I’ve often lamented that if I were to start all over again and really think about (versus sort of just doing it) starting a business, I would not create a service organization. (I also would not name it after myself, but that’s another story for a different time.)
A PR firm is made up of human beings, where the product is our brains.
Do you know how hard it is to scale a business that is reliant on people’s brains?
In a product business, if you want more widgets, you just make them. It isn’t reliant on a human being’s brain.
Sure, there needs to be a person to run the machine to make the widgets. You might even need to hire two or three more people—and buy two or three more machines—to create 100,000 more widgets. But, to scale 100,000 more brains is impossible.
Well, not impossible, but you get my drift.
Scalable Technology in PR
That’s why, in February, I jotted down in my “blog ideas” notebook, “Penn’s blog post on PR automation.”
I wanted to be sure to get back to it, but it was published in the middle of our scavenger hunt, which is why I didn’t write about it then.
What started this conversation is Tom Forenski wrote in the Silicon Valley Watcher:
PR’s challenge is that it is an artisanal, hand-crafted service operating within a brave new digital media world that rewards scale. Ad agencies, SEO services, Facebook, Google, Twitter, know how to scale their promotional work through technology.
Where are PR’s scalable technologies of persuasion?
There are some scalable technologies in PR:
- AirPR for measurement;
- Cision for media list management;
- Google for analytics and data;
- Buffer for content amplification;
- SlideBatch for slick news rooms;
- CustomScoop for media monitoring;
- Contently for content development; and
- So on.
But you cannot automate the human relationship piece of PR…the technology of persuasion.
Pitching Cannot Be Automated
As an industry, we certainly try.
My inbox was stuffed full of Tax Day pitches right up until April 15. It was a joy to read them every day, in between trying to find the emails from clients and my team (where is that sarcasm font?!).
That is all automated persuasion. And it doesn’t work.
Not only would I never cover Tax Day anything, an unsolicited email from a PR pro rarely works.
It is all about relationships and it takes human beings to do that.
Read Spin Sucks. Pitch me (or better, pitch our content manager) on tips or tools to help a PR pro do their job. I’ll likely take that unsolicited email.
But that takes a human being to read the blog, figure out what makes sense for our readers, and craft a customized pitch.
Persuasion cannot be automated.
The Art of Persuasion is Reliant on Humans
Trust me, if I could figure out a way to scale this business without a human’s brain as the key product, I would do it.
There certainly are agencies around the blog who have scaled human beings and their brains. But, even then, the largest PR firm in the world has only 5,300 employees.
Based on their revenues, that’s $146,000 per employee.
If we take one of the examples that Forenski used—Facebook—and compare it, they produce $13,551,473 per employee.
Which business would you rather have?
The one that produces $150,000 per employee or the one that produces more than $13 million per employee?
As much as we would like it to be so, the art of persuasion—the art of relationships—cannot be automated.
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