PR Hacking – Introducing automation & AI in our daily PR lives

Hacking is a strange word… Most people immediately think about hooded youngsters typing away on a keyboard and breaking into computer systems and secret servers. But there are two other correct definitions of the word “hack” and they are closer to what I want to share with you.

To hack (also) means to “cut away” and to “manage” or “cope” with something.

And that’s what this article is all about. PR Hacking is about cutting away all unnecessary and unproductive tasks and managing our daily public relations activities in a different way.

Let’s face it… most of us in our profession are operational types. Yes we do brainstorm on a clever strategy from time to time and we do have our consulting hat on with several clients. But about 70 percent of our job is about content creation, relationship building, reporting and reaching out to others.

Of those 70 percent, several tasks and activities are done over and over again. Some are creative, others are straight forward boring and unproductive.

Consider this; the average American white collar worker has about 62 meeting per month. 50% of those meetings are considered time wasted, which comes down to an average of 31 hours spent in unproductive meetings per month. Again, on an average we receive 304 weekly emails, we check our inbox 36 times per hour and it takes us 16 minutes to refocus after handling incoming email. And don’t get me started about keeping a “media list” in Excel Hell!

So how would you “hack” this? When I work with a team we apply several techniques from AGILE & SCRUM project management. These are methodologies for software development teams which translate rather well to public relations activities.

One of the practical applications I use is the 15 minute meeting. Just a quarter of an hour in total with the team, where every team member answers three questions; what have you achieved yesterday, what’s the plan today and is there anything (or anyone) keeping you from executing what you have planned? Short, to the point and no frivolous add-ons. We do this every single day.

The advantage of this approach is that it is based on the principle of continuous improvement; we do not wait for the traditional weekly meeting to discuss issues. We do it every day, and by doing so we cut (hack, remember?) the solution time by seven days.

The three questions keep us focused on execution and the daily meetings keep us in the flow of the project. It is also a very transparent way of working in a team and fosters collaboration. All other information needed for a project is documented online, in real time, in a shared collaboration tool.

By working in an AGILE way we also reduce email traffic. We meet every day and work in a collaborative environment where all information is shared. There is less room for “where is that document” email thread…

Some of us also hack the inbox. When we know we will have to concentrate the whole morning or day on an important part of a project, we switch on the auto responder. Whoever send us an email during this period will get a nice, automated reply, saying that he or she will get an answer tomorrow afternoon – not before.

My final example is content creation. It can be hard to come up with new and evergreen content but when you add automation and AI to the game it suddenly becomes easier.

I produce a podcast on a regular basis. The biggest part of the job is actually recording the 30-minute interview. It is also the most creative and interesting part. All other pieces of the puzzle involve some sort of automation or artificial intelligence.

Emailing potential interviewees? Happens through a standard, automated but personalised email and according to a pre-set sequence. Booking and scheduling the interview? Happens via my online self service calendar and booking system.

OK, but what about the content part you might ask.

Well, once the podcast is recorded I have an audio file. But from there I use AI-powered voice recognition to transcribe the interview into an article, or several blog-posts. Once I have the text, part of that is used to automatically create a promotional video with text overlay and background music. And of course, all promotional updates are scheduled and published via my social media management platform – it’s what I call the “set and forget” approach.

All these little pieces of automation and “hacked processes” free up time – time I can spend on what I really like to do (talking to people) and what I am good at, thus creating real added value for my clients and colleagues.

As you can see, automation, technology and – above all else – a smarter way of looking at our work can really make a difference. PR hacking allows us to cut away the boring tasks and free up time for the fun and creative part of our beautiful profession.

Some tools for PR Hacking:

  1. My free newsletter about PR Hacking tools
  2. The low cost collaboration platform I use
  3. The social media publishing platform I use
  4. The free text to video platform I use

The views expressed here are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of Reputation Today.

Philippe Borremans
Philippe Borremans is an independent public relations consultant specializing in crisis communications and reputation management. He is one of the founders of Reputation & Co., a network of senior communications consultants active in Europe and Northern Africa.
Before moving to Casablanca, Morocco, he was Chief Social Media Officer and CSR coordinator at Van Marcke Trading Group in Belgium. Between 1999 and 2009 he held several communications positions at IBM, including corporate and online communications on national and EMEA level.
He started his PR career at Porter Novelli International in Brussels. Philippe is a regular guest lecturer at the International University of Casablanca, the ISCAE Business School and several universities in Morocco, France, and Belgium. He is Member of the Board at the International Public Relations Association. Philippe is currently creating several professional e-learning courses on the topic of PR Hacking and PR Planning.

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