Social media dictates that conversations between brands and the public happen in real time. God forbid that a slight customer niggle aired on Twitter or Facebook could create the sparks that burns a brands ambitions down to the ground. And so, as PR pros we sit, watching and waiting, carefully engaging and getting ready to take any conversation offline in the hope of keeping everyone sweet and returning our “fans” and “followers” back to the social arena as loyal brand ambassadors, ready to support the cause and demonstrate what good people we really are.
In all seriousness, social media has created a huge opportunity for the PR industry and created many thousands of jobs.
But could this all be about to change?
Toby Daniels, the man behind last week’s Social Media Week event in London seems to think so.
Daniels told journalists at PR Week prior to the event: “The most significant thing that will happen in the next 12 to 24 months, particularly for PR, is the automation of communication – where bots and chatbots in particular start to step in and take over an aspect of communication, particularly in terms of how businesses communicate with customers.”
It seems that social media, the great disruptor, is about to disrupt the PR industry yet again and throw many PR Pros, who have barely had the time to get comfortable at their desks, back out on the street.
Should we start panicking yet?
Maybe. But then again, maybe not.
Daniels said: “A greater level of automation and a greater level of sophistication that’s applied to that process presents an opportunity and a threat to the industry.”
Chatbots have already started encroaching into the world of media.
Major news brands including CNN, The Guardian and The Washington Post have already started running experiments with simple chatbots on Facebook.
The question is, are the general public ready to be engaged by a chatbot or will this lead to more disengagement between brands and their customers?
In the past, offshoring contact centres has caused big brands major PR headaches. Could bypassing human engagement altogether and recruiting an army of chatbots be as equally problematic?