My LEF colleague Dave Aron posted about a fast food drone delivery service a couple of days ago. Having been recently reading James Garvey’s takedown of the PR industry The Persuaders, it got me thinking about how there is an increasing breed of technology publicised these days which, for want of a better term, one could call PRTech.
PRTech is an odd breed of technology that is designed to raise the profile of (generally a non-technology) brand in a way that makes it appear to be more innovative than it really is.
Sometimes these are quite clearly marketing stunts: Pizza Hut recently announced the world’s first “playable DJ pizza box“, but I think it’s fairly obvious that the cheese on toast purveyor isn’t going to be challenging Numark any time soon.
Where is gets a bit more shady is where organizations pick something from the long list of Gartner’s hype cycle and push out PR that proposes some sort of fundamental change to business model without anything in specific being revealed. The flurry of machine learning stories in certain sectors raises suspicions for me- especially when it’s applied to things other than massive structured data sets.
Whilst technology might be moving at pace I see little evidence to show an increase of our ability to change and adapt societally. When confronted with potential PRTech, one should ask:
– who would need to change behaviours for this to work?
– would they be given agency to take control of the change?
– do they have the power to resist change?
– is the change in the interests of those who need to change?
You can draw your own conclusions about the impact of the answers- but one thing particularly stands out- empowered turkeys are unlikely to be voting for Christmas.
I’ve nothing against PR being used to trumpet the use of technology- it all helps to get discussion going about how technology may enable us to do things differently. But where it does become dangerous is when the broader agenda is shifted so that it’s assumed that something is now mainstream because there has been enough hype about hyperbole. DJ pizza boxes might be “real”, but they aren’t a general reality.