“(Artificial Intelligence is) either the best or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity “–Stephen Hawking
Talk about artificial intelligence in Public relations, and you would either get blank stares or talks about how machines will one day rule the world. Many people are afraid that AI could make their PR jobs obsolete. The fear not entirely unjustified either.
Look at the way AI has changed the way we communicate and get things done. From Google Assistant which can tell you a joke to self-driving cars by Uber, there is no industry that has not been affected and influenced by artificial intelligence. AI has brought in a revolution where machines are replacing jobs us as humans have been doing ourselves for decades.
Mckinsey & Company estimated that around 45% of paid activities might get replaced with technologies that are currently not yet fully developed! In the US, a whopping $2 trillion in US wages could be wiped out as a result of automation.
Before you hop on to jobseekers bandwagon and start sprucing up your resume, here is a quick look at what the furor is all about.
Wikipedia defines Artificial Intelligence (AI) as – the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence.
Before thinking that AI will rob you off your job, let’s first understand how the use of technology in PR functions can revolutionize the entire PR agency ecosystem.
Imagine getting your computer does all these aspects of your work-
As you are reading this, the wheels are already moving. Companies like AirPR and Trendkite have started providing everything from cutting-edge research, analytics, to PR measurement and PR attribution tools, delivering audience insights, targeted outreach and impact analysis right into the mailboxes of their clients.
In more than one way, using AI and machine learning is helping PR agencies deliver quality information that enhances how they do their job and augments their client servicing abilities.
AI is removing mundane, monotonous work from the PR agency’s hands and giving them more tools to organize their job better. For example, creating media lists, arranging meetings, writing standard follow up emails, all this can be handed off to machines. The author of this piece got a chance to check out the immense possibilities of HubSpot CRM and came out thoroughly impressed. There indeed are areas where machines can do routine work better than humans.
However, soft skills aspects like relationship building, creative strategy development, building trust, and telling a story- remain in the domain of PR professionals, as at the end of the day, we are dealing with humans across the table.
When you write a press release, you need to use your experience, powers of anticipation, and intuition to framing the release that effectively conveys your client’s brief. AI cannot take your place. What it might help you with is
This blog on AIRPR sums it up well:
“By taking advantage of massive quantities of data and using AI to draw insights on it, PR pros can now . . . cut through the clutter and find useful, relevant data, quantify buzz and press hits, properly attribute revenue, know which tactics are working, spot brand and revenue indicators and identify PR funnel accelerators.”
Data is the DNA for all PR companies.AI can help PR firms to sift through big data and help them assess readership’s core attributes, for example. PR companies will be able to process their data at a rapid speed, giving them improved insight on what their consumers want, and sharpening their messages to be more robust and direct.
Google is already doing it. With YouTube targeting ads based on your search and the content that you are watching, optimization is happening in real-time, producing higher results due to the messaging being relevant and pertinent for the consumer.
When it comes to reaching out to social and news media influencers, PR professionals always are in a quandary. Too generic a pitch and the influencer might go ahead and ignore you, while too specific and you may not reach out to a majority of them. Besides, who has the time to curate a hyper-relevant, eye-ball grabbing pitch for each influencer?
As we shared in our hugely popular Framing- A double-edged sword in PR content strategy, every individual’s perception of reality is guided by many factors, which themselves are dynamic.
Now imagine a world where, by using AI, we can analyze previous articles written by social and news influencers to find out who is often writing about healthcare or education. Using AI techniques like natural language processing, we can even curate a list of these specific influencers, analyze their writing styles, and find their core focus on most of the articles written by them. With this list, we can see the most relevant match of the likelihood of which influencers will be interested in covering the story.
As you maintain the relationships with these influencers, AI will also help in sorting out who have higher response rates to your pitches and would suggest them to you for future. From pitch analytics to automated pitch personalization, media outreach strategies could be automated to add more effective tools in a PR agency’s kit.
