Public relations has always been a flexible industry, which is just as well as there is a revolution happening right now - two letters: AI.
Here we discuss how the industry needs to adapt and embrace all the exciting new options (and some less exciting ones too!) that artificial intelligence offers PRs.
PR needs to educate other industries
Andrew Bruce Smith, director of social media, analytics and SEO consultancy Escherman: “The list of possible PR use cases for AI grows by the day - everything from research, planning, analysis, forecasting, message development, content creation campaign delivery, crisis comms and measurement.
“The speed of AI development as well as the myriad number of related reputational, legal and ethical issues will drive the impact on PR. Doing nothing isn't an option.
“One of the most important roles that PR professionals can and will play in the future, will be to not only understand how to use AI in their own work, but to provide organisations everywhere with sage counsel on how to interpret the implications of AI usage that may impact any or all stakeholder groups. Navigating this new terrain will involve an expansion of the PR professional's current skill and knowledge set. There has never been a greater need for PR practitioners who can provide the insight and guidance necessary to make this a reality.“
New jobs for old
Rick Panesar, communications consultant at marketing and communications consultancy Hard Numbers: "AI has the potential to change our world beyond recognition. Many jobs will be affected by the growth of generative AI, in particular in the PR and media sector.
"We are seeing a massive shift in ways that content is created. As an example, 20-odd years ago, animation software used by content creators revolutionised the way animation was created. Many people at the time thought it would cost animators their jobs. But consequently, what happened was that the animation industry boomed, and today there are many more jobs in the animation sector than we have seen ever before.
"Whilst there is much rhetoric that AI will take many jobs away in the PR and media sector, there will be a new breed of jobs and vocations created because AI is making content so much easier to create and consume.
"Whilst nobody truly knows what’s coming next, one thing I can say with certainty is that it will be huge."
We should be curious, not fearful
Simon Phillips, director of agency BLUE Communications: “It does seem premature to predict the demise of writers. Tools like ChatGPT do us all a favour by reminding us of the difference between good and great written content. If generative AI makes ‘good’ the standard, then what will stand out? For an agency such as ours, where knowledge and networks really count, it’s hard to see how AI can fully replace real insight, real opinions, real authenticity.
“We’re at the earliest stages of understanding the impact of generative AI on the nature of the PR roles. We want to do this from a perspective of curiosity and exploration, not fear, and being comfortable with the uncertainty while we work it out. I don’t believe it will fundamentally change our purpose or the value we deliver, but there’s absolutely a scenario where AI shifts the balance between what the client brings in-house and what we deliver as their partner.”
PR will not change overnight…
Laura Perkes, founder of PR with Perkes: and the author of How To Get PR: "With many content creators jumping on the AI bandwagon, I don't think it's going to change the face of PR in the foreseeable future. However, I do feel that there's a place for generative AI in terms of helping to formulate and flesh out ideas, but I don't think it can, or should, fully replace the human element that PR excels at.
“From what I've seen, the quality of AI-generated content is only as good as the brief that it's given, the output will be greatly affected by the input, therefore the person responsible for feeding ideas into AI software needs to have an acute understanding of what the generated content needs to do. Does it meet the client's brief? Does it match their tone of voice? Does it correlate with all the other messages that are communicated online and offline?
“It may be that AI-generated content is used as a tool to create content at a faster rate or to collapse the time it takes to research intricate details and statistics, but I don't think it will completely change the type of jobs available in PR, or the PR agency model."
… but how PRs work will change
Courtney Glymph, founder and managing director of agency YourStoryPR: ''Generative AI, without a doubt, will change the face of PR. Will it create new jobs that I'm not so sure about. Those who have tried using ChatGPT and similar platforms to develop meaningful and thoughtful content will know that we are far from Generative AI curation or editorials. The platform creates pretty basic and often repetitive content, which needs a heavy editing from users.
“However, the point is that it provides a launch point for writers to build their content. So, whilst I don't think there will be a specific job title for those who create content using generative AI, leveraging the platform will become part of every role in PR. Whether you're on the media relations side or the editorial side, or the social side, there is a usefulness to using ChatGPT and the like, but we need to be wary of being overly dependent on an algorithm that is still that - a machine. For now, thoughtful, insightful, and genuinely helpful content is still being written by humans (maybe with a little help from the machines).''
Chat GPT should be used sparingly
Joel Goodson, senior content manager at agency Babel PR: "Generative AI is useful for certain tasks, but I wouldn’t lean on it too much in its current form. Good comms professionals will know when to use it, and most importantly, when not to use it. Whilst we’ll surely see AI close the gap between human writers over time, currently AI-generated content lacks emotion, nuance and opinion, all elements that make written content compelling.
“More specific prompts can fix this, but the time this takes means diminishing returns. I see it as a tool to support humans in creating content rather than taking over the process entirely. Whilst I expect resource-strapped in-house teams to make the best use of generative AI, and AI-specialist agencies to start cropping up over the next few years, I think the majority of agencies will use it sparingly to preserve quality and keep that all-important human touch - you get what you pay for, after all."
Shalon Kerr, founder of virtual healthcare agency PR-it: “Content marketing is extremely time-intensive, but generative AI is about to change that. With tools like ChatGPT, we're able to generate rough drafts of blogs and social posts within minutes. Whilst there may be less writing needed, a small in-house or agency team will still be needed for editorial strategy; editing content into a company, brand or executive’s tone; inserting a point-of-view and most importantly, fact-checking. With so much misinformation and disinformation floating around the internet, AI tools such as ChatGPT are bound to serve up inaccuracies. In highly regulated industries such as healthcare and finance, it's going to be critical to back up whatever ChatGPT spits out with primary source citations to ensure facts and claims are true. It looks like we’re still going to need humans for that… for now.”
PR will become more strategic
Lottie West, global head of PR at B2B agency Fox Agency: “Whilst the PR industry has sometimes been slow to embrace new technologies, you would have to be living under a rock to have missed the hype around ChatGPT over the last few months. Call me an optimist, but I think the existential panic is perhaps misplaced. I see generative AI as an enabler rather than a replacement. PR at its heart is about human to human interaction, and that nuance is difficult to replicate, particularly in crisis scenarios where empathy will always win out. In time, I think judicious use of AI will allow us to become more consultative and strategic. It has strong potential to take the heavy lift out of some of the more burdensome admin tasks, thus freeing up time for higher level engagement and consultancy. Ultimately this is a good thing, as it allows us to elevate the role of PR as a strategic and high-value driver of business success.”
PRs can think out of the box
Francesca Baker: “Do you remember at school when your teacher said using a calculator in maths wasn't cheating because a calculator is only as good as what goes in it? AI is the same. Boring PR knows that X is always the angle, so we'll do X again. That's what an AI generator also does. Smart PRs think about what hasn't been done before. Find the unique angle. Dig a bit deeper. Challenge the status quo. Create something new. That's why AI can't replace us. We can get lots of benefit from AI, especially around efficiencies, but to create something that's really going to land, it needs a smart mind and someone who's willing to take a risk.”
Generative AI certainly does not mean the end of PR, quite the reverse, it provides tools that open up possibilities. Well that’s the positive spin. Next week, we look at how AI will change PR agency structures, and this feature further explores the pros and cons of ChatGPT in particular.
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