Physicist Stephen Hawking has said it will be “either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity” and praised the establishment of institutions dedicated to monitoring its impact on society. But is artificial intelligence really an existential threat to mankind? What about to PR experts?
Conversations about AI often invoke blank stares or talk of robots taking over the world. True, automation has eliminated millions of jobs by replacing employees with robots, and emerging AI technologies are expected to transform millions of knowledge-based office positions in the not-too-distant future. These jobs include tasks that can and will be automated, as predicted by experts in the Harvard Business Review.
By definition, AI is the simulation of human intelligence processes executed by machines. Think about it this way: it’s Spotify or Pandora choosing our next song. It’s Google’s search app giving answers, not just search results. From speech-powered personal assistants like Siri and Alexa to emerging technologies powered by voice compression algorithms to self-driving vehicles equipped with predictive capabilities, a true AI system is one that can learn. By improving on past iterations, these systems get smarter and more aware, allowing them to enhance their knowledge and potential.
Public relations, like many other professions, is currently sleepwalking past the revolution of AI. Given the above examples, it’s safe to assume AI will have a profound impact on the PR industry. But we wondered about the most likely effects.
Here’s a look at some of the ways AI will impact (and improve) the world of PR:
PR chores. AI is already assisting with repetitive tasks like developing coverage reports, distributing press releases, and creating automated media lists. Additionally, AI now has the ability to write content such as press releases, as well as PR and marketing materials like earning releases and product descriptions. However, AI cannot write about every potential topic (at least not yet). AI is designed to quickly and accurately transform structured data, such as columns and rows in a spreadsheet, into written materials. Although our profession is not as data-centric as many, AI can be helpful in gathering and analyzing data to help demonstrate the ROI of a campaign.
From tactician to strategist, here me roar. In the past, entry- and mid-level PR folks focused mainly on daily tasks such as developing and distributing press releases. AI will begin to dominate the execution of these functions, with chatbots eventually taking on a supportive role in media relations. Despite this, the majority of those in PR don’t see AI as a threat to the industry. In fact, there is a widely held assumption that machines do not possess the creative ability to supersede human beings. And indeed, as you delve into the intricate layers of AI, it’s easy to see that the human element is critical. Human acumen combined with cognitive computing renders the best outcomes. It’s the same idea as with PR analytics: the output doesn’t tell the story until someone feeds it the parameters to effectively investigate and evaluate. Going forward, PR pros should view AI as a helpful assistant, allowing them to focus more on developing and implementing creative strategies to create brand awareness, audience engagement, and thought leadership.
Dwelling on the gloomy effects AI could have on the workforce is unproductive. In truth, the future looks promising for those in industries where creative input, strategic abilities, and human judgment are part of the job. Nevertheless, AI is a driving force behind disruptive innovation, and embracing these capabilities will allow savvy PR pros to actively focus on creativity and strategy—skills that machines simply cannot replicate.