As our world is becoming more and more visual, unless important news and social posts don’t have images or videos to hook up the target audience, all the PR efforts might be in vain. It might not be possible to accurately pinpoint the number of times a brand was mentioned in the form of images, photos, blog posts or videos unless you have someone explicitly sifting through analytics software. And still, at least images will not be a part of that purview.
Now imagine what it does to a CEO’s PR.
If you have an image recognition technology that can automatically detect faces, as well as actually name the people, brands and even products within the images, it can ensure that in addition to monitoring the text mentions on social media and news, you are also able to capture, record and report visual impressions of the brand to your client.
Any positive or negative experience shared by consumers by posting photos can be covered in this way, whether they have hashtagged you or not.
Although PR is not as data-centric as many, AI can be helpful in gathering and analyzing data to help demonstrate the ROI of a campaign.
PR pros are often making data-driven decisions based on the past performance of campaigns, social media exposure, and competitors benchmarking. This means having to build reports on all of these activities by wading through an ocean of data from a variety of sources, turning spreadsheets and charts into easily understandable graphs.
Media Intelligence tools are already here, and by detecting patterns and changes over time, AI lets PR firms translate trends into words in a matter of minutes. Sentiment analysis is an integral part of any progressive PR company report about brand perception. Traditionally it involved a ton of tedious manual work, market research, and still, the results will be inaccurate as they are often based on “cumulative sentiment” and often ignore the grey areas.
New advancements in sentiment analysis combined with natural language processing help drill down to each specific person, product, place, or company in an article and even analyze the surrounding sentence for how the writer feels particularly about the brand.
For example: “ I loved the website, but the delivery of my product took a long time” by a journalist, could be bad news if you are the supplier of the product, but good news if you are into website design and development, and for the PR firm on either side, it’s a lot of work and PR intervention!
PR companies today need quick as well as intelligent tools that answer the requirements of fast-paced PR accounts executives and also cater to the most complicated in-house communication department. AI can help design tools that understand a PR executive’s workflow and offer an error-free process by eliminating duplicity of tasks.
A significant chunk of a PR professional’s time is spent on scheduling calendars, structuring meeting notes, and summarizing actions, to-dos, delivery dates, creating Gantt charts, and following up with everyone concerned… If all this is automated, the productivity of PR people will dramatically improve, and the risk of delays, errors, miscommunication, and losing it in translation will be minimum.
Artificial Intelligence is mathematical, based on iterations and logic; it needs patterns to build hypotheses, algorithms, and programs.
For AI to be able to add value to PR, it will require vast amounts of data. Something like Amazon does when you look for a laptop; you are also shown accessories, frequently bought together items, even laptop bags. To help AI reach that level where it tells you what to pitch and to whom, there is a significant hurdle- context.
PR is potently context-driven, and recommendations might work for those who have no prior experience or time, to do research, but the best PR agencies are known for doing their homework, and most likely won’t rely on technology to select the best pitch for them. For AI to add value to an experienced, seasoned PR professional, it will require a lot of data and training. A real AI system is the one that can learn. By improving on past iterations, these systems get smarter and more aware, allowing them to enhance their knowledge and potential. And this learning will be provided by the PR professionals themselves!
To sum it up, AI is not an existential threat to PR professionals, yet.
There is a widely held belief, that machines cannot, have the creative ability and emotional insight to supersede the PR professional. Human intelligence combined with cognitive computing skills renders the best outcomes. PR analytics is useless if the output doesn’t tell you the story on the parameters specified by your clients. AI is a helpful assistant for PR pros, which allows them to focus more on developing and executing creative strategies to create better brand awareness, stronger audience engagement, and influential thought leadership. Although you don’t need a degree in computer science to build an AI strategy, PR pros can’t sit on the sidelines and let AI takeover their decisions without their input.
“A bot can’t lay claim to emotional intelligence, a cornerstone of all PR work. Teams employing AI handling external communication would be wise to have plans to manage reputation should anything go awry…Humans build trust with humans — not bots.”
Ivan Ristic, Diffusion, in PRWeek
About the author:
Shiv Shankar 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.
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