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AI for PR – The Path to the Present, and the Potential

February 27, 2019
By Natasha Kennedy

I had the pleasure of participating on a panel on February 19th for PRSA Chicago called ‘The Good, the Bad & the Ugly of Artificial Intelligence on PR.’ I was joined by Andrew Cross, senior vice president, public relations, Walker Sands Communications; Andrea Rosi, director of product marketing, Cision; and Marc Zionts, chief executive officer, Automated Insights.

In the corporate world, and specifically that of communications, we are uncertain about how AI will impact our lives; we may be a little worried about how it may affect corporate and personal reputations, and also how it will change our jobs. Moreover, a study conducted by TRUE Global Intelligence (the practice I lead) of 1,000 consumers in the US and UK each, respectively, found that 81 percent of respondents said communications would be the sector most disrupted by AI over the next five years. Though all this may be true, AI presents opportunities for growth and development in some of the following areas:

  • While AI will replace jobs, it will likely create more, and evolve the current roles we have today. AI may write press releases, create a media list or generate a media advisory, yet today it can’t take a journalist to lunch or convince a client that giving a specific journalist an exclusive is a good idea. This AI application and the role of a media relations specialist are likely to change in the future. This illuminates the necessity to consider how the value of PR changes over time, reskill existing workforces and provide education for new employees. A friend of mine recently shared with me his visit to a pharmacy in Shanghai where prescriptions are filled solely by robots, which then automatically distribute them to their recipients’ assigned drawers. While AI is automating a process previously filled by humans, there is still a pharmacist on staff, monitoring and adjusting the entire process. Today.
  • If it replaces jobs and creates new ones, the model of PR will inevitably change. We knew it was bound to happen. We have been considering which functions and roles will be improved or changed. For example, through innovations in AI, the way a crisis is anticipated or mitigated will likely change drastically. Data will continually be collected and through machine learning and natural language generation, some crises, especially reputational, may possibly be averted, to the extent communications and actions may be sent throughout a supply chain and to news outlets, in machine to machine communication, to minimize or avert a crisis.
  • On the agency and client side, while the marketing industry is more data-driven, enabling AI for PR is woefully behind. Most are in the beginning stages of collecting data and trialing new technology to derive value and insight from it. What we absorb as humans is a narrative – the opportunity is taking data and transforming it into meaningful and understandable communications. The immediate future opportunity is the advancement that will be made integrating that narrative into an experience across all platforms – virtual reality, augmented reality, TV, social media, video, etc.
  • Just for fun, check out Crystal Knows. While I am not one to subscribe to tools and gadgets without prioritizing business purpose and impact, (and admittedly don’t have direct experience with this tool) it’s worth knowing what’s out there and where the “low hanging fruit” of automation can make your life just a little bit easier or add more value.

This education we are experiencing in the industry is natural, and a part of how change begins. And that is exactly what is important to highlight – change. These innovations can bring advancements to the industry and to roles to further develop the field and ourselves.  I always appreciate that saying, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” A colleague of mine says data is a dirty word. It’s time to remind ourselves what an asset it is.