Public Relations

How to Use AI in PR (And How Not To)

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been all the talk in recent years, with new technologies such as ChatGPT, Character.ai and QuillBot, pulling in billions of users and finding mainstream applications. 

This has led to leaders across every industry to wonder if there is a way to utilize AI to cut costs, and ground-level employees being left to wonder if the technology will lead to them losing their jobs altogether. Public relations has not been exempt from this as the world grapples with an impending paradigm shift. 

A recent survey by PR services provider Prowly, showed that over 67% of workers in the public relations space are already using AI in their work in some capacity. There is a clear desire to explore AI capabilities in PR, and AI generated writing and images are already running rampant around the industry. 

How should practitioners use these technologies? What pitfalls should teams be aware of when looking to add AI capabilities to their arsenals? Below we break down some of the dos and don’ts of artificial intelligence when working in public relations, ensuring high quality tactics and writing, while still optimizing services as much as possible. 

Best Practices for Using AI in PR

Media Monitoring

Media monitoring is one of the most essential roles of a PR professional, but can simultaneously be one of the most time consuming ones as well, despite not requiring copious amounts of critical thought. This makes it a prime job to be automated with the likes of AI. AI tools can be great at monitoring large numbers of news outlets, social media platforms, blogs, forums and any other sources to track any and all mentions of a company or brand in real-time.

This allows professionals to have a thumb on the pulse of what the public is saying about their clients or their companies, informing where next steps need to be taken in PR strategies. Beyond that, it can also help to quickly sum up the latest trends in the news as well, again, helping to pinpoint where there are opportunities to make waves in both traditional and social media. 

Sentiment Analysis

AI algorithms are also able to help quickly gauge sentiment of coverage of a product or organization. Many media monitoring platforms actually provide this as a service already, giving PR professionals the chance to quickly sum up the tone of voice used in both traditional and social media coverage.  

Understanding public sentiment, whether in reaction to a crisis, or following a big product launch, is always imperative. However, the process can be very time consuming to conduct manually, especially if there is a substantial amount of coverage to parse through.

Again, these will never fully substitute the discerning eye of a human professional, as algorithms can be thrown off by negative words used in a more positive context, or just in a negative statement made about something unrelated to the work being assessed, but they can be a great jumping off point. 

Content Generation

One of AI’s most publicized uses, through the popularization of tools like ChatGPT, has been content generation. Users have been writing everything from college essays, to blog posts, to social media posts and more, with many being hard to distinguish from human writing. 

PR professionals are no different. ChatGPT can be a great way to start synthesizing and organizing thoughts in a productive and coherent way. A first draft of a press release or social media post through the program can help to overcome the daunting dread presented by a blank page at the start of writing. 

As with other use cases, this will still require human touch to fine tune and finalize. AI has been shown to be prone to inaccuracies, especially if it can’t find relevant information, and especially in instances where something entirely new is being announced, this can be a huge problem. It also may struggle with story flow, integrating feedback from target audiences, and creative elements that can really help to make a piece of writing pop. 

Best Uses for AI in PR

Preparing for Media Outreach

One of the core functions of PR is conducting outreach to journalists to get coverage for their clients. Preparation for this process takes care and attention, to find the best possible reporters that are most relevant or a new item, and then crafting a pitch personalized for that journalist to get them engaged in the idea. 

That being said, the function is called media relations for a reason: it’s all about relationships. Pitches that are AI generated will likely fall on deaf ears. With most journalists receiving upwards of hundreds of pitches every day, nothing could turn them off quicker than receiving one that clearly wasn’t written by human hands. They take time in their jobs, and when PR professionals don’t show the same respect, they will be ignored. 

Additionally, when finding relevant reporters, AI can be a first big step to see if reporters covered any articles discussing a relevant topic to an organization, but it may be difficult for it to account for nuances in the research. This includes if a reporter has changed jobs but hasn’t announced it yet, shifted beats, or perhaps just covered one or two stories on a relevant topic but doesn’t normally cover that area. Humans should still be verifying all reporter contacts before outreach begins to ensure no irrelevant pitches are sent out, but AI can once again be a great first step in that process. 

Chatbots

For organizations that need to offer customer support, whether on their website or elsewhere, AI Chatbots can offer a great help to alleviate the burden on human workers. Using AI, inquiries can automatically be directed using predetermined responses for frequently asked questions, or with readily available information. Chatbots are improving in their capabilities constantly, allowing for more genuine conversations with people interacting with the system. 

This provides an option for customer support at all hours of the day, improving accessibility to service without having to pay for constant staffing, or at the least, scaling back on necessary customer support. Eventually in the Chatbot journey, users can be prompted to connect directly with a human representative, but having a first step to automatically direct customers to answers to common questions can be very helpful and save a lot of time and effort. 

Audience Segmentation

Having background target audience data is crucial when building out PR strategies, and as with previously mentioned uses, AI can be effective in quickly processing large amounts of data quickly. Assessing target audiences and market demographic data is no different. 

Algorithms have been trained to analyze these data sets to identify different segments based on demographics, interests, and behavior. This information helps to hone in on message types and makeup when teams are assessing who they want to reach out to, and how they want to reach out to them. Having profiles of who a message is being crafted for makes them more impactful than if they were just blindly being created, and AI can be a great first step in achieving that goal. 

Performance Measurement

AI analytics tools can provide insights into the effectiveness of PR campaigns. Being able to project the return on investment is crucial, and new algorithms can track metrics such as media coverage and impressions, social media engagement, website traffic and brand sentiment. 

The human element is still essential  to properly interpret the meaning of this data, but AI can be a great assistant in gathering the data from multiple sources together. From here, strategies can be adjusted and refined to make sure communications are as effective as possible. 

Common Pitfalls When Using AI for PR

The most common pitfall when using AI is going to be developing an over reliance on it. This can lead to a line of thinking that technology can completely replace employees, but it can’t. There are too many nuances in all aspects of PR to completely ignore with AI. Humans value communication with each other, and while AI is good at emulating certain points of that process, when it gets boiled down, nothing is more authentic and effective than a human communicator who is well trained in what they’re doing. 

Writing first drafts can be quicker for press releases or contributed articles, but they won’t ever compare with the ability of a creative and gifted writer to craft a unique story that genuinely resonates with an audience. Most of AI is referring back to previous content or information to make something new. This is a crucial limitation, as oftentimes it’s new and compelling formats and stories that are able to spread furthest or are of greatest interest for reporters and influencers. 

Even data parsed by AI needs to be verified by humans to ensure accuracy. While it can be helpful in sorting through large quantities quickly, it can quickly be thrown off course. Oftentimes, AI is not prepared to account for shifts or aberrations that always come up when dealing with human data. It will continue to improve, but humans are still best when working with each other and accounting for quirks. 

Conclusion

AI has incredible potential, and will only continue to grow in its use cases as it has more time to develop, learn and adapt. However, PR is and always will be about people, and working with them to shape the impression of a brand or product. Because of this inherently human element of the entire industry, AI will never be able to fully replace humans and the work that they do. 

That being said, teams can definitely enhance their capabilities and improve efficiencies by using AI, just like groundbreaking tools have enabled in the past. It’s now a foregone conclusion that professionals in PR, and all fields, use the internet everyday. In short time, shirking AI will be just as foreign of a concept as neglecting the use of the internet while conducting business, it’ll become that fundamental. 

There is a lot more work to be done to make tools even more valuable, but teams working the PR space  should find ways to integrate artificial intelligence to streamline their work processes and become more effective than ever. 

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