The debate raging among PR, corporate communications and marketing professionals mirrors the months’ long discourse taking place across just about every aspect of business – how will Artificial Intelligence (AI) impact the future of public relations, our job responsibilities, livelihoods and roles within our organizations?
For many, the answer is nowhere near clear cut – resulting in some lively debates. But, in PR and marketing, where much of what we deliver is contextual, creative and thoughtful, the answers are even murkier.
As we evaluate and navigate this new frontier, our team is working from the following thesis:
AI Will Elevate Good PR and Expose the Bad
Personally, I think this is a good thing—especially for those of us who value our client and reporter relationships, and are excited by the potential role AI can play in PR as we leverage new tools to make mundane tasks easier and spark strategic and creative thinking. To this end, I wanted to break down the areas where our agency sees AI adding immediate value and where we are proceeding with caution…
Where PR Can Start Using AI Today
- Building a Foundation – AI is already proving to be a timesaver when it comes to building the basics – press lists, basic research and even monitoring and analytics. It is proving critical in improving efficiencies. But can it improve the effectiveness of your efforts? Maybe, but we can discuss that more a little later.
- Jumpstarting the Process – This is one of the areas I’m most excited– providing a foundation for brainstorming and planning. Starting the process is often the hardest, so if AI can give us ideas to react to and build from, I’m here for it.
- Taking the First Cut – Writers will often tell you that the first sentence is hardest to write and that reacting to or editing a draft is easier than starting from scratch. Truth be told, on a particularly stressful Friday afternoon, to add some levity to a team touch base I used ChatGPT to help me write a Hallmark Christmas Movie script about a magic firewall. It wasn’t great, but it was an amusing exercise. All of this is to say that I wouldn’t even know where to start with a script and now I had a decent outline that I could refine if I chose to.
Potential Pitfalls of AI in Public Relations – Where to Proceed With Caution
- Is the Output Accurate? – Many of these tools inform their outputs from publicly available information. What if that information is flawed? There are tons of marketing and PR tools already on the market, many of which are used by some of the biggest brands in the world. And none can be completely trusted.
Data gets outdated in the blink of an eye; information is miscategorized; tools today can’t account for tone or intent, like the use of sarcasm.
Now, what if you are working on something truly novel with no publicly available insights and looking to AI to draft a creative brief or press release? What if it tries to pull from an outside source? Will the output be accurate? Will your inputs inadvertently get shared within that tool?
As it matures, AI will get better and likely surpass today’s tools, but today that is not the case and it’s likely that gaps will remain.
- Are All Tools Architected to Protect Your Data – My last point opens the door to what could be an entirely separate blog post that in all honesty I am not completely qualified to write. Assuming we, as PR professionals, are working with highly confidential information, how can we know that today’s tools adhere to the highest levels of data protection? What if that super secret announcement ended up getting used to inform someone else’s query?
- Understanding Your Audience – This is where our team is most skeptical of AI’s eventual capabilities. Even if it can understand tone or intent, can AI truly understand what excites a particular reporter or buyer? Can it replace a personal conversation or an interview? Can it get to know the person behind the title?
- Building Trust — Suppose you are shooting out a press release to 200 targets (this goes back to our good vs. bad subhead above – we would never recommend this). An AI tool can probably handle that. But if you are truly trying to build trust and have a sincere desire to connect and tell meaningful stories, this is where any tool is going to falter.
AI is already proving to be a powerful tool. Good PR people see the potential and we are excited by the opportunity. However, it is not a free pass to cut corners – like crafting generic pitches and content to be shot-gunned to unvetted lists of names scraped from a variety of databases.
TLDR: Be Creative, Be Smart and Be Unique – I’ll say it again, AI has a ton of potential in helping craft stories, but the last mile will always need a creative mind. That’s the secret sauce that offers a reporter the exactly unique story they were looking for, and that tunes into the specific issue a buyer is seeking to solve, especially when they may not yet be able to articulate what that issue is.
Good PR and marketing are based on intellect and art. We are informed by data and use it to craft stories that resonate with buyers, investors, reporters and other influencers. These are exciting and transitional times.