What Does Artificial Intelligence Mean for the PR industry?

What Does Artificial Intelligence Mean for the PR industry?

Professor Stephen Hawking said ‘it could be the worst thing ever to happen to humanity’. While entrepreneur Elon Musk described it as ‘our biggest existential threat’. It also has the potential to eradicate 11 million jobs in the UK alone. The cause of this apocalypse? Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Artificial intelligence has been hyped as the answer to all of humanity’s problems ever since the idea was first conceived at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire in the 1950s. However, it wasn’t possible for early AI initiatives to live up to the hype, and the technology got shelved. But in the last ten years, the technology has made a resurgence and today, AI is everywhere: Amazon Echo sold out at Christmas, Watson brought us closer to finding treatments for all sorts of ailments, and Google’s DeepMind won the world’s hardest game. And it won’t be long before we’ll all have self-driving cars, goods delivered by drones, and AI assistants that are so smart, we’ll never have to work again.

The idea that AI could displace people can no longer be dismissed as an outlandish theory.

So where does this leave those of us in jobs that require creativity, forward thinking and human judgement, such as marketing and PR?

AI is already being used in PR

AI is already changing the way the creative industries work. In 2015, M&C Saatchi launched an AI poster, which monitors the reactions of the audience and adapts itself accordingly. And in March 2016, McCann Japan went a step further and appointed an AI creative director, which utilises historical data to ‘identify optimal commercial direction’.

From a PR perspective, social media is now automated through platforms like Hootsuite, TweetDeck and Buffer. And low-skilled, repetitive tasks such as creating media coverage reports, dispatching press releases and creating media lists are fully automated in many PR agencies. For tasks like this, people simply can’t match the speed and accuracy of computers. After all, AI technology has the power to understand large amounts of data and the ability to synthesise information faster than any human could.

But fear not, robots will never be able to completely replace PR pros. Why? Because machines do not, and never will possess the creative ability to supersede humans.

Robots can’t replace PR pros 

The tools for a successful PR professional are rooted in many things including communication, writing skills and personal traits like tenacity, empathy, and even humour and charisma. PR centres on building and maintaining relationships to pave the way for a bridge of communication between PR professionals and journalists. Therefore, human interaction is essential.

Not only that, a computer can’t tell you what will make an emotional connection with your target audience, or has the media nous to tell you to pull the plug on an announcement if a breaking story is likely to dominate the news agenda that day. Humans are far better at quickly identifying the right move. Human intuition and anticipation trumps artificial probabilistic calculations. And this is important. A quick glance at the news suggests we’re living in a world of unprecedented unpredictability where the innately human ability to anticipate and respond is paramount. Consequently, we cannot rely on a machine to come to the right conclusion.

AI and PR pros working together

If we work with the idea that artificial intelligence – rather than replacing us – will assist us in our day-to-day work, taking care of all the niggly ad hoc tasks, what could we do with all the time we would save? We’d have more time to be creative and have the mental capacity to take on more projects. It’s a win-win.

The fact is, there will be further advancements in AI and computational creativity, and increased automation of creative tasks. The PR industry, therefore, cannot afford to bury its head in the sand, as one way or another, AI is going to change everything.

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