PR thoughts

Automation? A threat or an opportunity for PR?

Last week, a report from the Office of National Statistics – The Probability of Automation in England: 2011 to 2017 –  set out their view that around 7.4% or 1.5 million jobs are at “high risk of some of their duties and tasks being automated in the future.” 

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Their report analysed the jobs of 20 million people in England – including those in PR. They estimate over a quarter (27%) of public relations jobs are at risk from automation. Last year, the CIPR’s CIPR’s #AIinPR panel similarly found an impact for the sector. That study found 12% of a PR practitioner’s skillset could be complemented or replaced by AI today, with a prediction that this could climb to 38% within five years.

Naturally this created a lot of concern in the PR that robotics and automation will be at the  detriment to people’s jobs. But, I’d like us to think about the opposite side of the debate. While there’s undoubtedly a risk, it also creates an opportunity.

At Zurich, for example our automation and robotics team, which is looking to take some of our processes into the AI space, has grown from two a few years ago, to 35 people today. They are now managing, building and identifying new processes for the benefit of our customers and for us as a business.

In the PR world, there still seems to be a reluctance to embrace the digital era in some parts. My role didn’t even exist 7 years ago. I was a died-in-the wool press officer. But then social became a thing I spotted the opportunity social was about to bring to us, and grabbed hold of it. I turned myself from a subject matter expert on the side, to it being my day job. A risk. But an opportunity.

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Like many organisations, we are one in which people are a crucial element to how we do business. We are a strongly intermediated business which involves people. So let’s take this as an opportunity to free up some time, remove processes and activities that can be automated or outsourced, which frees us up to find the value-add in the people-to-people arena.  

This is a fundamental shift in mindset – but one I’m sure can be achieved with a little effort! The CIPR AIinPR report I mentioned before, identified maybe 60% of tasks that we all do that won’t be impacted by automation. Sounds like a result to me!

Take the opportunity know to have a look at what’s around your world, learn something new and  future proof yourself with your career.

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