When Will Artificial Intelligence Provide Predictive Analytics for Communications Measurement and Evaluation?

The short answer: Not soon. Predictive analytics by way of artificial intelligence is a fabulous dream, but out of reach for all but the largest companies.

Artificial intelligence has been touted forever as the answer to marketing’s problems. Most tantalizingly, it promises to turn your metrics into a giant crystal ball that will predict the outcome of your every move. And, yes, I’m fully aware that Amazon and Google and pretty much every online store is using a quite unintelligent version of AI to feed me up a lot of ads for things that I’ve already bought or don’t want.

So how soon will AI help the average PR person use predictive analytics to forecast how consumers will react to our press releases? Once again, I need to quote my father’s description of consumers: “Human beings with a wide range of choice. Unpredictable, cantankerous, capricious, motivated by innumerable conflicting interests and conflicting desires.”

With that in mind, I don’t anticipate AI helping out the majority of PR people anytime soon. To use AI to predict outcomes, or anticipate whether or not your customer or prospect will respond to a particular message, is a worthwhile dream. But it is a dream that is incredibly far out of reach for all but the largest companies. It’s just too complex a process to apply to most organizations.

Most PR professionals I talk to, especially those in B2B, are thrilled if they get 25 earned media mentions in a month. And chances are good they only recently started tracking them. But that’s not even one a day. To work well, AI requires millions of data points, and, ideally, 3 years worth of data.

I’d be willing to bet that organizations that have the requisite volume of data make up less than 10% of PRSA membership. (One could argue with my choice of PRSA as the representative universe of our profession, but for the moment, hear me out…) Most of its members work for small- to medium-sized organizations, many are in government or non-profits. They barely have budgets for communications, never mind measurement. And technology has never been PR’s strong point. So, it is not realistic to assume that these organizations have the bandwidth and technical knowledge required to use artificial intelligence for predictive analytics. It’s like assuming that I have the wherewithal to build a rocket ship to go to Mars. Not going to happen.

I have no doubt that large consumer companies and their agencies will all be spending lots of time sitting around conference tables figuring out new ways to disrupt markets, place ads more efficiently, and guarantee that no one violates their copyrights. The rest of us will be trying to figure out if we can afford a conference table. ∞

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Katie Paine

I've been called The Queen Of Measurement, but I prefer Seshat, the Goddess.