Incorporating Artificial Intelligence into Your Communications Strategy
March 15, 2023
By Sean Asher
Imagine a world where your conversations, content requests and even creative outputs are handled not by humans, but by artificial intelligence. A world where chatbots not only answer your search queries, but also engage in complex conversations, provide personalized recommendations, and even generate stories, poems and songs.
Depending on your opinion, this may sound like a futuristic utopia or a dystopian nightmare, but the truth is, it’s already here, and for those of us in the field of communication, we need to learn how to move forward with this new reality while also dispelling any misunderstanding that this is a replacement for the quality of work that we, as PR professionals, put forth.
Artificial intelligence, or AI for short, is rapidly becoming an integral part of our daily lives, changing the way we work, live, communicate and interact with each other. It’s quickly shaping up to potentially be the most disruptive new technology introduced to society since the internet, and as we welcome this revolutionary new tool into our lives, we need to consider both its potential benefits and pitfalls, especially as it pertains to our world of public relations and communications.
For those who are unfamiliar, AI chatbots like ChatGPT use a natural language processing tool to pull information from across the web and answer search queries. Many use deep learning algorithms to understand and generate human-like responses in natural language, and are trained on massive amounts of text data from various sources, enabling them to provide surprisingly accurate and relevant responses.
These chatbots’ abilities go way beyond simple search queries; they can engage in conversations, provide recommendations, summarize key points from entire books or movies, write songs or pen personal letters, and that’s just scratching the surface.
With the ever-increasing advancements in AI and the recent buzz around these machine-learning chatbots being introduced to the public, it is now possible to use AI to streamline and automate various tasks in the public relations and communications industries. Need a new blog idea? Ask AI. Struggling to find the right words for a social media post? Ask AI. Essentially, AI has the potential to revolutionize the way we approach our work.
Adding AI to PR
However, despite the advantages, PR professionals (and anyone using AI for that matter) should strive to strike a balance between the automation achieved by this revolutionary new technology and the personalization that only the “human touch” can provide. In doing so, we can ensure that AI is used to support and enhance our work, rather than replace it.
As PR pro Michael Smart points out in a recent article, AI is like having an entry-level worker or assistant by your side 24/7, with virtually no salary demands. Sure, they can help you get started on projects with little to no turnaround time, but anything beyond that is not really what they are designed to do. It takes a true PR professional to take the initial, formulaic response spat out by a bot and turn it into something truly impactful and meaningful to a human reader. All AI-assisted writing needs to be fact-checked, edited and added to just as much, if not more than human writing ought to be.
A big concern I’ve heard recently is that AI has the potential to make PR professionals, for lack of a better term, lazy. Why do the work if AI can do it for me? Along the same lines, there is a fear that companies that hire and depend on PR professionals may begin to see them as obsolete, opting to turn to AI rather than pay for professional services. The danger here is in confusing content with creativity.
As Pierpont points out in a recent article, AI is not a substitute for PR professionals. While ChatGPT can write an adequate news release or pitch, it lacks the human touch, nuance and in-depth industry awareness that are so critical to success in the PR industry. The quality of AI-generated content is not the same as the creativity of real-life PR professionals, and AI alone cannot replace the skills and knowledge required to build and maintain relationships with stakeholders, media outlets and the public.
Crafting messages that resonate requires sensitivity and subtlety, something that AI simply cannot provide in its current state. Companies and clients turn to PR professionals for strategic thinking and advice, and while the future of AI may allow communicators to focus less time on “rough drafts,” freeing up time for the development of strategic plans that impact a company’s bottom line, those who entirely rely on AI to make decisions for them risk losing their spark of innovation and creativity, as well as accountability.
There are also ethical and privacy concerns, as well as concerns about the accuracy of responses that these AI tools can provide. All of that is to say, proceed with caution. In the field of PR, building relationships and connecting with stakeholders is essential, and this requires a human touch that AI simply cannot replicate.
Adopting AI Responsibly
Regardless of the potential downsides, the adoption of AI is not a choice, but a necessity. It is a disruptive new technology that cannot be ignored, and will continue to shape the future of our industry and others.
It’s hard to believe now, but in the early 2000s, email pitching was seen as odd, and in the early 2010s, social media seemed like a millennial fad. Now, both of these are essential to our everyday lives, and our industry is better off for it.
In the long run, you most likely won’t need to worry about losing your job to AI, but you probably will need to worry about losing your job to a PR professional who knows how to reasonably and responsibly incorporate AI into their everyday workflow.
The question is not whether or not to adopt AI, but rather how to adopt it responsibly and use it to our advantage. By doing so, we can stay ahead of the curve, remain competitive, and continue to provide the best possible service to our clients and stakeholders.
If you’re nervous about adopting this new technology, you’re not alone. Don’t think you’ve got to throw away everything that got you here overnight. If you haven’t yet, just go to chat.openai.com, set up an account and start typing in the prompt. You’ll never work the same again.
AI has the potential to revolutionize the PR industry by streamlining processes, providing valuable insights, and freeing up PR professionals to focus on more strategic and creative tasks. It is vital that we, as both an industry and society at large, understand how to effectively strike the balance between using AI as a force for good while not over-relying on its outputs, and while nobody knows where this technology will take us in 10-20 years, it doesn’t much matter. It’s here today and knocking on the door. Will you be brave enough to let it in?
Note: This blog was written with the assistance of OpenAI’s ChatGPT.