Can PR Keep Up with Exponential Innovation?

Tech, and particularly software, offer those of us who work in the industry an opportunity to witness a bit of evolution. It’s what makes the space so exciting. No moss grows on the tech tree; if you turn your head for a minute, everything’s different. We’re at another one of those inflection points now. Tech innovation has begun a new movement in building companies, even a complete rethink of how existing companies should operate. Businesses aren’t content to just be lean, now they have to be exponential.

Other than the need for solutions to problems, there’s very little DNA shared between companies started just 10 or 15 years ago and the nimble businesses being hatched today. Why? The rise and adoption of exponential technologies—accelerating tools, processes and organizational concepts that generate better performance measured in multiples compared to established competitors.

It’s an innovation movement. Exponential technologies spark business creation and growth as drastically as the Lean Startup movement changed product development. As soon as a new technology is conceived, someone starts a new business to tackle a problem.

What’s exponential innovation look like? Think Airbnb. They don’t own or maintain a single property or employ any room staff. Yet in a very short period, Airbnb has surpassed some of the world’s largest hotel chains including Hilton, InterContinental and Marriot in terms of available rooms. It will eclipse those players in guest bookings in short order. Uber’s another one. They’re killing the taxi industry but don’t own any cars or—according to Uber—even employ their drivers. Crowd-sourced assets, nimble algorithms, mobile tech and flex-time workers. Airbnb and Uber wrangle these together for the win.

We owe the rise of “unicorn” companies to exponential innovation, too. Whether or not all the unicorns survive the current investor hype environment is a crap shoot, but the concepts that got these startups funded are solid.

Regardless, everything has gotten faster: new tech comes to market faster, people use it to solve problems sooner then quickly monetize those solutions to kill competitors or own a new space. But to grow and sustain growth, exponential organizations need to build audiences who care. Now, probably more than ever, PR is the preferred medium for these companies to build those audiences.

How does PR maintain solid story-telling concepts and still keep pace with exponentially faster business changes? Use the same innovation model to improve, iterate and excel. Continuous experimentation with new technologies and processes introduces new, better channels for PR. Sound sort of ‘me too’? Nah, it’s different.

This isn’t experimenting with Snapchat because ‘that’s where the kids are.’ Exponential iteration in PR is more akin to the change programmatic technology brought to how advertising is targeted and bought and sold on the web, minus the fraud. Tools and analytics quickly expose and crunch reams of data, people bring the insight and the whole package is used to plan the next, better optimized visibility campaign. Fast. How do we know who and what to target next? The data’s there to tell us.

Look at Google Analytics. GA is exponential by virtue of how much information it delivers in near real time. Just clicking a mouse exposes visitor traffic and behaviors from today, over a defined period or even based on a company’s goals. That’s just a few of GA’s tricks, and GA is just one tool. There are many more that dive deeper and provide insights PR practitioners couldn’t fathom just a few years ago. Effectively communicating in an exponential environment demands the regular use of tools like GA to optimize the effectiveness of PR campaigns at the planning stage, not after they’ve been executed. Now we can actually sell and practice real, quantified PR.

Let’s look at some other examples. Video’s good. Video is undeniably one of the more disruptive forces in communications. Nothing tells a story as clearly and engages as well as video. It moves fast, too. People love to share videos with their networks, which propagates – you got it – at an exponential rate. Can we move that even faster? Think of what’s happened in the video space in just the past couple of years: YouTube, of course. But now YouTube TrueView Syndication, Meerkat, Periscope, 360 degree video and native advertising—and that’s just different shades of video.

Want to know which way the wind’s blowing on a topic and get real time answers? Twitter Polls. Use the data to inform your next content calendar inputs. Where do your clients’ customers come from and what makes them buy? Customer journey analytics show paths to purchase. Once you know where they’re coming from and what brought them there, double down on the programs that work and shoot the ones that don’t.

Hey! You’re ‘moving the needle!’

What’s next? There’s a ton in the works here and I can’t give it all away, but for sure we know the people using exponential tech to win have stopped considering the same PR delivered as it has been for so long. Think this is hype? Am I full of it? Maybe you agree???? *GASP* Let us know in the comments.

Joel Richman
Vice President


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