I’ve seen a lot of stories lately in marketing trade journals, e-newsletters and the like talking about how the latest trend in high-technology will impact what we do as PR professionals and marketers. The articles are filled with jargon and not enough real-world examples – it’s incredibly tough for someone who doesn’t live in that world to understand what’s really happening and how it translates to what we do. So…with my deep background in PR for analytics, data storage and high-performance computing organizations, here’s my effort at simplifying some of it for you.
Business analytics have gone mainstream in recent years. Essentially, data (which is a plural noun) are being collected on everyone and everything in the world. Our actions, purchases, social media posts and much more leave a data trail that can be collected, analyzed and interpreted. And, for years now, companies have been running incredibly elaborate algorithms and applications against the billions and trillions of data points from the general public to predict what behaviors you’re likely to take next. Smart marketers are using that information to incent you to take actions that you might not normally take, like offering a bigger coupon to get you to buy that box of cereal that you’ve had your eye on but never tried before…or offering you a little lower interest rate on a loan if they know you have a good credit history.
Artificial intelligence and deep learning technologies take analytics to another level. In these situations, the algorithms and systems that are used to analyze data and make decisions are designed to self-update themselves as new data points are introduced and analytic conclusions are reached. Put another way, the systems are “learning” how they can get “better” (could be plugging a hole, or offering predictions in a new area, or being more precise), and automatically updating the code or integrating the pieces they need to get there. Instead of a static analytics platform like the above, where the quality of the output is dependent on the age and quality of the data provided, AI and deep learning technologies offer dynamic systems that can literally adapt to changing conditions around them.
It’s some pretty mindblowing stuff. But how does it relate to PR and marketing? Well, quite simply, it’s easier than ever to know exactly who an organization’s stakeholders and customers are, what they like and don’t like, what they want and need, etc. With that knowledge, we communicators have the relatively new ability to tailor strategic marketing campaigns and message platforms to specific stakeholders – meaning those efforts will have a better chance to resonate and drive the outcomes that we hope for.
Another significant area of impact will be in the area of closing sales. If we know what someone wants/needs, then we also know what it might take to incent them to take the action we want them to take. We can dangle new and different carrots at them in order to get them to buy into something, and adjust strategies based on whether or not they work. Even in our line of work, we need to be aware of these capabilities and know how to complement them using strategic communications. It could be a message platform, a specific media pitch that dovetails to a strategy, a new tradeshow to sponsor, etc. Who knows…
Believe it or not, if you and your organization aren’t aware of these kinds of technology and the impact they’re having in business today, you’re already behind. I’ll do my best to keep an eye out for new trends and help explain them as we go.