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The impact of AI on PR

By Aaron Covington:


Artificial Intelligence (AI). No matter where you look, it seems the words are constantly staring you in the face. While it’s certainly a transformational technology, it comes with a lot of baggage. For decades, it’s been cast in a negative light.


Anyone who’s watched I, Robot, Terminator or The Matrix will have seen the bleakness associated with AI in popular culture. Meanwhile, there are endless scare stories about software taking our jobs, leaving humans purposeless and even undermining democracy.


But the reality is less dramatic. As Bill Gates recently said, the risks of AI are real but manageable. With this in mind, we’ve been thinking about how AI will affect our own industry. How it will help or hinder, and what we need to be thinking about as the software’s capabilities continue to develop.

Stack of newspapers spread out

AI will become the PR’s sidekick

The likes of generative AI have already made an irreversible impact on the PR industry. With its ability to generate reports, answer rapid research requests, and provide a springboard for idea generation, AI has cemented its status as a virtual assistant. As the technology evolves, so will its integration into daily life – both work and personal.


Research from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations claims that AI tools are now able to assist with up to 40 per cent of tasks. With the capabilities of AI constantly evolving, this statistic is only likely to increase.


As AI becomes further ingrained in the industry, agencies will need to focus on upskilling their staff, as well as adapting processes to incorporate these virtual assistants, while also maintaining a level of creativity and professionalism that clients expect.


PR will still require a personal touch

When ChatGPT burst onto the scene, many began to experiment with its capabilities straight away. For the PR industry, it posed something of an issue, particularly for content creation. First, and perhaps the most worrying, is that some clients believe generative AI can take the place of agency content writers.


But it can’t – not fully. However good ChatGPT is at crafting materials, it’s always derivative and can suffer from an inability to write longer form content, such as bylined articles or blogs. Agencies must maintain faith not only in their writing abilities but ensure clients understand the vital need for content written by a human.


Conversely, some clients might worry about an agency relying too heavily on the use of AI – especially when journalists have been keen to make it clear they don’t want software-generated articles from agencies.


Again, the way to deal with this is for agencies to underline the vital need for a human touch and to be clear about if, how and why they use tools like ChatGPT.


AI can’t do everything

While AI will certainly become a sidekick, and sometimes support with the creation of content, there are endless examples of things it simply can’t do. It can’t write perfect pitch decks. It can’t go to meetings. It can’t pitch in stories. It can’t motivate teams.


These are all tasks at the heart of PR agencies – and they’re not going away. The trick for agencies will be understanding where AI can add value and hasten processes while being clear about its limitations.


Agencies must neither rule out AI nor attempt to incorporate it into everything. Just like any other technology, it must be used responsibly to the benefit of teams, clients and journalists.


If we can achieve this and manage the risks, we’ll hopefully shed some of the baggage around AI and start seeing it for what it is: a useful tool we can add to the PR armoury.


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