Printed: 2020-07-09

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

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The Future of PR in Emotionally Intelligent Technology

Jules Hamilton

Creating the Future of PR

May 24, 2016

PR is essentially the practice of managing the spread of information, and this is a tactical craft. For the PR professional years of experience combine knowledge of pragmatic practice and human intuition to generate desired results, a positive image and receptive message.

The Modern PR Professional 

The PR industry depends on the human element. No matter how much new tools assist us, the PR professional deals with people on the emotional level. The PR professional deals in relationships, by facilitating and cultivating them around their client. Assisted by contemporary tools, the PR professional will be an emotionally intelligent cyber-guerilla in tune with what and how people think and feel, with a strong relationship network.

PR professionals can already probe markets to sense how people feel about something, but this ability only recently compounded with big data and social media. The ability to record emotions with facial recognition through cameras and physiological sensors through wearable tech have the potential to introduce more clinical, and even romantic layers to the PR industry. The landscape has matured, and our desire for insight has deepened.

Engaging with the Crowd

A rooted knowledge of crowd behavior, complexity (big data; chaos), and psychology will be essential to surviving PR specialists. Large groups and individuals act differently. Behavioral patterns are revealed by examining the dynamics of herds, swarms, and crowds. Referring to collective consciousness, an individual could react to an advertisement one way, and change their reaction based on how they think others feel.

The creation of emotionally intelligent tools will help PR deal with both crowds and people on individual levels. It will empower PR to react immediately to individuals in some instances, while in others it will enable PR to broadly respond with considered effect. In this way it will become easier to send tailored messages to individuals, while simultaneously broadcasting general messages designed for targeted groups.

Services like Facebook are already using facial recognition with the intent to detect emotion and other features, while developers are working on new sensors for deeper insight into individual emotional experience. Facebook has already expanded their like button to show different emotional responses, an early peek to the direction we are headed.

Facebook’s Zuckerberg understands the power of emotion:

Explaining Facebook’s AI initiatives, Zuckerberg said his company was developing technology to recognize objects, scenes, and people in images and videos. “These systems need to understand the context of the images and videos,” Zuckerberg said, part of the company’s goal to build “AI systems that are better than humans at our primary senses: vision, listening, etc.” When asked — by one of the world’s most prominent scientists, no less — which big scientific question he’d like the answer to, Zuckerberg again indicated a focus on the human element.

According to digital anthropologist Rahaf Harfoush, brands have a relationship to three types of audiences: tribes, which are high intimacy and have long term engagement; ecosystems, which have low intimacy with long term engagement; and flocks, with high intimacy and short term engagement. Social media has opened channels for tribes, ecosystems, and flocks to develop, further assisting the PR professional in assessing responses to identities in targeted markets.

Following the proliferation of wearable tech and additional physiological sensors, Zuckerberg and Michio Kaku anticipate people will transmit how they emote as they deliver voice or text messages, and industries will record how people react to what they encounter on the internet and in the real world.

Reputable Social Engineering

Emotionally intelligent insight will sharpen PR. The professional will be able to monitor PR initiatives and tweak them accordingly. And if PR is assigned to be firm on a message that can’t be adjusted much, they’ll also have better tools and knowledge to assist in persuading audiences towards receptiveness.

Making use of emotionally intelligent data will employ social engineering, known to the hacker community as “the art of human hacking.” This refers to trust-developing, elicitation, and persuasion techniques employed by everyone in some capacity, although some do this more consciously than others. In essence, a good PR professional is an adept social engineer, and their skillset will enhance technologically.

Some people liken PR professionals to mercenaries, but I see them more akin to doctors or plastic surgeons. The PR professional helps his or her client internally by improving their perception of themselves and externally by improving others’ perception of his or her client. Just like a good doctor who wants patients to receive good advice, the PR specialist appreciates that the order and delivery of information affects how people respond to and engage with it. This is not rude or disingenuous, it’s earnest. People respond to information based on how it makes them feel, not just based on the content of the information alone. Emotionally intelligent PR will help make clients be more sensitive and in tune with their audiences.

Our society is more public and transparent than ever. The media sometimes laments how our growing addiction to social media and the internet is like a disease. Equipped with omnipresent smartphones people have become like open fistulas. Fistulas can be injurious, but they can also be induced for health and catharsis. As our minds open to emerging technology and become more exposed to the infectious world of ideas, people will develop new immunities to PR. This will raise standards for marketing as new generations become more savvy of PR techniques and discerning to marketing. This will empower surviving PR professionals who remain instrumental in successfully delivering discrete and complex messages that are well received. As a side effect more people will share understanding, we’ll be able to create more enjoyable products, and we’ll be able to partake in more experiences we love. These are all exciting causes for celebration.

Image Source: geralt

Jules Hamilton is a Popperian fallibilist, skeptic, libertarian, polyamorous, transhumanist. A renaissance man, Jules launched himself on Kickstarter after graduating from NYU with a sci-fi film about neuroplastic surgery, the ability to customize minds. Then he became social media director of Siegelvision, working closely under branding legend Alan Siegel. Jules transitioned building his first company producing videos for Siegelvision, Tinder, Suitcase Magazine, Cornell University School of Engineering, and SXSW. He participated in the BAFTRA award winning UK reality show Made in Chelsea to spread information, co-founding culture & lifestyle blog Polyglamorous. Under his umbrella company Innomatic Studios he hosts a monthly panel The Futurist Sessions at NYC's SoHo House, speaking alongside entrepreneurs and philosophers, with alumni Zoltan Istvan and Gray Scott. Jules is a proud ambassador for A Generation Empowered and


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