Toby Daniels told PRWeek: "The most significant thing that will happen in the next 12 to 24 months, particularly for PR, is the automation of communication – where bots and chatbots in particular start to step in and take over an aspect of communication, particularly in terms of how businesses communicate with customers."
He said: "A greater level of automation and a greater level of sophistication that's applied to that process presents an opportunity and a threat to the industry."
Prominent figures from the world of marcoms and PR, including Edelman UK CEO Ed Williams and Vincent Deneux, chief content officerat Publicis Media France, as well as senior names from Facebook, Buzzfeed, Twitter, Linkedin, Tumblr, and Instagram, will be among dozens of speakers at around 40 official Social Media Week events being held at the British Film Institute in London.
Issues ranging from newsgathering in a digital era to 'brain-friendly' social media, and the implications of the penetration of new forms of communication for civil society, will be discussed by delegates.
The list of 'content partners' for the week includes PR agencies such as Edelman, FleishmanHillard Fishburn, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Ogilvy & Mather, and Weber Shandwick.
Dozens of unofficial fringe events will also be taking place next week.
Daniels told PRWeek how the use of social media in Barack Obama’s successful bid for the US Presidency in 2008 inspired him to create Social Media Week – with the first one held in New York in 2009.
His company Crowdcentric Media runs the event in nearly 30 cities around the world, bringing together close to 75,000 people each year. He estimated that 4,000 people would attend in London this year, up from around 1,500 in the inaugural UK event in 2010.
His firm is set to bring in substantial revenues from the London event alone, with passes costing a base price of £685 each, supplemented by sponsorship income and advertising.
While various PR agencies are involved in the annual event, the publicity is all done in-house, Daniels said, citing paid media, email marketing and partner marketing as the three most effective channels for promotion of the event.
The theme of this year's Social Media Week is the 'invisible hand', which Daniels says "represents this new paradigm in technology and the ways in which technology is changing how we connect and communicate."
Daniels said that a downside to social media was that it is "rewiring our brains in a fairly significant way; it's potentially breeding narcissism and a sense of self importance, feeding people’s desire to publicly only share the best of themselves and I think you could probably argue that that’s not healthy or a good thing".
But, he went on to say: "Equally, there are just as many, if not more, positives to draw on and look at in terms of the ways in which it's connecting us, in the ways it's providing new forms of communication that didn’t exist before."
- This article was corrected on 20 September - it had originally made an estimate that the week might generate a "small fortune" of £2.7m in revenues from passes sold. Daniels said this figure was inaccurate given that many passes were sold at discounted rates or distributed for free. This detail was removed. Daniels did not suggest an alternative figure.