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Can AI Replace Human Judgment in PR? Not Quite Yet.

Posted: Mar 2024
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The role of AI in modern PR

Public Relations (PR) has come a long way since its inception, and technology has played a significant role in its evolution. With the rise of digital media, social platforms, and big data, PR professionals have had to adapt their strategies to keep up with the changing times. One of the most exciting developments in recent years is the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into PR practices. AI has revolutionised the way we approach communication, allowing us to analyse vast amounts of data, identify trends, and tailor our messages to specific audiences. In this article, we'll explore the impact of AI on PR and how it's transforming the industry.

We also speak to Yvonne Maher, MD London at global communications agency Cognito for her take on the subject.

The emergence of AI in PR

AI is transforming the world of PR in a major way. Gone are the days of manual media list building and data analysis. AI technologies like Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML) are now integrated into PR strategies, enabling professionals to automate repetitive tasks, identify trends, and gain valuable insights.

For example, AI-powered tools can help you craft personalised pitches, track your brand's online presence, and measure the success of your campaigns. But let's not get carried away. AI still has its limitations in PR. Human intuition and creativity are irreplaceable, especially when it comes to crisis communications and building meaningful relationships with stakeholders. The trick is finding the sweet spot where humans and machines collaborate to achieve optimal results. We asked questions about the impact of AI in our recent Salary Survey and we’ll report back on what corporate and financial comms folk are saying about how much they use it, to what extent it has already had an impact on their roles, and what they predict for the future of AI in PR.

To get an insider view on the topic, we asked Yvonne Maher, Managing Director London at Cognito what her thoughts are on AI in PR practices.

“The consideration and integration of AI into your communications strategy is no longer a choice”, Yvonne believes. “AI can significantly enhance the efficiency of tasks such as media monitoring and data analysis, allowing communications professionals to focus more on strategic advice, relationship building, and creative delivery. However, using AI judiciously is essential and we cannot lose the human element when we’re doing our job! Human judgment is irreplaceable when understanding nuances, maintaining relationships, and providing contextual and emotional intelligence that AI currently lacks.”

Yvonne shared with us how the business is being integrated into the business. “AI is helping Cognito in various ways. We have launched Cognito GPT internally to support teams with various tasks, including data aggregation, messaging and positioning, and research and analysis. We are also developing partnerships with AI and data science businesses in New York and Los Angeles to develop a specialised LLM* using proprietary data for our agency and as an offering to our clients. This AI product will support marketing and communications teams across projects and tasks to help them better manage their data and understand where AI can be most supportive in their comms or marketing functions.

“We are experimenting and embracing AI to enhance our own services to improve client outcomes and to remain at the forefront of the financial PR and communications industry! But we like all agencies are aware of the pitfalls, including data privacy, so we are maintaining a cautious and experimental approach, ensuring that our clients are comfortable using AI and that it aligns with both our and their policies and expectations.”

*A large language model (LLM) is a type of AI programme that can recognise and generate text, among other tasks.

A fascinating insight into how AI is helping Cognito, thanks, Yvonne.

AI-driven content creation

AI-driven content creation tools are becoming increasingly popular among PR professionals, who are using them to generate everything from press releases and social media posts to blog articles and beyond. These tools use natural language processing algorithms to analyse existing content and generate new material that matches the style and tone of the original.

The benefits of automated content creation are numerous – for one, it saves time and effort, allowing PR pros to focus on higher-level strategy and creative thinking. Plus, AI-generated content can be scaled up quickly and easily, making it ideal for high-volume, low-lift tasks.

However, it's important to remember that AI still has its limits in content creation. While it can produce error-free copy, it often lacks the nuance and emotional resonance that only a human writer can provide. There’s always the risk of AI-generated content sounding, well, robotic and formulaic. So, while AI can certainly assist in content creation, it's best used as a tool to augment human creativity rather than replace it entirely.

Data analysis and audience targeting with AI

With the ability to process vast amounts of data in a fraction of the time it would take humans, AI-powered tools can help PR pros gain a deeper understanding of their audience's behaviour and preferences. By analysing data from social media, website interactions, and other sources, AI can identify patterns and trends that can inform PR strategies and help tailor campaigns for maximum impact. For example, AI can help identify which demographics are most engaged with a particular message, which channels are most effective for reaching a target audience, and even which keywords and hashtags are most likely to drive engagement. However, it's important to remember that AI isn't a crystal ball – while it can provide valuable insights, it can't predict the future or guarantee success. There's also the risk of relying too heavily on AI, which can lead to a lack of human intuition and creativity in PR strategies. So, while AI is an incredibly powerful tool for data analysis and audience targeting, it's important to use it wisely.

The challenges and ethical considerations

While AI is undoubtedly a powerful tool for PR professionals, there are also some challenges and ethical considerations to keep in mind. One of the biggest concerns is data privacy – with AI, we're dealing with vast amounts of personal data, and it's essential to ensure that this data is handled responsibly and securely. Another potential pitfall is the risk of losing the personal touch – if we rely too heavily on AI, we may sacrifice the human connection that's so critical in building trust and rapport with our audiences.

For a free download of our full Annual Salary Guide 2023, click here. Salary Guide 2024... coming SOON.

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