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PR is a safe haven in a world of increasing automation

By Adelya Baban

With recent estimates predicting unprecedented job losses as a result of developing artificial intelligence (AI) and automation – millions of jobs are reportedly at risk in the US (McKinsey Global Institute, 2017[1]), and 10 million are projected to be lost in the UK within 15 years (Guardian, 2018[2]) – it is no wonder people are worrying about their future prospects. One might wonder what the future holds for the communications and the creative industries.

When I was applying to university and considering careers, my mother insisted that “people will always need doctors and lawyers” whilst everything else will apparently be replaced by machines. Clearly a ruse to push me towards a traditionally stable career (surely medicine is an obvious candidate for automation?), it since made me realise that it’s probably worth looking into fields where I might hope to be more useful than an algorithm – at least for the foreseeable future.

So far, the communications industry seems to be not simply a safe option, but one that continues to innovate and develop in exciting ways. Despite our interactions with one another becoming increasingly digitalised, the nature of communication is still very much human. PR requires creativity and connections in a way that AI alone cannot yet achieve; maintaining strong relationships with clients, sensing subtle cues when dealing with the press, and managing queries and complaints in a personable manner.

If anything, automation allows us to increase our own productivity by eliminating menial and repetitive tasks as well as strengthening our understanding of human insight and client expectations through data gathering without putting our meaningful duties at risk. Communications requires the sort of creativity and intuition that can only develop through human interaction, emotional intelligence, and the ability to secure lasting relationships. Whilst algorithms can predict consumer patterns and behaviour, they are yet unable to identify individuals’ motivation for such behaviour; it is up to us to seek out why people make the choices they do.

Within the field of communications, it is not only our interaction with clients and the media that is significant. Our ability to understand each other and manage and split tasks according to people’s strengths is very much a product of human awareness and intuition. Similarly, effective leadership is irreplaceable.

Although no doubt automation will grow and evolve in ways we cannot predict, persuasive communication and human decision making cannot be replaced. If anything, people will increasingly seek the comforts of human interaction in today’s digitalised world; our ability to emotionally engage with each other and appeal to people’s enthusiasms means the communications industry is (for the moment) a secure and stimulating place to be.

[1] McKinsey Global Institute, ‘Artificial Intelligence: the Next Digital Frontier?’ (2017)

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/30/reality-automation-terrifying