Can you automate PR?
I wrote a while ago about new distribution services that were launched in Ireland mainly aimed at auotmating the distribution of press releases to media and others. Generally they range from posting press releases on a press release portal of sorts to closed systems where media are given access to closed stories similar to a reuters. Some are paid for, some are free and they are based on similar international models. Overall there is a general feeling that they are a useful supplementary service but unlikely to replace the time intensive pitching by public relations executives. Piaras Kelly also has some interesting insights into the different services.
Over the last week or so there has been more some more interesting additions to the debate. Last week Jill O’Herlihy from O’Herlihy launched a DIY PR Service whereby they would sell the media contacts for around 8 euro a name and charge a fee for writing the release. From an initial glance it would cost around 1,000 plus euro for the tools. This does not account for the time in tailoring the pitch, potential follow up, organising interviews, creating new angles and feedback. The reality of PR is that its not rocket science and if a company has time they could technically do it themselves although an experienced hand will always do it better, knowing the landscape, subtle messaging, particular media interests etc. The real value of this service would be getting access to the names and contact details (for future use) but again it is probably something you could do with Irish Media Contacts Directory. Although they claim they have been given permission to pass on the details I wonder what media think of their contact details being sold so overtly for 8 euro a pop. It will be interesting to see how the final service looks but if a company only has a couple of hundred euro to spent it might be a realistic choice for them. Just make sure you factor in a good amount of extra time to do it right.
Today Jack Murray from Media Contacts Directory fame launched a new service called Media Express. The handbook they produce has always been well thumbed addition in PR consultancies and they have since moved the data online. Media Express is a further development where you can upload your release and photos, select from a large selection of media lists (e.g. property) and the release will be sent by email to journalists whilst appearing to come from you. From one test it appeared you could do this for as little as 200 euro.
Interestingly the area where both struggle to automate is the scripting of the press release which naturally does take a human to do and does take time to do right. Although neither approach will be appreciated by the big PR consultancies as it does have a big impact on the value being offered, focusing on the distribution and media contacts makes sence as the easiest area to drive efficiences and reduce cost.
I am reading Free, the Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson and undoubtably the public relations industry will have to accept that aspects of their offerings where they place great value will become commodified and most likely free and that chargeable elements will be found elsewhere. Currently that elsewhere is the messaging development, judgement calls and follow on activities – things that take human interaction.
The odd thing about PR and press releases is that when I started in PR about 15 years ago the cost of a typical press release issue was almost the same in pounds as it is in euros today. The industry became a lot more efficient through technology and today I would imagine very few PR companies cover their full charge out costs on a regular press release. Consultancies who focus on media out reach alone could be facing tricky times in future.
Regardless of what you think of these services its great to see innovation in the industry. Overall I believe we are a long way off automating the PR industry but certain time elements and services will be replaced by technology.