The Future of Public Relations with the Integration of AI

Original article was published on Artificial Intelligence on Medium

The Future of Public Relations with the Integration of AI

Public relations (PR) as we know it is a dynamic process, just like any other industry it needs to cope with constant change to adapt to situations, technological advancement, trends, and other elements. I wrote this to highlight one of the biggest challenges the industry is currently facing; the dilemma about the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), its impact on jobs, and its competence to replicate work currently dominated by humans.

There is an understandable ignorance among industry professionals who are conditioned through television series and movies to believe that the out outcome of AI is a dystopian future. However, it is naive to ignore that PR as an industry has developed over time with the influence of both elements — arts and science. Historically, before the digital era, PR skills were developed through experience, social sciences, instinct, and human interactions. In today’s digital age with intricate advancement in technology that helps refine, quantify, and analyze big data independently to forecast behaviors and trends we see a drastic shift to the dependency on science.

Understanding the importance of AI is vital now more than ever because despite what people wish to believe, ai has not only already been integrated into our systems but will also continue to grow rapidly. It is important to note that disregarding myths and stigmas about intelligent machines is the gateway to solely appreciating the power they have to facilitate change and make our jobs and lives better.

In a discussion paper summarizing his research, Jean Valin on behalf of the CIPR gives us an in-depth insight into the current existence of AI, based on skill sets required within different segments of PR related jobs and the capacity for growth with the evolution of AI.the research concludes that currently out of 52 skills in the General Body of Knowledge Model (GBOK) almost 32% i.e. 17 skills have zero technology influence crediting their high human involvement such as judgment, interpretation, and experience, these are few things that AI has not yet managed to learn and master. Jeans further states that,

“Skills such as; flexibility with constant changes, mentoring, familiarity with theories and its application, strategic thinking, and ethical considerations are unlikely to be overtaken by AI. there might be tools that inform our decisions now and in the future, but predominantly these will remain the domain of humans.”

Keeping in mind these statistics we understand through the research that 42% of skills in the GBOK have minor to major involvement of AI with the level of competence only increasing in the years to come.

Additionally, to support the benefits AI currently has on our processes Lynch, Cision (2018) wrote that “While most people have a person do this today, supervised learning algorithms with good training data, however, might be able to manage some social media promotion to scale some of your social media engagement. Now think of other tasks where AI could be put to work organizing work back schedules or even writing rough drafts of a press release based on your firm’s brand voice and guidelines. The Associated Press is already using AI to write earnings stories.” The Associated Press has already used AI to its advantage to write articles that were once published through human effort. He goes on to state that these machines can assist the industry through their ability of “assisted learning” to complete a task with the conscious awareness of the end goal. Lynch points out the multi-step process humans undergo to create something as simple as headlines for a client’s social media that will effectively highlight their brand, can be delegated to AI allowing human resources to be used more productively in areas of expertise suited for them.

However, Corey duBrowa, USC Annenberg (2017), in comparison to Lynch (2018) states that research conducted by Mckinsey & Co found activities most difficult to automate involve a high level of managerial, decision making and creativity. Additionally, he claims that even though these machines can self-learn to draft PR plans for a new product launch it would be difficult to trust the impact it would have on customers given that AI lacks empathy and the ability to tell stories, something learned only through human interaction.

Social Media is the main domain of PR that needs the most assistance from AI, Valin (2018), while there is still a need for human intelligence, the ability to think creatively about problems and research to innovate new solutions there are parts of our processes that need minimal or in most cases the complete adoption of automated machine learning systems. Apart from this certain skill sets such as sensitivity, emotional and cognitive intelligence, judgment, and ethics will always need human intervention in public relations.

There is a sense of urgency tied to the industry to catch up with the adoption process and gain more experience with these new technological aids in understanding how they can effectively help processes and to set up contingencies to cope with their limitations. In any case, in today’s world of data privacy and cyber abuse, vigilance is a high priority to controlling what data is being sourced, by who and through what measures. Ethical measures need to be implemented through the learning process to ensure that privacy breaches are avoided and public interest is set as a top priority.