The PR sector will face many changes in the future, and AI may just be the most daunting. However, I recently attended a CIPR webinar about AI in PR, and learned that change in the sector might not be as daunting as we think.
As humans, we instinctively feel threatened by the possibility of AI and it is clear that PR professionals’ sentiments towards AI in their sector varies. The AI and Big Data Readiness Report (2021) by the CIPR AI in PR Panel measures that some communications professionals are encouraged that AI will increase efficiency and opportunities, but others feel that AI is synonymous with job loss and ethical obstacles. There seems to be a mixture of emotions where AI is concerned, flipping between optimism and fear. However, there is a silver lining: research by Oxford University in 2013 shows that the industry only has a 0.18% probability of automation and computerisation. This reiterates that PR, at its core, is a creative sector where humans cater to humans. Yet, similar to all industries, PR must evolve and the expansion of AI is already proving this.
AI vs AI – what does it all mean?
When we think of AI, we naturally think of artificial intelligence – but in analysing AI in the PR industry, augmented intelligence appears much more fitting. This distinction can be confusing, both artificial intelligence and augmented intelligence share similar objectives, but these two concepts differ wildly in their methodology. Where artificial intelligence is the creation of machines to act like humans, augmented intelligence uses these same machines to support and enhance human decision-making.
How can we make AI in PR work for us?
The PR sector is lagging behind other industries that have already embraced AI changes, such as Business and Finance – 41.5% of comms professionals know what AI is but feel they lack the technical skills and 30% are familiar with AI but do not feel comfortable applying AI knowledge to their role. Simply put, AI is still seen as a ‘new’ concept by many in the PR world. However, taking these sentiments into consideration, there are some areas within PR where the shift to AI provides PR professionals with useful tools to pick up granular detail, assisting us with reporting for our clients. As a Junior Account Executive, my day-to-day tasks are influenced by programmes that use AI: I can use Roxhill or Muck Rack to gather the best media intelligence; I can view social media analytics to measure engagement and sentiment; and I can use speech-to-text to help me capture soundbites for content creation. These applications provide me with the opportunity to be as efficient as possible as I work.
Looking to the AI future
So what do we actually have to look forward to? Allison Spray, Managing Director, Data + Analytics at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, explained that augmented intelligence will rise in popularity in two areas in the coming decade: firstly in prediction and production, and secondly in strategic planning. We can already find augmented intelligence programmes starting to transform copywriting with smart-writing applications like HyperWrite changing the landscape.
The position of the copywriter will be directed into more editorial waters – amending text written by augmented intelligence rather than starting with a blank page. Secondly, augmented intelligence will change how we plan and evaluate communications campaigns, with programmes emerging that can build matrices and models that outline the different options we can take and predict their outcomes, providing PR professionals with the most cost-effective and efficient options for their clients.