Earlier this year, Tom Foremski boldly stated that PR could be automated. His reasoning? PR hasn’t changed in the modern world – it’s still a hand-crafted business. I strongly disagree.

There are many useful PR tools (like PR Newswire, Appinions and Outbrain) that we often use to help support programs for our clients here at Weber Shandwick Seattle. But these tools are only a small part of a much greater whole. These tools are helpful to inform programs and measure results. The actual PR program, however, when carried out by a skilled team of professionals with years of experience, will always yield more successful results than ones that are automated.

Here are five reasons companies should consider working the human beings at a PR firm instead of going the “automated” route:

  1. PR is about compelling storytelling: Have you ever listened to a story – whether at a tradeshow, work or just during coffee with a friend – and been unable to follow the storyline? Storytelling is an art, not a science. PR professionals are trained to craft stories that resonate with key audiences. Succinctly telling a story that effectively engages the people you’re talking to is not easy. Here at Weber Shandwick Seattle, we’ve worked with everyone from C-level executives to customers and partners, in order to help companies not only identify what their stories are, but also help them better tell these stories to the best audiences.
  2. Relationships are still important: Media trust the PR people they have relationships with. It takes time and effort to build these relationships and there is no magic fix to get media to write about your client/brand. The better the relationship – either personally or professionally – the more likely it is that you’ll see media coverage of your major initiatives. With 126 offices in 81 markets here at Weber, we are well-connected; know what media are writing about and the things that interest them. Automated tools like HARO and ProfNet can aid in helping brands land stories, but finding the right opportunity that leads to ongoing engagement can be like finding a needle in a haystack. One-off opportunities are good, but utilizing an agency to better control the story you’re pitching will lead to better results, rather than relying on reporters who have already written their story and are just looking for further details to complete the piece.
  3. Impersonal content appears insincere: With the proliferation of services that help automate PR offerings, we’ve seen a backlash against the increasing use of impersonal communication. Messages need to be tailored to have maximum impact on a specific channel like print media or social media, and they also need to be personalized to resonate with an intended audience.
  4. Automation closes you off to response: Perhaps counter-intuitively, automating your PR strategy can close you off to real-time communication. For example, many companies are using tools like HootSuite to automate the posting of content on social channels. These tools can be great assets, but it should not be a “set it and forget it” situation – there needs to be a dedicated team of smart experts ready to field questions, comments and concerns at a moment’s notice. Remember the speed at which information travels these days. Companies who pay more attention to automation than smart content miss out on a major touchpoint with audiences engaging with their brand.
  5. Connect the dots with various integrated strategies and tactics: Most leading companies have strong traditional and digital components included in their marketing programs, which work together to help elevate the brand. But strong engagement (regardless of the channel) requires the creation of well crafted and compelling stories and content. It’s not only about knowing what the story is, but about knowing the best strategy and tactics to use in order to bring the idea to life. After all, the way you tell a story to the media is going to be different based on the medium – and there’s no automated magic wand to get your story told the way you want it to be.


(photo credit: Ray_from_LA — thanks!)

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