I recently worked with our client Emarsys and its customer Australian surf, skate and street fashion retailer City Beach on an article that appeared in The Australian Financial Review on the complexity created by marketing technology. The article suggests that today’s marketers are under the pump to do more with less, and martech–from CRMs to marketing automation platforms–is often sold as the silver bullet that will fix all of a marketer’s problems.
As Mike Doyle, head of marketing at City Beach, put it in the AFR article: “Everyone is looking for the tech solution that can solve a problem … We should evaluate them [i.e. tech solutions] properly but marketers are under more time pressure and we don’t have a huge amount of resource. It’s a bit of a deadly combination.”
This got me thinking about the technology-driven complexity in the marketing industry and specifically, in PR.
Technology: the great enabler
On any given day, as a PR practitioner I will use between five and 10 marketing/PR tools to do my job. I use technology platforms for media contacts management, media monitoring, social media listening, social media management, website analysis and trend spotting. On top of this, there’s email, WhatsApp, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. … and that’s without getting into office, IT and security tools.
And a PR technology stack is only expected to grow. Many in the industry are predicting that big data and artificial intelligence will radically change how we do PR. We’re already starting to see this shift, with startups popping up like Public Address–which aims to help Australian PR pros pitch better by leveraging data. And on the other side of fence, media outlets, such as Associated Press and Guardian Australia, are adopting AI for media reporting.
For better or worse?
I have no doubt that technology will improve my day-to-day outputs. Big data, machine learning and AI have tremendous potential to help PR professionals better understand our audience (journalists, influencers, analysts etc.) and our clients’ audiences–and target the right content to them, at the right time, using the right medium. Technology is also key to demonstrating outcomes (case in point: Google Analytics), which is of the utmost importance as many arms of marketing fight for a slice of the pie.
But going back to the AFR article, the experience of technology users is often overlooked and what develops is a gap between outcomes or solutions that technology buyers are sold and what users need for execution. Technology implementation, adoption and use should be seamless. Platforms should work together and complement each other. Technology should also be intuitive because if the learning curve is too large, the platform simply would not get used.
The human touch will rule
It is my firm belief that no matter how much technology we use, the human touch will always rule. There will be things that machines will be able to do better than us, for example, analysing data to unveil insights. These cases should be viewed favourably as an opportunity to focus on higher value tasks, for example planning, creativity and strategic thinking, for which the human brain is key and for which marketing and communications professionals are really valued.