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Could AI take over the work of many PRs?

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could sit back and let all your work be done by artificial intelligence? Well, the answer is obviously a no, because, sadly, no employer will pay you just to sit back and do nothing, so you would be out of a job. Here PRs discuss the likelihood of being replaced by AI.

There is no need to worry about a robot uprising

Kat Jackson, head of client services, at PR agency The Media Foundry: “AI and its impact on the creative industries as a whole are nuclear hot topics. There's a lot of fearmongering. From what I have seen so far, this question rests on the future development of AI tech, and how a tool which needs to be trained to learn from extant material can ever be innovative or forward looking. If all external comms needed turgid, regurgitated copy and information based on previous examples to engage with people, there would be good reasons to worry. Presently though, examples read like beta versions of web content - written for machines to be read by other machines. It will depend how quickly it learns as to its threat level. PR has a good history of evolving to suit new channels and ways to engage with audiences and people, and I've seen nothing to inflame concerns about the robot uprising just yet.”

AI is helping to set comms above other sectors

David Clare, managing director of comms consultancy The Monarchs: “Whilst it feels like AI has been a topic for so long, it really is gathering record speed according to Google Trends:

“I do often wonder if the recent AI hype is warranted. Ultimately, however, I’d argue it is.

“Whilst AI was rather clunky in the past, it is now more than capable of supporting with one’s work. We use AI transcripts from for better note taking, QuillBot for grammar and meeting word counts, and we’re currently experimenting with Notion AI.

“The buzz around ChatGPT may have people fearing that their work may be replaced by a (complex) piece of code, we know from the journey to today that developments take their time.

“AI is finally at a point where it can support work, creating efficiencies in processes and handling small tasks, allowing us to add the human touch and using our hard-to-replicate emotional intelligence that already sets communications apart from other industries.”

It opens up opportunities for PRs

Jen Macdonald, head of marketing at agency Glass Digital: “There is no doubt that AI is growing within the world of PR as it is developing efficient ways for us to communicate our message further.

“One effective way we are recognising this is through international PR. AI is allowing PRs to translate content into multiple languages for broader distribution, whilst this still requires a major human element to make sure the content sounds natural and personalised for each region, it reduces time spent on projects dramatically.

“There are also AI tools which enable us to customise content depending on what journalists want to see. These tools can analyse what a journalist’s interests are, their previous coverage and story trends, to predict what they would like to publish next. Not only does this give PRs an idea of what content to produce, it also increases the probability of getting content featured. We already know this type of AI works through older tools that have allowed us to analyse what customers and website visitors are searching for and produce content based on findings.

“The development of these AI tools is so important in PR right now as it is allowing us to analyse and create opportunities more effectively, so that no time is wasted on campaigns that may not work.”

It offers PRs the chance to enhance their skills

Leah Jones, deputy managing director at PR agency CommsCo: “The capabilities of AI - especially generative AI like ChatGPT - are incredibly impressive. Although there’s a tendency to panic when there’s news of AI becoming more advanced, this provides an opportunity for PR professionals to further enhance their skills, rather than to replace them.

“PR professionals should dedicate time to understanding AI and how it can work hand-in-hand with their role. From speeding up research and administrative tasks to checking for errors, it can free up time for PRs to be creative. Those who shun the capabilities of AI will fall behind in the race to innovate.”

Human PR skills will be more valuable

Fiona Scott, managing director of agency Scott Media: “There's a lot of noise and fear around this at the moment - yet I think we need to pause, take a breath and go with it. Whilst AI is growing and we cannot ignore it, we have to remember that AI is not personal, it doesn't encapsulate emotions or the personal touch. We need to react positively to it, as it's not going away and it's actually been here for a long time already. There was much fear around social media 20 years ago and now we see it as a very strong tool in our toolbox. We also have to ask 'what will Google and other search engines think of it?' over time. The potential for repetition and inaccuracy is huge.

“The resources I've seen so far are basic and have limitations. I actually believe the personal touch, being a strong writer and storyteller will become more - not less - valuable.”

Humans still rule

Richard Knowles, head of PR at full-service agency Low&Behold: “Who knows how far AI will route its way into PR, but quite clearly its currently coming up against issues with how it can support brands and businesses.

“Media monitoring is seemingly primarily, if not fully, AI operated, but it still delivers a similar number of errors when collated coverage in my experience - and I started when some monitoring was still done by human hand and scissors.

“I feel it’s much more likely to takeover techie roles than PR, and while AI will continue to make inroads into various roles, there’s surely some things the human brain can do that AI will never be able to.

“I just think AI has a role to play and so do humans, after all who will AI blame if something goes wrong?”

