Public Relations (PR) and The Internet of Things (IoT): Bots

Photo Credit: YouTube/Apple

You may have seen an incredibly sweet video about Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster asking Siri about when his cookies will finish baking in the oven. In case you haven’t watched it for the tenth time like I have, please click here.

Siri is a bot. According to Recode, a bot is a software that is designed to automate the kinds of tasks you would usually do on your own, like making a dinner reservation, adding an appointment to your calendar or fetching and displaying information. Who doesn’t want to know when their cookies will finish baking in the oven, especially if you’re Cookie Monster?

Bots can also be programmed for communication outcomes that range from nefarious to entertaining. According to last week’s PBS NewsHour special about bots, they can be easily designed to engage stakeholders with or without the communicator’s knowledge and consent. Bots can be a boon or a pain for PR practitioners.

Bots can be a boon for PR practitioners because they can be strategically deployed to maximize the reach of enterprise-driven messages. This is particularly critical during crisis situations where multiple stakeholders need to be informed about mitigation scenarios. Bots can cover additional ground that may be missed by entity accounts.

Bots can be a pain for PR practitioners because others can use them to erode the validity and authenticity of controlled, enterprise-driven messages. This is particularly prevalent in highly competitive situations, such as this year’s presidential election process. PR practitioners must continually scan social media accounts for any bot that is muddling with and casting falsehoods about their organization’s messages.

The question is whether PR practitioners should “bot or not”. If you’re a PR practitioner who is as urgent as a blue monster waiting for his cookies to finish baking in the oven, I’d say bot. And bot often. The more control you have over your message, the less others will have of it.