The Impact of AI in Public Relations
What’s the impact of AI in public relations?
Until quite recently, it seemed artificial intelligence was a concept that only existed in science fiction. Today, AI is everywhere. We rely on it to do everything from internet banking to checking the weather on Google.
It’s transforming businesses as it enables them to aggregate huge amounts of data, automate business processes and personalise the customer experience.
And with all the buzz around ChatGPT, it’s set to usher in a whole new world of communication.
So, where does this leave PR?
In this post, we’re going to look at the role of artificial intelligence in public relations, focusing on:
- The benefits and drawbacks of using AI in public relations
- Examples of artificial intelligence public relations tools and how to use them
- What the future of AI and PR looks like
What is AI?
Before we look at the relationship between AI and PR, let’s establish what AI actually is.
The folks over at Built In hit the nail on the head with their definition of AI.
‘Artificial intelligence (AI) is a wide-ranging branch of computer science concerned with building smart machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. Artificial intelligence allows machines to model, or even improve upon, the capabilities of the human mind.’
So that’s that. The prophecies are coming true. Machines are taking over the world. Well, not quite. At least, not yet. But it’s made some huge strides in recent years.
A Whole New World
The golden age of artificial intelligence and machine learning is upon us. Yes, there have been movements and moments with AI technology before. But this time it feels different.
Just look at the technology we have at our disposal in the 21st Century: from virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa to self-driving cars and smart railway stations.
And things are only going to get smarter.
Every industry can use AI to its advantage, and public relations is no exception. Certainly, technology makes the job of PR pros easier. For more, read The Ultimate Guide to Digital PR Tools.
Public Relations and Artificial Intelligence
Now we know what AI is, let’s look at where artificial intelligence and public relations intersect.
- How can we use AI for PR?
- What artificial intelligence PR tools are available to use?
- What are the benefits and drawbacks of public relations AI?
Examples of AI Public Relations Tools
We’ll begin with the platform everybody’s talking about: ChatGPT.
A free, natural language processing (NLP) tool created by OpenAI, ChatGPT uses artificial intelligence to provide detailed responses to any question you ask.
We tested it out by asking: ‘Who was the most searched for celebrity on Google in 2017?’
This was the response we got: ‘According to Google’s Year in Search 2017 report, the most searched for celebrity in 2017 was actress Meghan Markle, who later became the Duchess of Sussex upon marrying Prince Harry. Markle gained widespread attention and media coverage due to her relationship with Prince Harry, and her engagement to the royal in November 2017 caused a significant surge in online searches related to her.’
We Googled the question to make sure the answer we got was correct. It was.
ChatGPT and PR
We’ve established that ChatGPT is a reliable source of knowledge on celebrity trivia, but can it help PR pros take some of the heavy lifting out of press releases and email pitches?
PR Daily’s Allison Carter set ChatGPT some PR tasks to find out.
Task 1: Journalist Pitch
To start, she asked for a 300-word article on how PR professionals can pitch reporters.
The result? ‘A serviceable article’ that’s ‘a bit repetitive and reads like a school essay.’
However, she went on to say the content ‘wouldn’t raise eyebrows if it were published on many blogs.’
Task 2: Press Release
She then asked it to write a press release:
‘Write a press release announcing that Allison L. Carter has been hired as executive editor for PR Daily.’ Allison deemed the first effort ‘a big failure,’ but gave it another chance, after providing more detailed information:
‘Write a press release announcing Allison L. Carter of Indianapolis as the executive director of PR Daily, part of Ragan Communications.’ Armed with the additional details, ChatGPT still failed to deliver.
As Allison states in the article: ‘The only change was that it correctly said that PR Daily is a brand of Ragan Communications. Every other detail, from the non-existent editor-in-chief to my credentials, was wrong.’
You can read the full article here and see the results here.
ChatGPT: Pros and Cons
So, it seems that ChatGPT is useful – to a point. But it’s not without its flaws and limitations:
Here are some pros and cons.
- It’s quick, saving you valuable time
- It learns more each time it’s used
- It will only get better at what it does
- Its knowledge cut-off is September 2021
- It lacks common sense and emotional intelligence
- There’s potential for biased and harmful results
- Answers may be false or inaccurate.
Another revolutionary AI tool brought to you by the folks at OpenAI, Dall-E-2 is a text-to-image generator that creates realistic images from your text-input.
For example, if you ask for a ‘cyberpunk illustration of a medieval castle.’ You get this in return. Or something like it.
- Credit: dalle2.gallery
Granted, you may not have a use for a cyberpunk castle photograph as a PR pro. But the point is you can use AI image generators to create all sorts of weird and wonderful images to support your PR campaigns, social media posts and press releases.
The one downside of Dall-E-2 is that – unlike ChatGPT – it isn’t free. You have to buy credits.
