone apps to do, well, just about everything else.
 
We have automated tools to help us manage media contacts, identify key influencers, and monitor negative chatter about our clients. With new programs and tools emerging every day, we might be forgiven if we occasionally worry about the future of PR.

Could there come a time when we are automated out of existence?

Recent events strongly suggest that the answer to this question is no. At least not until someone figures out how to automate good judgment.

It's true that we have access to more streams of data than before. We can listen to what stakeholders are saying, in real time. Despite this powerful capability, some organizations fail to accurately interpret the information they gather.

We have seen passionate voices on blogs and in forums startle companies into abandoning marketing campaigns at the earliest signs of disapproval. Does a quick reaction nip controversy in the bud, or does it empower a small, vocal minority whose opinions are not shared by the majority of consumers? 

Does pulling an ad campaign that a few people find offensive keep a company's name away from controversy or will it serve the 24-hour news cycle with a complete, easily told story?

We have entered an era when PR is poised to become a dominant communications discipline. Even as technology is becoming indispensable to our business, it's the human factors of insight and judgment that enable us to drive real value.

That may strike some as ironic, but a tool is only as powerful as the person who uses it. Our ability to hear has great value – but what's more relevant is how well we listen, and the sound judgment we exercise when we do.

Gary Stockman is CEO of Porter Novelli.

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