Over the past few years, I have been lucky enough to work with a pioneering robotics company here in Dublin called Eiratech Robotics, led by their brilliant CEO Alexey Tabolkin. Eiratech designs and builds robotics and automation systems in the warehousing/industrial space, an area that is very hot in media terms at the moment. In the course of that work, I have read up on the whole area of automation in the workplace, which jobs will be automated, etc., etc. It’s a fascinating area, and by no means as disquieting as some of the alarming stories we have read would suggest.
One of the key things I discovered while working with Alexey at Eiratech is that despite the arresting headlines to the contrary, jobs are not automated: tasks are. There is a difference. And automation is only suited to a very particular type of task.
Robots are very sophisticated, and are quickly becoming more and more so. For example, robots in a warehouse setting will communicate with one another to plot the best route, they will recognise which goods in a warehouse are being ordered most frequently and store them closest to dispatch, they will line up at dispatch in the correct sequence of an order or orders as they appear on the warehouse management system. However, as any roboticist will tell you, while the range of tasks robots and other forms of automation like AI can perform is certainly growing, there remains many activities that are beyond them, and will remain beyond them. As Bill Gates pointed out, human empathy and understanding are still very unique.
However, 'automating' certain processes can sometimes give the illusion of doing a job, even if that job isn’t being done properly. For example, there are now many packages and services available that will ‘automate’ much of your marketing communications activities. Templates can be populated with ‘compelling content’, and sent out to your contacts, and an illusion of real communication is created. Even though no communication has actually taken place. Because simply pressing 'publish', and sitting back and counting ‘impressions’, and ‘likes’ from your friends and colleagues isn't real business communication in any meaningful sense of the term.
And there is a dichotomy at the heart of all this. If your tech product has a unique business proposition, then surely this requires a considered bespoke communications and media programme to sell it, including who we are communicating with in the press and what we are trying to achieve in doing this?
The truth is that these marketing and PR activities cannot be automated if you want them done effectively. Every good PR will write every pitch and covering email individually, usually to a very limited circulation of carefully researched editors and journalists, and craft every single release to suit this very valuable, select audience. This is particularly true in tech PR, which requires increasingly specialised knowledge by the editors and writers in question.
Just because a document looks like a press release doesn’t actually make it a press release. In order to be a press release, it has to be released to the appropriate press. And pro-actively released at that – not just ‘press send to publish’. No computer programme or package can do it for you.
(Pic: Dwarf Tulip)