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The New Digital Newsroom with Data, Automation, and More

By Amrit Ahuja, Managing Director, 2020MSL

Today, with massive disruption and transformation, the media industry, like others, is fast adapting and responding to changes. The content landscape in particular, is evolving at a rapid pace, and news consumption patterns have witnessed a complete overhaul, driven by developments in communication technology, convergence of media, mobile technology and evolving consumer needs. No wonder then, that the newspaper industry is already embracing this change wishfully, and early adopters are at various stages of their transition towards a “Digital Newsroom”. News outlets around the world are pivoting their newsroom strategy to reflect this change.

Pushing the boundaries of reporting and storytelling through technology

Trends such as Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Automation and VR have shaken up the news industry in recent years, and are now finally making inroads to the newsroom, bringing immediacy, productivity, transparency, immersive experiences and a lot more.

Newsrooms today have dedicated data teams, churning out data-driven stories and acting as data hubs for multimedia newsrooms. Computer Assisted Reporting or Augmented journalism is helping reporters analyse public sentiment and crunch through data. And sooner than later, humans and robots will collaborate and extract more value from data to deliver news effectively, with the help of algorithms and artificial intelligence. Eariier this year in January the first robot produced article was published in China.

However, data, robot and artificial intelligence will only tell half the story and there will (and should) most certainly be a place for content experts/editors to add a human lens to the story. Robots will not be able to do face to face meetings. Imagine the difference, for instance, in the automated bot’s reporting of the Indian cricket team’s World Cup win versus a human narration of the same; a bot will hardly be able to communicate the euphoria of this victory!

Making PR work in the age of Robo-journalism

The innumerable digital disruptions to traditional newsrooms have definitely changed a lot for the PR profession, with more to follow. As automation invades the space and revenue models change, PR efforts will no longer be limited to sharing an idea or pitch with a reporter friend and delivering commendable column inches together with our messaging. How can this unprecendented transformation of the newsroom be best addressed by the public relations industry to tell stories and engage the audience?

The answer lies in the very trend that is disrupting the industry:Big Data and Insights – and it has the potential to change the way PR delivers stories. By using the enormous pool of consumer trends and real-time data available, the following will become standard practices:

  • Fine-tuning messages: Communications professionals can adjust their messaging and define better target audiences to deliver it.
  • Using evolved measurement metrics: Public relations efforts will be made more measurable than ever with the emergence of analytics and data. It will become increasingly possible to track the journey of a story, analyse its performance, along with in-depth data about the consumers who engaged with it (demography, geography, interest areas, etc.)

All of this information will empower communications professionals to draft and tell stories in different formats, for diferent interfaces, and with more efficiency, and place them in a strong and unique position in this digitally transformed age. Location services will help map people on a particular network, for e.g in an airport lounge, and it will be able to push content relevant with an assumption that most are business travelers.

Leveraging human-machine collaboration for better content

An automated newsroom with less human interface and more data-driven decisions will most definitely resonate well with PR efforts that are based on consumer research and excellent data. Automated technology might help PR professionals develop more factual content, and present them with opportunities to add creative and credible insights to get more out of existing data. We will slowly move from a traditional press release to more visual content formats with data and graphs. And probably Limited edition news products like Snapchats, Instagram stories, podcasts centered around a moment.

Increasingly, more budget allocation will be seen for these services/campaigns and as PR storytellers, the onus on us to showcase tangible results in a competitive marketing communications market, will be higher than ever.

Building the right workforce

To make the best out of technology as a tool in our roles as communications experts, we need to ensure that we build the right talent and resources. A right mix of data and PR experts will help us add a quantitative lens to the world of communication and tackle business problems efficiently. As clients warm up to the data wave, we as consultants must pre-empt that requirement and begin building teams focused on data science to our workforce.

It is imperative now to make investment in tools that monitor and process data in the areas of storytelling, measurement, PR in real time, etc. And most importantly, we must recognize the change that data is bringing in, and how it will be at the heart of planning a “Mobile-First” PR firm with data scientists.

This article is a part of “PR 2020 The Dawn of the Augmented Influence” published by MSL’s People’s Insights team that covers the latest trends in engagement on both the consumer and corporate side.

Over her 22-year career, Amrit has developed a track record of building visibility, valuation and brand equity for a wide variety of clients. She has expertise in building markets for technology products and services, and has consulted several technology brands, from commuting to internet to the share economy space. She has worked on the philanthropy chapters of each of these clients, and in her personal capacity, she consults and drives several women-centric forums and communities. She served as a jury member at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in 2017.
@amritahuja | amrit.ahuja@2020msl.com

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