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2015-the year of the machine? 09.01.15

2015 will be another year of exciting and progressive change. In particular, it will be the year that the Internet of Things (IoT), and robotics and autonomous systems really start to affect people in everyday situations. Imagine you are in a driverless car in cruise control or downloading a high-resolution map generated by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or accessing a big data platform with a range of products and processes that will help you build a house.

With increasing Wi-Fi applications and the capture and use of data there will be a greater need for security and those of us working in PR may be called upon to provide crisis communications support when there is a breach. Unlike others I don’t think that the kind of automated online marketing systems we all experience as consumers will completely take over in PR. Obviously mass distribution of press releases is widely used by some already — but for the development of content itself — I think this is still a long way off. Even if Stephen Hawking thinks that AI will one day kill us all, it will be the day after it’s learned to craft a perfectly worded media release.

Evaluation, once the real bug bear of the PR world is of course hugely helped by automation and we now have infinitely better ways of demonstrating the impact we bring clients. The days of estimating column inches and AVE equivalents over a campaign will be long gone. In particular, the impact of social media on key audiences and customers is now much more easily demonstrated. As STEM communicators we work with technical and analytical professionals every day and 2015 will see the final push for a PR measurement system that fully demonstrates the business value achieved through PR. The link between PR activity and sales — once scoffed at and avoided like the plague by public relations officers is something that needs to be finally fully embraced.

One type of human (well almost) that could be on their way out is the type of technology correspondent that we saw develop in the noughties. The ones who would only cover a handful of big Californian companies, and who thought that covering “technology” meant new Apple products, Facebook’s privacy settings and hanging out at Mobile World Congress when it didn’t even seem to be on. To paraphrase the Beeb’s Dave Lee in a brilliant recent blog — those kinds of stories don’t need a technology department anymore. It should be built into business news, defence news or politics. Technology should be about innovation, the application of science into new products and services and dare I say it — engineering.

With the ‘Cox Effect’ gaining momentum year on year and celebrities expressing their love for science, the world now seems to be constantly discussing STEM. Look out for increased engagement from the public as they get more involved in research like NASA’s Solve programme that allows the general public to contribute to real-life experiments around NASA’s mission. In 2015, there will be many more opportunities for the public’s voice on STEM to get louder as they contribute more to solving the UK’s grand challenges. Get involved — you’re only human.

Jim Sutton MCIPR, Director at Proof Communication and Chair of  CIPR STEM. This blog was originally published in the CIPR’s #PR2015 book.