A robotic revolution? How AI is changing the PR industry
Generative AI is shaking up industries across the board. Now it’s PR’s turn, with specialist tools like PRophet popping up. Should PRs be worried or excited? Fox Agency’s Lottie West investigates.
Robot PRs: hero or villain? / Brett Jordan via Unsplash
PR is often seen as more of an art than a science. That explains why the sector has been slower than others in adopting technology that facilitates our jobs. Until recently, there has been a level of complacency (or even indifference) among PR professionals regarding what the acceleration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) means for our industry.
When generative AI program ChatGPT exploded onto the scene last November, even the most skeptical among us had to sit up and take notice. Here was a tool that could write passable copy, had a broad understanding of the media landscape (and the role of PR professionals), and had the potential to take some of the heavy lifting out of admin tasks.
Last month saw the publication of the CIPR’s report on the impact of AI on PR. This sparked a lively debate among PR professionals on LinkedIn about whether the robots were going to take our jobs. So, is AI an existential threat to our profession? Or will it ultimately allow us to work more effectively and efficiently? Could it even help the industry reach a consensus on measurement – the constant thorn in the side of PR professionals?
Putting the tech to the test
The CIPR’s report highlights that there is still a huge disconnect between the availability of AI and ML technologies and our preparedness as an industry to harness them. It found that only one in five of us was familiar with the relevance of AI to the PR profession. Generative AI has a huge array of use cases, while ML has the potential to revolutionize the reporting process and help us demonstrate the impact of our work. AI-powered tools such as PRophet are emerging, promising to make pitching to media more targeted and effective.
I recently put ChatGPT to the test to see how well it responded to common PR tasks. First, I asked it to put together a simple PR retainer budget. Other than treating media training as a monthly cost rather than a one-off project, it was pretty much spot on.
I gave it the task of creating a media pitch to announce an international expansion. This is where it slightly lost its way – the pitch felt very self-serving. I’m not sure too many journalists would be engaged by “we invite you to join us in celebrating the launch of our new office”. When I provided more context on the story and its target audience, this was regurgitated in the form of a generic press release. Nothing ground-breaking.
ChatGPT seemed to be on the more comfortable ground when I asked for a list of the best publications to reach IT decision-makers in the UK, providing a credible list of tier-one titles.
Finally, I decided to get a bit meta, and asked, “what does ChatGPT mean for the PR industry?” Straight off the bat, ChatGPT provided a string of use cases. It concluded that “Overall, ChatGPT can be a valuable tool for the PR industry, helping professionals to work more efficiently and effectively while improving communication efforts.” Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?
Human after all
If we look outside our own industry, we can see that other sectors are grappling with how to use generative AI. There is cautious optimism in the legal profession when it comes to creating frameworks and documents. Meanwhile, many in the banking sector have already banned it, citing security and compliance concerns.
In PR, there are clear benefits that AI and ML can bring, from research to automated reporting. These innovations can help us to work more efficiently and cut out some of the more time-consuming friction points of our jobs. But what AI doesn’t account for is the importance of human relationships.
When asked about its value in the PR industry, ChatGPT suggested it could be used to create crisis comms responses. At best this seems hugely misguided, and at worst, uncaring and crass. The fallout caused by a university using ChatGPT to provide reassurance to students following a mass shooting is evidence enough that there are some situations where personal connection and empathy will always win out.
These human relationships, counsel, and insight are the foundations of PR. AI has huge benefits in driving efficiencies and helping us demonstrate the value and effectiveness of our work, but the work we do is ultimately built on personal relationships and human-to-human connection. As an industry we should embrace the benefits of AI as an enabler, freeing up time and headspace to focus on more strategic and creative work. However, we shouldn’t overlook the importance of the emotional nuance and subtleties that we as PR professionals can bring to our clients.
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