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Working with AI to improve measurement can futureproof the PR industry

Most, if not all, agencies are assessing the use of AI in PR right now - focusing on AI’s potential to demonstrate the value of PR work could be the most fertile ground.

Given the heightened scrutiny of budgets and competition for business washing over the industry currently, robust measurement and reporting has never been more critical, and the astute use of AI could be key to meeting those challenges.

Prove behaviour change

It is no longer acceptable for agencies to report back numbers that don’t relate directly to business KPIs and demonstrate clear ROI; instead, there is an onus on proving behaviour change as a result of our work and, ironically, automation can prove a powerful ally in revealing human habits.

AI’s ability to collect and analyse many thousands of different data points, from varying sources, allows us to spend more time on interpreting that data and reviewing the impact of marketing tactics on audience behaviour and sentiment.

Language pattern analysis

One such example is using AI to examine language patterns in the content we produce for clients, to reveal which combinations of words stimulate online conversation and influence behaviour most effectively. Once the patterns become apparent, we can be specific in our analysis of different language, making relevant comparisons, and benchmarking the impact against KPIs and business objectives.

Greater accuracy at speed

Without AI, the level of granular analysis required manually would be untenable. As well as diving deep into the data sets, AI can remove errors in the data, to ensure we’re analysing pure information and providing clients with the right level of accurate advice, at speed, enabling strategy to be adapted in real time and the impact to be analysed continually.

In short, AI allows us to be proactive, rather than reactive, in our client strategies and its identification of trends provides us with the insight required for genuine authority in our consultancy.

There are a few ‘buts’

That’s not to say there aren’t many caveats in relying too heavily on AI systems that are still in their infancy; in particular, the rapid evolution in AI tools presents a danger of getting lost in too much irrelevant data. AI can play the role of digital assistant, for sure, but it’s the combination of human brainpower with automation, art with science, that provides the key to advancement in measurement as we curate and filter the different data sets ourselves and overlay critical thinking.

Ignoring AI is not an option

Perhaps the biggest danger facing PR practitioners, however, is to ignore AI completely. We shouldn’t expect too much too soon, and must understand the limitations as well as the advantages of automation, but it would be ill-advised to overlook the rapid development of AI and those who do so risk being left behind. Continually bringing more rigour, insight and analysis into measurement and reporting is critical to the evolution of the entire PR profession - it’s that important - and AI can help to establish a sea change that will lead ultimately to more respect, value and credibility being attached to our industry.

Article written by Stuart Skinner, group manager director at PR and digital agency The PHA Group

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