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Is there a place for AI in PR?

Updated: Jan 23, 2023



OpenAI launched their latest version of ChatGPT in November 2022 and it’s fair to say it’s taken the internet by storm. We look at the pros and cons that anyone working in PR should consider.


ChatGPT is an AI Chatbot, the latest in a technology called ‘large language model tools’ and is generating a buzz with its ability to have intelligent-sounding conversations, create music, poetry, create images and video, and much more.


Within days of its release, it had been tried by millions, with people testing the technology.


The results are pretty impressive, it demonstrates a significant advancement in AI technology, with the language generated being much more human and the breadth of abilities and opportunities for use being much wider.


With this latest launch, Open AI has made a different move, by encouraging the general public to experiment with it directly. The idea is that this will speed up its development and diversify its training.


It’s an exciting development in the world of AI, with numerous applications in the real world, whether good or bad. But, what does it mean for the PR industry? Can it make our lives easier? How far should we incorporate AI into PR? Is it safe?


The PR world has been discussing this intensely, so we’ve had a look at the various arguments and in this article we’re sharing some of the more interesting perspectives, along with our own views.



Applications for AI in PR


PR Daily has compiled a list of ways AI could change the game for PR and communications professionals, including:

  • speech-to-text technology, providing accurate transcriptions of interviews, speeches and presentations

  • contact recommendation tools to identify reporters who are writing about your industry

  • predictive analytics, helping to customise story angles for journalists based on interests, past coverage, personalities and trends

  • media coverage sentiment analysis

  • natural language generation, which can be used to write press releases, press comments, blogs etc.


There are also other uses. For example, ChatGPT is able to create summaries of long texts, meaning you could input a company’s annual report and get a concise summary of the key points in seconds.

In addition, AI technology is able to convert text to images and video, meaning basic images and video could be created automatically, to accompany written content.


ChatGPT itself has put together a compilation of businesses using its services to boost productivity, giving an interesting look at the wide variety of uses.


Using AI to write copy


Natural language generation is probably the most fascinating aspect of AI in PR. For years, it was assumed that computers could never take over the content generation aspect of PR work.


However, in 2020 the first press release was written by an AI bot (the first iteration of Open AI’s ChatGPT). You can read it here and it’s fair to say at that point there was no threat from the technology.


However, fast forward just two years and the story is a little different. The latest version of ChatGPT was tasked with writing a press release to announce the launch of a new perfume. The result isn’t bad, it’s a basic press release and with a few edits it could be serviceable.


AI can clearly provide us with a helping hand - giving us the bare bones for written content, onto which we can apply our expertise and add some creative flair.


In Provoke Media, Andrew Bruce Smith suggests that we should be looking to develop skills in providing AI with effective briefs in order to incorporate this technology into day-to-day work and increase our efficiency. Indeed, this will be a highly-prized skill within the industry in the future.


AI in communications planning and strategy


While there may be a time in the future when AI has developed sufficiently to take in information from company meetings, research competitors and understand company messaging in order to create a decent PR strategy, we aren’t there yet.


ChatGPT can give a basic, A-level style, outline of what a communications plan should contain, but it is not yet able to give anything comprehensive. It lacks true creativity, empathy, understanding and that ‘does it feel right’ instinct that a good PR consultant brings to the role.



SEO and design support


There are many aspects of marketing and communications that sit around PR, which are necessary for a comprehensive communications strategy but often sit within different teams and skillsets. Visual design and SEO are pertinent examples.


AI could prove very helpful in supporting PR teams in these areas, where experts are unavailable.

AI has long been acknowledged as an important piece of technology for the SEO industry and Chat GPT has solidified this.


As highlighted by SEO Journal, keyword research and analysis, understanding search intent and generating SEO-friendly headlines are tasks ChatGPT performs well, and that hugely support the work of a PR.


Another interesting point was highlighted by Stuart Bruce in PR Futurist. ChatGPT can create video and images as well as text. It can therefore prove very handy in creating basic images and infographics to accompany PR content when a specialist designer is unavailable.


Ethics


It’s clear there are multiple areas where AI can provide a helping hand to PR professionals, particularly those in small in-house or agency teams. However, there are of course ethical considerations.


The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has a specific AI panel, monitoring developments in the technology and considering its applications for the PR industry.


In their AI Ethics Guide they look at the ethical questions thrown up by using AI in PR. The key areas to be aware of include;

  • Inclusivity - AI is not objective, it’s created and trained by individuals and organisations, and is biassed towards the agendas of its creators

  • Power - those who are able to capitalise on the potential of AI will increase their power, they will have rich data on many individuals and groups and be able to predict their future preferences and behaviour

  • Changing nature of work - this is one of the key areas of contention within the PR industry. AI allows us to automate manual tasks such as media monitoring, summarising lengthy documents and media targeting research, which have traditionally been undertaken by junior recruits


These are important points to keep in mind when using AI to help us with day-to-day PR work. Recognising the power and potential for good and bad of the tools and intelligence at our disposal is the first step in recognising our need to use them ethically.


We also do need to be aware of the danger that AI could remove many aspects of the more junior roles within the PR function.


We need to ensure there is a pipeline of talent, and this means adapting junior roles to compliment new technologies and giving young professionals opportunities to develop creative, analytical and linguistic skills that allow them to grow and add value within the industry.



Our verdict


Whilst AI isn’t anywhere near to making PR professionals obsolete yet, there are some very handy applications of the technology that could make our lives much easier. For small PR teams in particular, collaboration between AI and humans seems sensible.


However, companies still very much need someone with a great understanding of their organisation, its ethics and culture to promote and protect its reputation.



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