PR AssignmentsI have a favor to ask.

If you’re older than the age of 37, please STOP reading this post right now.

It is not for you.

I am aiming for younger PR pros and students, and this probably wouldn’t be to your taste.

I’m waiting…

Okay, are we in the clear? Great!

So here’s the scoop.

We’re almost at the end of 2017, and that means a barrage of roundups and predictions for the year ahead.

That is what this post was supposed to be.

But instead, I am channeling my inner instructor and offering a Gift of Homework—three self-learning PR assignments to prepare you for 2018 and beyond, all optional and deadline-free.

PR Assignments: Number 1—AI and Big Data

Two terms you hear a lot about these days.

And really, it is the early days of artificial intelligence, deep learning, and data—big and small.

The energy around them reminds me of the way people talked about social media circa 2008.

Right now, AI and big data are primarily the domain of engineers, developers, and data scientists.

So what can PR professionals do to get up-to-speed?

First, learn a few definitions and try to understand what deep learning is, how it works, and who the innovators are.

Christopher S. Penn, who was recently a guest on Spin Sucks Fireside Chat, is a good person to follow.

He writes about data and AI from a communicator’s point-of-view.

Next, test out a few chatbots. You’ll find lots of them on Facebook Messenger.

To be honest, I have not been wowed by any of them so far.

But it is important to get a handle on how they work, what the UX is like, how effectively they answer questions, where voice search will fit in, and ultimately, what it would take for a person to have a decent conversation or relationship with a bot.

Both elements—relationships and two-way symmetrical communications—are key parts of PR.

So are privacy, ethics, awareness-building, and trust.

Those are just a few of the places our perspective could add value.

Textbook: The Mathematical Corporation by Josh Sullivan and Angela Zutavern.

PR Assignments: Number 2—Digital Mobility

A young ad agency creative was telling me about a cool campaign to redesign an interactive consumer website.

I asked whether they were building it for mobile first.

He said they weren’t.

Mobile was essentially an add-on.

According to research from Altimeter, mobile isn’t the third or the second screen.

It’s the first for our audiences.

And it is high time communications accepted and embraced that.

Have you ever tried to read a news release on a mobile device?

It sucks—all text and no action.

The news release is simply a 20th Century storytelling format, yet some PR folks cling to it like it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

I want you to start developing multimedia content your audiences will discover in the micro-moment, that is, when they turn to their smartphones to find something they need.

A good way to test this is by creating goal-oriented stories, complete with emoji, stickers, filters, and text.

During the holidays, I want you to come up with an objective, idea, script, and post some fun and engaging stories on Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook, and watch how they perform.

Consider this the first step of using mobile to convey news and information that helps the people you’re trying to reach.

Of course, this is all DIY.

And the biggest challenge to that is YDI (You have to Do It)!

Online CourseMarketing with Snapchat on LinkedIn Learning or Marketing with Snapchat.

(Disclosure: I’m the author of that course.)

PR Assignments: Number 3—Publicity 3.0

The final assignment isn’t new.

It’s more of a fresh take on an old standard.

I started out as a publicist and loved figuring out my news hook, talking to journalists and getting them excited about it, and then seeing it come to life on the page.

We can learn a lot from the publicist’s toolkit, and the way they amplify stories by knowing how to position and place them.

That’s even more important now in our world of paid, earned, owned, and shared media.

It goes back to what I was talking about in PR Assignments #1 and #2: relationships, trust, relevance, and creativity.

Audience over organization every time!

Textbook: Answers for Modern Communicators: A Guide to Effective Business Communication by Deirdre Breakenridge.

OK, that’s it from me.

Happy holidays and all the best in 2018!

I’m planning to spend the year learning from your homework. ; )

Questions? Thoughts? Please share in the comments below.

The 30-Day Communications Challenge begins on January 3. Are you subscribed?

Martin Waxman

Martin Waxman, MCM, APR, is a senior advisor to Spin Sucks and runs a consultancy, Martin Waxman Communications. He leads digital and social media training workshops, conducts AI research, and is a LinkedIn Learning author and one of the hosts of the Inside PR podcast. Martin teaches social media at McMaster University, the Schulich School of Business, Seneca College, and the UToronto SCS and regularly speaks at conferences and events across North America.

View all posts by Martin Waxman