Aaron Kwittken, Chairman at KWT Global and CEO at Prophet, discusses the role of A.I. in public relations and how it can help communicators pitch the media more effectively. Aaron shares what pushed him to develop the platform in the first place.
He also breaks down how the technology works and how he is able to bring the intelligence into artificial intelligence.
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About the Host:
Host: DOUG SIMON
Guest: AARON KWITTKEN
DOUG: So the questions for this interview were generated by A.I., which should make it a better interview. But the real question that my guest can answer is, can I make it easier to pitch the media? So, Aaron, can it?
AARON: I have no doubt that it can, and it will, but it’s going to be baby steps. You have to think about it in a way that we think about many things, right? When you have a data set, whether it’s unstructured or structured data, how can you break that down to look back, to be able to look ahead? And I think that finally, in 2020 and beyond, we have the tools through natural language processing, through machine learning to be able to recognize patterns and words and behaviors that are repeatable to help ensure better pitch success in the future. And I think it’s going to help all of us. It’s also going to create a more efficient ecosystem for both journalists and PR people alike.
DOUG: Aaron, what made you set out to tackle this issue of improving pitching the media, which is such a challenge for so many communicators?
AARON: Well, Doug, you and I have been doing this for more years than we care to admit. I’ll just say it’s almost 30 for me now. And I have a couple of different roles. So not only have I been doing this business as a PR person for many many years, but I’m also a contributor to Forbes to the Drum, I write, I have a podcast. I get pitched at least 30 or 40 times a week. And I would say of those, say, 30 or 40 pitches, 90% of them are terrible. They are just spray and pray, and people don’t really give a whole lot of thought to the pitch. The flip side is I also run an agency, and I founded an agency, and I have spent 30 years pitching media. And I was thinking about how do you combine those two things using technology to really be the glue between the two. And it’s just a matter of time and patience for that technology to catch up to the vision, which is, hey, Alexa, I have a story idea, can you put it through the Prophet, or can you put it through whatever algorithm to tell me how potent and how defendable that story idea could be. So, part of it is borne of frustration and part of it is borne of excitement. And I also think that the real promise of A.I. in most industries is to be able to free you up from the mundane, and sometimes pitching can be mundane, so you can do higher value work for your clients, whether you’re in-house or you’re an agency person.
DOUG: Now obviously pitching the media is at the core of what we do, booking guests there. And we get a lot of survey information, get those facts back. For instance, health and wellness, 88% of broadcasters now are the most interested or very interested in that category. 92% of them prefer if you can give them a local angle in their market, et cetera, and so forth. So how are you bringing the intelligence to it in the first place, so you really identify what the proper pitch is for that right media outlet?
AARON: So, you have to think about it almost like an automated survey, but it’s a survey that just doesn’t happen once a week, or once a quarter, or once a month. It’s happening every 12 hours and eventually it’ll be happening every 12 seconds. So, the beauty of applying A.I. to what you’re talking about is you’re taking something that’s known and has been proven, i.e. surveying, but you’re doing it at a magnitude far greater, far faster and far more iterative than you were beforehand. Because at the end of the day, as you know, pitching is an iterative process, and also the only other industry, if you want to call baseball an industry, where batting 30% or 40% or 300 or 400 is considered successful is probably the PR industry. So we can have our people back 30% or 40%, 300, 400, I’d say that’s pretty darn good. And so what this is, this is like a higher magnitude of surveying using technology to help augment the human experience.
DOUG: And even if you can increase slightly, I mean, if you keep going with the baseball analogy, you take someone who gets two hits every ten times they’re up, they’re terrible. If they get one more hit every ten times, they’re up, they’re an all-star, and maybe a Hall of Famer. So, it’s this incremental kind of improvement that you bring. Now, you started by tackling print first. Can you share a little bit about how that might work?
AARON: Sure, so we’ve ingested now millions of articles over the last two years, tens of thousands of reporters, and what we do is we follow reporters, we don’t follow outlets. Outlets go along with the reporter, but as you know, increasingly because of the contraction of newsrooms, and because a lot of press now are more free agents. And I think that’s a trend that’s going to continue. We follow reporters, and we follow their behavior and how they are publishing, and we’re following them across multiple of print outlets. I say print, I would use a wider aperture for that in that it’s really online. And we’re even capturing things like blogs and medium and things like that. Also, I think you would probably agree with me that broadcast and everything else follows print most of the time. Obviously, in breaking news broadcasts will break, but for the most part, really momentous and thoughtful trends, it starts with print. So, we’re starting their first. We’ve scraped and ingested a ton of data there, literally more than a 1000, almost 2000 types of reporters right now that’s increasing every day. And eventually we will expand into broadcast, also podcast and other forms of media as they as they arise.
DOUG: That sounds great. We look forward with broadcast, even helping you look at what are some of those variables that can lead to better predictions, which is what we’re all trying to do. Well, given the success you’ve achieved with KWT Global, this is certain to be a success, and we look forward to following it and seeing how it develops and grows, and I look forward to having you back to share that. And is there any final thought you want to leave about the challenges of pitching, and what are ways to make sure it’s going to be done better in the future?
AARON: You know, I always follow the rule that fewer, bigger, better. And I don’t like the idea of pitching hundreds and hundreds of media. I think media beget media; they follow each other. And I think you need to get the first one or two right, and others follow in terms of tone, sentiment and spread. That’s something that I’ve been doing my entire career. The flip side to what we do is we also try to mitigate. So I do think that A.I., being able to test your pitch, test your standby statement, test your crisis oriented press release, or whatever the statement is that you may or may not have to use, testing that before you go to market and trying to understand how that’s going to land, I think is equally as important as kind of thinking about eminence and about leadership and capital and proactive kind of product campaigns. And I just think that we all need to think more strategically, and I do believe that some of the business is becoming more and more commoditized, so why not use technology to upscale ourselves, our colleagues, and improve our performance? Because PR people have always been at the bottom of the tech stack, if at all, and it’s time that we take the stack back.
DOUG: Yeah, that sounds great, and thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate your insights.
AARON: I appreciate seeing you. I know we’re old friends, not too old, but we’re old friends, and I appreciate everything you’ve done in this business and for our industry.
DOUG: Thanks so much.