They aren’t expensive, but there are free-to-use alternatives out there.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could use artificial intelligence to monitor brand sentiment and track mentions across the internet? With Sprinklr you can.
The AI-powered tool gathers insights across all the social media platforms, blogs, forums and news sites and tracks online conversations about your brand, competitors and industry-related keywords in real-time.
Knowing what people are saying about your business, when they say it, can help you quickly identify potential PR crises and take swift action to counter negative press.
What’s more, the platform’s analytics and reporting features make it simple to track and measure audience engagement and campaign effectiveness. And the competitor monitoring function is a handy add-on for benchmarking your performance and tracking industry trends.
All in all, Sprinklr is a handy tool to add to your public relations arsenal.
Want to try it out? Sign up for 30 days free access.
We’ve done text, images and monitoring tools. What about video?
Enter Synthesia. An AI-powered video creation tool that allows users to create engaging video content. Simply type in your request and watch it go.
You can quickly and easily generate videos combining text, images and audio to promote products, share case studies and testimonials or communicate important brand messages to customers across the globe.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. The platform offers over 125 avatars and voiceovers in more than 120 languages and accents, enabling you to artificially generate videos that look and sound human to customers, in their native tongue.
It’s both amazing and a little scary.
Check out this video to see what it can do: Welcome to Syntheisa
It’s important to do due diligence when creating videos using AI technology, especially when communicating with an international audience in foreign languages. You wouldn’t want to create a PR crisis because of an incorrect or misinterpreted word or phrase. It’s easily done. Just ask HSBC.
For more on the relationship between PR and video, read: How to Use Video for Public Relations.
The Benefits of Using AI in PR
We’ve looked at a few of the many AI tools floating around in cyberspace and how you can use them to carry some of the PR load. Now let’s turn our attention to the benefits (and drawbacks) of doing so.
When it comes to PR, speed is of the essence. Turnaround times are tight and media outlets want copy yesterday. Anything that gets a task done quicker is welcome, right?
This is where AI excels. The technology can help write press releases, create video and PR images in seconds. It can also help avert a crisis: the ability to quickly churn out a written response to negative press is incredibly useful.
Just remember to fact check, edit and humanise it. Or, you’ll add fuel to the fire.
For more on crisis communication, read: Crisis Management in Public Relations.
Even the best PR pros come up against writer’s block. Trying to find a catchy hook for a story or the best way to convey a corporate message is not an easy task.
When your public relations brain needs a helping hand, AI can spark the inspiration needed to write a killer press release, catchy headline or engaging email to journalists.
Filling Skill Gaps
Your team’s written word and speaking abilities are second to none. But maybe video creation is not your thing?
Yes, you can hire a professional videographer. But it’ll cost you – a lot. An AI tool can do the job in next to no time, for less.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t bring in a professional: Human expertise is irreplaceable. But if money is tight, and the technology is fit for purpose, AI is a mere click away.
The Drawbacks of Using Artificial Intelligence in Public Relations
Lack of Personality
While AI tools like ChatGPT can throw out content at a rate of knots, the results lack personality, authenticity and the deep understanding PR pros have with clients. On top of this, AI cannot build and maintain the all-important relationships with journalists and influencers that are key to PR success.
The accuracy of information provided by AI is only as good as the data it uses. That data could be biased, incomplete, or just plain wrong.
If this is the case, you could have a big PR headache on your hands.
Gathering data about brand sentiment on social media using a platform like Sprinklr is all well and good. But what if the analysis is inaccurate?
AI isn’t sophisticated enough to understand the nuances of tone or context, making for potentially unreliable data on brand perception. So, proceed with caution.
Potential Risk to Brand Reputation
There are a lot of unknowns surrounding artificial intelligence technology. Although AI tools are largely uninhibited by government regulations now, laws and policies are likely to be drawn up in the future. Especially considering ChatGPT has been known to produce sexist, racist and bigoted content, as highlighted in this Bloomberg article which states: ‘Like all AI products, it has the potential to learn biases of the people training it and the potential to spit out some sexist, racist and otherwise offensive stuff.’
There are privacy concerns relating to the data it relies on to work, alongside issues with intellectual property and copyright infringement – both of which can create painful legal issues for businesses.
It goes without saying, if you’re using AI for PR, you don’t want to put your client’s business at risk by distributing offensive content. Again, proceed with caution.
The Future of AI and Public Relations
For all the positives, there are clearly some big issues that need ironing out.
But let’s be honest. This is just the beginning. Advances in AI technology are not going to slow down or stop. New platforms will emerge, and faster and smarter than the ones before.
For PR professionals, it’s a case of embracing the change or falling behind.
However, technology is no substitute for PR pros. We’ve spent years mastering our craft and honing our skills. AI will complement a PR expert’s work, not replace it.