By Jeff Green, Account Supervisor
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot topic these days, and for good reason. The global AI market was valued at more than $69 billion in 2022, with North America generating more than 43% of the market share according to Precedence Research. In addition, CompTIA says more than 91 percent of leading businesses state that they invest in AI on an ongoing basis.
Like many other sectors, the public relations (PR) industry has embraced AI, employing it as a tool for automating repetitive tasks, generating copy and analyzing sentiment. In a survey of PR professionals by journalist Rahul Ojha, 66% said they believe AI will have a significant impact on the industry over the next five years .
But can AI replicate the complex relationship-building and personalized service that are the hallmarks of a quality PR program? It doesn’t seem likely at the moment, given the nature of our business, but let’s dig deeper into the ways that PR professionals use AI on a regular basis.
The Benefits of AI in PR
In terms of content generation, PR professionals use AI to produce initial drafts of content such as press releases, blog posts and ads. Copy generated by AI can be a useful jumping-off point from which more nuanced content is created that reflects each client’s brand and voice.
AI can also be used to generate back-end website copy and meta descriptions for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes. An April 2023 Forbes Advisor survey of 600 American business owners found that 42% use AI for website copy and personalized advertising. In addition, AI can help communicators better understand their clients through social media sentiment analysis and better target their outreach efforts accordingly.
The benefits of AI are clear: it can write faster than a human can, and it can automate repetitive tasks, which saves time and helps profitability.
The Shortcomings of AI in PR
Though AI seems to be the shiny new toy of late, the shortcomings of AI, especially when applied to PR efforts, are transparent. First and foremost, AI can’t replace human contact. It can’t “read the room” and assess a person’s facial expression or demeanor. Artificial intelligence in its current form is no match for human intuition and insight.
In addition, AI-generated content tends to be repetitive, lacking the personality and nuance that make a piece unique and memorable. In short, AI can provide information but not empathy.
Below is an excerpt of a writing sample created by AI, with the prompt “Tips for becoming a freelance writer” (Nectafy, September 2022). Note the clunky verbiage, incomplete sentences and conflicting advice.
There’s no singular path to becoming a freelance writer; in fact, many people arrive at the profession in different ways. The main goal is to get your writing published, and that can come in the form of submitting articles, contests, or even just getting by with a regular job with a flexible schedule. Here are some tips to make the journey smoother:
Finish your dues. Freelance writers need to start somewhere; no one gets paid for their first article or story, so you’ll probably have to give up something else like a day job to work on your craft full-time until you’re making money from writing gigs.
PR professionals – who often come from journalism or creative writing backgrounds – would never use this content in their final product. From the poor grammar to the nonsensical phrasing to the lack of fresh insight, this content feels sterile in comparison to something a PR professional would produce.
And while AI content generators are improving, notably ChatGPT, they still will not be able to replicate the writing that comes from personal experience, or from a professional who understands a client’s voice and brand.
Plus, AI content generators are notorious for “borrowing” content from other creators (aka, plagiarism). Using copy created by human writers helps protect you and your clients from plagiarism concerns.
How AI and PR Professionals Work Together
So, while AI has useful applications for public relations in terms of research, content drafts and time savings, it lacks the qualities that make great PR professionals invaluable: empathy, intuition, critical thinking and experience. It can’t convey emotion or nuance copy in a way that really leads to engagement, conversions or content that stands out from the noise.
We can take advantage of the benefits that AI provides – saving time and simplifying tasks – while also recognizing its drawbacks. As PR professionals, we spend a lot of our time building strong, personal relationships with clients and truly understanding their needs. It takes real, human connection to serve as the voice of your clients and help them achieve their business goals. We do believe AI will only grow as a useful tool in this effort, but PR professionals will continue to play an invaluable role. Sorry AI, you aren’t getting rid of us anytime soon.