We must not allow AI to kill creativity in PR

Tom Marshall, managing director at intelligence agency Unicepta “AI in PR has become big business. For many years it has provided a useful way of monitoring the media for many companies, delivering coverage and tracking social mentions of their business. However, even with the best technology and the simplest brief in the world, AI alone is not enough. A human element is still required to deliver 100% accuracy and those all-important results that AI by itself simply won’t identify.

“Equally, the same is true when using AI as a solution for creating personalised content for journalists, providing recommendations for campaign optimisation, detecting and identifying certain events with a view to mitigating risks and even using certain software, draft basic press releases or comments for the media. I am all for artificial intelligence when it improves efficiency without compromising on quality, but when it comes to creativity it is simply an impossible substitute for the brain.

“No matter how sophisticated it becomes, AI will never replace a human’s role in achieving a certain tone of voice or communicating in exactly the right way for a specific target audience. Whilst it can definitely support humans in certain tasks, it lacks a number of fundamental qualities that mean it will never be able to function on the same level; emotional intelligence, experience, the ability to think and anticipate certain situations, values and judgement. As a result, if used to create content, AI will simply churn out standard, formulaic results that risk alienating people due to their lack of personality and sheer monotonicity.

“There’s no doubt that AI has a significant and important role to play in improving certain time-consuming tasks in PR, however, even the most basic of briefs will still require a human element for the best possible chance of success. When used in combination with the human brain, AI can produce strong results - but we must ensure it is employed for the right tasks, and not used to kill creativity in the comms industry.”

AI can’t match that human sparkle

Dave Bennett, communications director at creative agency Rise at Seven: “We have had some fun with AI-generated imagery that we’ve used as part of larger digital PR campaigns We’d be up for anything that helps to automate admin tasks like reporting and measurement and lets us get on with doing great work for clients. But generally, I don’t feel like AI is going to put any creatives out of a job for the foreseeable - there’s still that human sparkle that brings creativity to life which AI just can’t match. Yet.“

We must not become too reliant on AI

Michael Lamb, creative strategist at communications agency M&C Saatchi Talk: “We’re lucky to have access to some great AI-powered tools that allow us to analyse data sets of articles or posts which not so long ago would have been impossible. And for that I’m thankful, as a PR strategist, it makes my job much easier.

“But I worry that the industry may become over-reliant on AI as emerging automation technologies begin to deliver much needed time and cost savings. There’s enough horror stories from other industries who’ve rushed ahead with new AI solutions only to fail, and in some cases end up on the wrong end of a discrimination lawsuit.

“I just hope the PR industry is able to create an effective ethical AI framework to ensure we’re using new tech to enhance our human intelligence and creativity, and ensure we end up on the right side of history.”

Clients need people!

Alla Lapidus, director and co-founder of comms agency Moonlight IQ “Automation has helped PR in the past, so undoubtedly AI will be a great addition. Think back to when press releases had to be sent by fax - a complete waste of time, sometimes taking hours to send long releases. Compare that to automated systems now where, once the distribution list has been created, it takes a few minutes to set up, and then it’s just a press of a button (or several).

“So whilst AI will undoubtedly make PR functions which can be automated easier, most PR is subjective. Unlike law, banking or other professions where AI is being introduced, there are no hard-and-fast rules. It’s so often about what feels right, how does this come across? Will this peak someone’s interest? Does this clearly explain a complex concept?

“As for customer service, it’s bad enough having chatbots, etc. Can’t see our clients accepting AI on weekly calls!”

PRs need to be ethical sounding boards

Louise Ahuja, director of agency LBcomms:  “I love that public relations is a constantly evolving practice and using AI to generate content and for analysis is another exciting element of this. For smaller teams it could be invaluable. However, what is so interesting about this role is that the PR person often needs to be the ethical sounding board for a company. AI can help us, but a PR’s value is the analytical thinking and innovation, complex problem solving, creativity, originality and initiative. These are not skills that are going to be replaced by AI in the near future.”

“I can’t wait to see the answer ChatGBT gives to the question, I hope it gets a ‘right to reply’.

Comment generated by an AI app

Alla Lapidus also sent in this contribution to this feature, from an AI app. I have to say, it is pretty good!

AI is increasingly becoming a part of the public relations industry. It is being used to automate mundane tasks, like data analysis and customer service. However, it is unlikely that AI will replace creative jobs in public relations.

AI can be used to help with research and analytics, but it cannot replace the human touch when it comes to crafting effective messages for audiences or engaging with customers on social media. AI may be able to generate content at scale, but it cannot match the creativity and emotion that human copywriters bring to their work.

It can certainly help PR professionals save time and money by automating certain tasks, but they still need the skills of a creative copywriter or content writer in order to create meaningful content that resonates with their audience.

Your PR career may not be coming to an end because of AI, but the bad news is, we have not finished writing about this subject! Watch this space… next week we will be discussing the pros and cons of ChatGPT for the PR community.

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