HOW do you take the officer out of public relations officer? That’s what one Edinburgh agency has done with an automated PR service targeting the global start-up market.

PingGo is a new company that has launched a DIY PR machine in response to demand for an affordable service from start-up companies and small businesses.

It is part of a growing trend for business service automation and the use of automated journalism, which has been led by Associated Press, Forbes and the LA Times.

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Sarah Lee, PingGo’s founder and CEO, said: “My vision is to democratise the PR industry so that lack of budget and experience are not barriers to a company getting media attention. It is the strength of the story that should determine whether the media picks up on a story and reports news.

“Media coverage cannot be bought. It has to be earned. When a company is just starting out it is critical that it establish credibility, but traditional PR is out of reach to most start-ups.”

The online service offers a number of features including a press release writing tool, which The National took for a test drive.

An initial “clunky” feel about the program would probably disappear with practice, but overall it was simple enough. The user only has to respond to a series of questions that are designed to elicit the key information a journalist looks for.

We decided to write a release promoting our Dumfries roadshow tomorrow and, although it did require some further editing, the end product wasn’t a million miles away from what we were looking for.

PingGo interviews the user in a series of questions designed to draw out the key information a journalist looks for. The answers are then put into order of priority and a press release produced for the user to edit, share with colleagues and seek approval.

It does not mass distribute the releases to hundreds of journalists, but encourages users to identify media outlets that cover their sector. This approach disrupts the traditional relationship between news source and media and enables journalists to access stories that would not normally make it on to their radar.

The company came about after a 12-month research and development project, co-funded by the UK Government’s innovation agency InnovateUK. PingGo soft launched to an international market last month and has seen hundreds of companies from more than 50 countries – including the US, Australia, Iceland and Europe – sign up. Matt Brown, from InnovateUK, said: “PingGo really stood out as a great concept that our expert assessors thought would bring a lot of benefits to micro and small companies looking for PR services. It’s just the kind of early-stage project that we are looking to co-fund.”

The product was designed and built by digital studio NEU, in Glasgow. Grant McLennan, from NEU, said: “PingGo is at the forefront of the seismic change from old world ruled by a few to the new disturbed network of shared citizen power.”