I’m dizzy from all the news and hype on how artificial intelligence (AI) is going to completely reshape, or worse, destroy the PR industry.
News flash: We work in technology.
Technology is always changing, disrupting, reshaping, and often improving how we work.
A tale as old as time, the AI replacing PR story has been circulating for years. I was working in PR before mobile phones, through the dot-com boom and bust, Y2K, the Internet and Google Search, social media, and certainly before the rise of the machines. Heck, the first machine I leveraged in my career was a fax machine.
I’m not attempting to (age myself or) minimize the actual risks and important ethical questions surrounding this next wave of AI. We can’t ignore technology’s transformational potential, and the necessary focus on managing truth and accuracy in journalism and PR. However, I do want to attempt to bring a bit of levity to the conversation specific to AI and PR.
Do not be afraid.
Let’s break down some of the most prevalent myths surrounding AI and PR. (Full disclosure: I did run my idea through ChatGPT to see if we agreed on what they are!)
Myth: PR bots will replace PR bodies.
Sure, there is serious potential for AI to increase our speed and efficiency by automating parts of our job functions. That’s innovation. I’m less worried that AI is going to replace us completely. While AI can automate, streamline, and improve the work we do, it can’t bring the same level of creativity, intuition, and certainly not the relationships (putting the “relations” into public relations.) At Offleash, we are leveraging AI-powered tools as we have any promising new technology: to provide efficiency, better data, and insights that we can learn from and pass along to our clients.
Myth: Generative AI helps PR to “cheat” the system.
If used appropriately, generative AI can be a good way to find data, revise pitches, quickly distil information about a complex subject, or bridge disparate ideas. I’ve tested it to generate headlines and taglines to jumpstart the creative process. Human input and understanding is important in nearly every scenario, because if anything, generative AI can actually push us to be MORE creative. Everyone has tools like ChatGPT at their disposal now, so the real test is writing something better and more beautiful than what it spits out. We are not using generative AI at our agency for writing original content like press releases, bylines, or blogs, for example. There is journalistic accuracy and ethics to consider, and we are committed to the integrity of our original content and important media relationships. We are counseling our clients the same.
Myth: AI can handle the thorniest crisis communications.
Hard no. AI has plenty of potential to break down vast amounts of data and coverage in a crisis and look for patterns. Crisis communications is more nuanced than that, requiring at least a bit of human understanding, and in so many cases very fast decisions based on a mix of facts and gut instinct. There is still a pivotal role for communications experts, human interpretation, and human empathy, to play in an unfolding crisis.
Myth: AI can solve any PR challenge.
AI is not a magic bullet. There’s an important role for PR professionals who build strategy, provide insights and human analysis based on many, many years of experience, relationships, and problem solving, and who will continue to help manage and train the AI systems we use. I recognize that the innovation happening in AI today is faster than anything we’ve seen to date, and that’s exciting. It’s also a powerful technology – like others before it – that can be harnessed to benefit our work in brand building and public relations.
Avoid the myths and stay open to AI and its possibilities.
I’ve found generative AI helpful when learning a complex technology or new space, a bit like Internet search is a much more efficient tool than traveling to the library to look something up in an encyclopedia. And if I’m stuck at a blank page (like this blog because I’m a terrible procrastinator!), ChatGPT can serve as a well-meaning assistant to spark ideas.
If you believe Mark Twain, there are no original ideas. He famously wrote, “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”
AI is another tool – a kaleidoscope – that can support and enhance our work in PR, but it won’t replace human touch, collaboration, or creativity anytime soon. If anything, tools like generative AI put creativity at a higher premium, making our role more valuable. For 20+ years, our philosophy at Offleash has been to stay open to new technology innovation, while always staying true to our core values: Integrity First. Be Bold. All In.
A bot was not responsible for writing this article.