AILast week we hosted the April Spin Sucks AMA with the ridiculously smart, Christopher S. Penn.

Christopher is the co-founder of Trust Insights and is an expert on all things analytics.

We also threw in some questions on artificial intelligence to spice things up.

With AI progressing forward, it’s a good topic for communicators to stay ahead on.

The good news?

We aren’t close to Terminator levels yet.

The bad news?

We need to stay aware and keep ourselves as ahead of it as we can. Because, like it or not, it’s getting smarter every day.

But enough from me. Here’s Christopher with the explaining.

What are PR Pros Doing Wrong?

Communicators (and the executives with whom they work) are accustomed to using impressions as the core measurement tool.

If we were getting 10 million or more impressions that was supposed to be a sign of success, and in a way, it certainly was.

But, it’s not concrete.

That’s why, with our first question, we asked Christopher whether or not there was any actual value in social media impressions.

Christopher’s reply shed some light on how things have changed in the industry, as it relates to analytics and data.

An impression is a directional number in that zero is bad, right? Because if you get no impressions then clearly no one is seeing your stuff. Everything after zero really is just directional and it’s not an outcome.

Most marketers, most communicators, most everybody in this space needs to be able to draw a line to a business outcome.

In the most recent CMO Survey they asked chief marketing officers about their top priorities. The survey says, by a margin of two-thirds, the most important thing is being able to connect marketing activities to business and financial results.

One of the reasons public relations has historically not gotten as much budget as marketing and advertising brethren is because the metrics the industry uses is so far at the top of the funnel, you can’t draw a solid line to those business results.

What’s changed since media impressions and advertising equivalencies became the industry standards, is we now have statistical data science of machine learning capabilities to analyze all of our marketing and communications data. We can see what things—even our communications efforts—do play a role in those business outcomes.

PR Pros Need to Properly Set Up Analytics

Another popular topic is about how to set up your tools to capture the data you need to see.

I asked Christoper:

What are the top three things communicators need to consider when setting up their analytics?

Simple enough.

He says the first thing you need to do is figure out exactly which business goals you want to track.

Then you can directly map your communications goals to the organization’s goals.

For example, if the goal is to make money, then our communications goal could be to use content to lead prospects through the funnel to meet with a salesperson. Or it might be cold, hard cash—and you have the opportunity to demonstrate how your efforts have done that.

Once your goals are clear, you have to figure out the customer’s journey. Ask yourself, “What are the things prospects and customers are doing on our website?”

With the answer to that question, you can do what’s called KPI mapping—or provide metrics for each step in the journey.

There is a good amount of customization when it comes to setting up these goals—and it can seem pretty overwhelming to start, but it’s worth it to have the data you need to prove your efforts are driving real business outcomes. 

PR Pros Don’t Need to Worry About AI…Right?

When we think about AI and how it might affect certain jobs, we often don’t consider our own industry.

Sure, it’s a machine but it can’t think like a human yet, right?

And if it can’t think like a human, then surely it can’t write a blog post with the natural language a human would, right?

Christopher says not so fast.

In fact, the brutally honest answer he gave was that yes, it’s a little more than scary.

Right now a number of companies are working with and improving an AI model that can create a blog post that is credible, fact-checked, and ready for publication.

That’s not what most of us want to hear.

On top of that, Christopher says to expect to see some of these technologies within the next 12-18 months.


Because we’re heading into an election cycle, and with that comes a lot of money and even more motivation to deploy these technologies that can side in one political camp or another.

These same technologies that can write blog posts are also the same ones that can interfere with elections.

That’s not good news from any perspective.

If Gini Dietrich, our fearless leader at Spin Sucks, ever decides to replace me with a robot, my only request is that I get to give it a name.

That will soften the blow a bit.

Want More From Christopher S. Penn?

If you want to hear more about Christopher, take a look at this short video here.

He and Martin Waxman, our chief marketing officer, did a quick interview to answer some of the most popular questions.

You can watch what Christopher had to say by clicking here (or watching below).

Christopher was an awesome guest, and we’re so happy he took the time to be our guest of honor.

If you’re part of our Spin Sucks Community, say hi the next time you see him around!

Future AMAs and How You Can Join

And now that our first official AMA is complete, here’s what is to come:

  • May: Melissa Agnes to talk about crisis communications and being ready for the inevitable, including fake news or trolls.
  • June: Alex Sevigny to talk about human AI agent relationships and what happens when we’re all replaced by robots.
  • July: Brian Cugelman to talk about online research, data science, and projects that combine big-data with behavioral science.

The AMAs are exclusive to our PR Dream Team members so join today and be ready for Melissa’s workshop later this month!

Whitney Danhauer

Whitney is living in Central Kentucky with her husband, Michael and her daughter, Evie Rose. She's an avid reader, an even more avid movie watcher, and loves nothing more than a well-placed pop culture reference. By day she writes about all things communications for Spin Sucks, by night she writes about whatever she wants. Her first novel, Good Riddance, was released in October of 2015.

View all posts by Whitney Danhauer