By Alexa Grunder | March 10, 2020

As part of our spotlight series on the team members of MSR, I had the pleasure of speaking with Michael Burke, Director of Science & Technology. Michael is a natural when it comes to translating the admittedly complex geek speak and tech talk into real life issues and relatable stories that influencers can understand—and find exciting. Working directly with thought leaders in technology and education, Michael is committed to not only helping MSR Communications clients grow market share, but also helping to explore how their industries can better serve the community and the public good.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Michael! Can you tell us about your journey into the PR industry?

You could say I was ‘raised in PR’, my mom retired from the industry, and even did a stint as the president of the LA chapter of PRSA. As someone who enjoys writing, I recognized it was an opportunity to put those skills to use and get paid for it. It turned out to be a good choice–content marketing hadn’t really caught on as a concept when I was coming into the field, but now it’s a mainstay.

What evolutions and changes have you noticed since the start of your career as a PR professional?

Obviously the trend of software-as-a-service has had a profound impact on PR, that has reshaped how we build and manage campaigns. Before this, media trend analysis was basically the domain of analytics houses that specialized in it. Now you can find out in a few minutes on Cision, Meltwater or Trendkite what used to require a significant investment of time and money to find out. This has also made the ability to react in real-time much more realistic. When I started, we were still using Bacon’s guides–basically an encyclopedia that took over an entire shelf and listed every reporter/outlet in North America. 

Which PR and marketing trends are you most excited for in the new decade?

I’m most excited about advances in analytics and machine learning. But I need to qualify, I don’t think that machine learning really qualifies as a “trend” quite yet. There’s some experimentation going on, but most analytics is oriented toward reporting on what happened in the past, not predicting what might happen in the future. But this will change. For example, you might not be able to predict media trends that are event-based–no one could have predicted the coronavirus. But, machine learning might be able to spot them much earlier. Additionally, machine learning opens the door to discovering all kinds of patterns in media coverage that were previously invisible–it is possible, to a degree, to predict what a reporter might be inclined to write about based on their past coverage. 

Can you tell us about a quote that inspires you and how it is relevant to your life?

George Orwell said “Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.” Personally I take this to mean that people shouldn’t abandon common sense. Just because ‘expert opinion’ or even mass opinion sways in one direction or another doesn’t mean it’s the truth. If your gut tells you something different, don’t ignore it–investigate it a little further. 

Can you give us a sneak peek of the apps that are most used on your mobile device?

DuoLingo, Udemy, Codecademy

If you could meet any influential person, who would it be and why?

I’d like to say that I’d meet someone of political or social significance, but in all honesty I’d probably want to meet Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. He was a trailblazer–I think all trailblazers have something in common, whether they’re working in the arts, business, government or non-profit. With that said, I actually have met some pretty amazing people: I met Buzz Aldrin–the guy was in the first team to land on the Moon! I also was privileged to meet Federico Faggin, who invented the microprocessor. I mean honestly, people go gaga over people like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, but without his accomplishments there would be no smartphones, cloud, internet–in other words, no digital age. Considering that we’re at a crossroads with regards to AI, I would love to have a sit-down with Geoffrey Hinton

Thanks Michael for your insights and helpful PR advice! 

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