December 17, 2018
From industry stalwarts like Elon Musk and Bill Gates to pioneers like Stephen Hawking, everyone has been fascinated by the subject of intelligent robots taking over. A favourite topic of science fiction enthusiasts for decades, from “Terminator” and “Matrix” to more recent- “Ex Machina” and “Blade Runner 2049”, machines are being designed to think, feel, and reason the way humans do.
Is it the beginning of the end of PR as we see it? We explored how AI can help critical PR functions by removing the monotonous and routine and freeing up more time for strategising and creativity. The next stage is to understand how to implement AI in PR spectrum so it can be a beneficial tool rather than the proverbial elephant in the room.
One day, the PR industry may rely on AI more than it is apprehensive about it.
Consider this example- You want to take headlines and rewrite them for social media so that you could highlight your client’s or their brand’s role in the story. You may assign a person to copy and paste URLs, cross-referencing the right hashtags, and then you post. Now imagine having algorithms that are able to manage the same social media promotion and your social media engagement.
Something similar happened at Associated Press: You see, Associated Press was able to post no more than 300 quarterly earning stories, and despite every business, reporting journalist had to face this nightmarish moment of compiling and presenting quarterly earnings, many potential companies remained unreported.
With AI technique called natural language generation, NLG, AP is not able to post more than 4400 quarterly earning stories- a 15 fold rise from their manual effort, and of course, freeing up the business journalists for more creative pursuits.(Read the case study here)
How should the PR sector prepare itself to implement AI?
Think of Apple and Google, who have kept user experience (UX) of their products at the forefront by smart use of data and informatics. AI is here to stay, and here are some strategies to implement it successfully in a PR agency’s operations
- Brainstorm with your team– Do you need AI to solve big problems like planning a media strategy? Or is it about reducing the grunt work like scheduling tasks and follow-ups? Discussing the pain-points and bottle-necks with your team and coming up with small, but smart solutions to most common efficiency drainers.
- Automate, automate, automate– most of the AI-enabled processes work smoothly only when the firms have already crossed the hurdle of automating areas that were manual and error-prone earlier.AI gives you results when you give data to machines to work on and make patterns. The more data you have, the better your AI processes will work.
- Ask questions– Become the student of AI, and be the inquisitive journalist for a change. Don’t believe whatever you see and hear. The best program that everyone swears by may not bring any value to your firm. Ask a lot of questions, count your pennies. Then count it again.
- Make AI not the replacement, but a part of your team-Remember, AI is part of your team, and in the long run, it may be one of the most valuable team players, but first, you have to train it to do as you want. AI will simplify tasks like listening, recording, analysing and reporting. However, it cannot replace the human touch in building trust and relationships.
- Evaluate and forecast the skill sets needed – with AI in the picture, you may have to let go of certain skill sets and may ask the employees to adapt to the new order. Focus on training the existing staff, while keeping an eye on the new recruitments with defined skill sets like AI and big data. You would want a more heterogeneous mixture of team members who can work on a variety of functions, from technology, analytics, to media management and content writing.
AI is already making a massive impact on our lives. The tasks and skills can be automated or can be hugely benefitted from AI, but there will still be a need for human intervention in editing, applying good judgement and ethics. Experiential learning combined with continuous development and upskilling will be extremely helpful for PR professionals. Talking about AI and facing resistance is something similar to the slow-to-modernize copywriter who resisted computers in favour of his trusted typewriter.
Unless we up-skill and learn about AI and how it works WITH PR, PR companies can’t really make the transition. With machine doing the heavy lifting – the categorizing, detecting and reporting, PR professionals can do a lot of strategic and creative work. The future is all about embracing AI and the amazing developments that come along with it.
About the author:
Shiv Shankar – He is the Executive Director & Founder of K2 Communications. Under his astute leadership, K2 Communications has developed into a frontrunner among PR agencies that incessantly delivers excellent regional and national PR support to clients belonging to various sectors including government, IT, education, consumer, and healthcare.