7 ways artificial intelligence will change the game for PR pros

Though many digital tools are still being developed and refined, the potential exists for AI to turn PR on its head.

Has Alexa replaced your kitchen timer? Do you rely on your car’s driver-assist features to regulate your distance from the car in front of you? Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have impacted us all, and the acceleration of digital transformation as a result of the pandemic is expected to continue.

McKinsey’s Global Institute predicts that while AI is being applied to business problems across nearly every sector of the global economy, the effects of AI applications will be felt most in marketing and sales. The research firm notes that AI could unlock as much as $2.6 trillion in business value within the sales and marketing sector.

Starbucks is a good example. Earlier this year, CEO Kevin Johnson, told analysts that the company is relying on AI technology predictions to determine how vaccination rates will impact sales growth.

As retailers like Starbucks begin to feel and assess the impact of AI in the marketplace, so will consumers and, by extension, PR and marketing.

We already use AI-powered tools like Google Analytics and Cision to make our work more efficient and effective. Ideally, technological innovation should reduce the burden of drudgery and elevate people’s work, enabling creativity. AI technologies have the ability to free PR professionals to focus more on creative pursuits like crafting compelling messaging or planning strategic media outreach.

Advances in sentiment analysis, predictive analytics, chatbots and natural language generation (NLG) are already having a direct impact on our industry. According to a recent blog published by Public Relations Today, here are some ways that AI is either helping support public relations activity now or will be in the near future:

  • Speech-to-text technology – This can assist with media interview transcripts and searching within podcasts or press conferences using speech-to-text technology.
  • AI-assisted contact recommendations – Though they haven’t been perfected yet, tools exist to proactively identify reporters who are writing about your industry, enabling you to target media most likely to cover your news, rather than manually building traditional media lists on categories and keyword searches.
  • Predictive analytics – Two PR tech startups focused on predictive analytics offer tools that help you customize story angles for journalists based on interests, past coverage, personalities and trends and predicting the probability of a journalist covering your story.
  • Video authenticity monitoring – There are even tools that can be used to monitor for “deepfake” videos that could negatively impact your client’s brand reputation.
  • Natural language generation – As evidenced by the first press release written by AI, machines can produce content using NLG, and translate it into multiple languages for broader distribution. These technologies require refinement, but they are developing quickly.
  • Sentiment analysis – Tools are also being developed to carry out advanced sentiment analysis on social media posts, media clippings and more.
  • Attribution for earned media – PR tech tools, like Cision Impact and Onclusive, even promise to attribute sales outcomes to earned media coverage if, for example, a prospective buyer reads an article about your client and then downloads a white paper. This technology is still in its infancy but could be a game changer for an industry hungry for an objective way to prove ROI.

All this potential is wildly exciting, but talk of digital transformation and machine learning inevitably leads to questions of obsolescence: Will AI eventually replace PR pros? A simple mindset shift can alleviate the worry. If we look for the ways technology can make us more effective by freeing us to come up with better ideas and affording us opportunities to explore those ideas, then we will rise with this wave of innovation rather than letting it overpower us.

Is your organization already utilizing AI? How do you plan to incorporate new technologies in the new year?

Rachel Chittick is a PR specialist with Communiqué PR. A previous version of this article appeared on the Communiqué blog.


One Response to “7 ways artificial intelligence will change the game for PR pros”

    Ronald N Levy says:

    Artificial Intelligence in PR may never adequately neutralize Genuine Stupidity.

    Even ultrabright CEOs can make genuinely stupid assumptions about PR.

    ASSUMPTION: The public’s top interest in Washington controversies about punishing a company is which outcome will be more fair.

    PR WISDOM: The public’s top consideration is likely to be not fairness for the company but which outcome will be better for the public. If a proposal is to tax a big company more, millions of people may think good, we can use the money. A proposal to break up a big company is more likely to win if the company allows the advantages of breakup to get more media coverage than “the peril of the alternative,” how the public would suffer.

    ASSUMPTION: A congressional committee hearing is likely to be an unbiased inquiry.

    PR WISDOM: The majority party prefers an outcome good for that party. Questions will aim at showing that a company or industry being investigated is guilty and the party in power is heroically trying to protect the public. Legislators of each party know it’s great for fund-raising and re-election to look like a hero.

    ASSUMPTION: A CEO should feel safe in assuming the media will be satisfied by the answer, “I don’t know but we’re trying to gather the facts.”

    PR WISDOM: “A journalist may skeptically ask “you’re the CEO and you claim you don’t KNOW?”

    ASSUMPTION: A glib CEO is as safe a spokesman as an equally glib PR firm SVP.

    PR WISDOM: When a spokesman blunders as may happen to almost anyone,
    it’s easier and often less damaging to fire the PR firm than to fire the CEO.

    ASSUMPTION: When accused it makes sense to apologize early and emphatically.

    PR WISDOM: Millions of people may see an apology as an admission of guilt
    so it may be better to point out that just the opposite is true, that the company is in many ways making things BETTER for the public, not worse.

    ASSUMPTION: The outcome of a controversy will depend mainly on which side makes the more persuasive case to the public.

    PR WISDOM: The outcome will depend largely on the “magnitude of peril” principle of PR—the side likely to win is the side that that credibly forecasts the bigger or sooner damage to the public. In the coming election, one side may credibly argue which party was more responsible for the January 6th riot. But if the other party credibly argues “we’re better for your safety, your standard of living and your freedoms,” PR experts can guess which side is more likely to win.

    ASSUMPTION: The #1 question in PR is “what should we say?”

    PR WISDOM: The #1 question is “what should we BE?” If you get 100 million or more Americans to see the company correctly as not only beneficial but damn near a blessing to the public, the company is likely to be safer in Washington and to have higher sales.

    “What’s love got to do with it” sang hugely popular Tina Turner. PR wisdom is “almost everything.”

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