Artificial Intelligence and PR: What You Need to Know

Posted by Wendy Marx

Artificial Intelligence and PR_ What You Need to Know-1

Artificial intelligence and PR have had a bit of a wobbly relationship from the beginning. But it has been one of the hottest button topics to hit the PR industry recently. Let's look at artificial intelligence and its impact on PR -- including how it may possibly affect your brand!

Admittedly, some of the buzz surrounding AI and its future implications has been negative. Many people fear AI could make their jobs obsolete. This fear is hardly without cause. McKinsey & Company estimated that around 45% of paid activities could be replaced with technologies that are currently under development. Let's put this in the context of dollars -- a whopping $2 trillion dollars in US wages could be wiped out as a result of automation.

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However, before you decide your career is over....

Let’s push pause on the negative possibilities for a second, and focus on AI’s power for positive change and advancement within the public relations industry.

But first of all…

Marx Logo.jpg  What is Artificial Intelligence Exactly?

Artificial intelligence is the development of computer systems that are able to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence.

When using artificial intelligence in PR, it can help you to:

  • Write data-driven stories
  • Create media lists
  • Help in crisis management
  • Transcribe audio and video into text
  • Predict media trends
  • Monitor social media

In fact, many PR agencies are already using artificial intelligence to accomplish some of these tasks. Think of some of the popular PR tools that you already use. AirPR, Hootsuite, Trendkite, to name a few, all use AI and machine learning to deliver quality information that enhances how you do your job.

So should public relations professionals fear AI? Not at all. However, AI will remove the more mundane work from PR people's hands. Creating media lists, arranging meetings, writing standard follow up emails will likely become the work of machines, which can do that work better than humans. However, the soft skills -- relationship building, creative strategy development, trust building and story telling -- will remain the provenance of PR professionals, not machines. 

artifical intelligence and prA site called Replaced by Robot captures the difference between the different types of PR work. While PR account executives, according to the site, have an 18% chance of being replaced by computers in the next 20 years, PR directors have a 1.5% chance.

If we shift our focus from the potential takeover risk that AI poses, you'll see that using AI in PR has the potential to help you in many areas of your PR strategy.

For instance, you already know how to write an effective press release that won't be ignored. To do so you use your experience, intuition, and powers of anticipation to help you to write a release that fits each situation. AI is not going to take your place. What it can do is help you target the release more effectively.

While it is true that artificial intelligence can improve certain parts of PR, there are still many instances where the human touch is vastly superior. Artificial intelligence can't hold a candle to PR professionals when it comes to jobs that require creativity, empathy, critical thinking, artistic expression, or leadership capabilities. 

With that fear behind us, let's take a look at how artificial intelligence is poised to help the PR industry.

In many cases, artificial intelligence and public relations have worked together harmoniously. In fact, PR professionals who have used artificial intelligence find that it helps them do their job better and more efficiently. When we see the positive results from this combination, it's clear that it would be a disservice to the PR profession to ignore the power of AI in PR.

Let’s put our fears aside and explore some of the ways that you can use artificial intelligence in public relations to skyrocket your strategy.

 8 Key Areas Where Artificial Intelligence and PR Can Drive Great Results

1. Create Killer PR Campaigns

artifical intelligence and pr (1)So much time and energy goes into creating the perfect PR campaign. For example, PR professionals have to determine the best time to initiate a campaign and the most captivating subject line. At the end of the day it often comes down to guesswork. And sadly, it's impossible to always be right. 

But automation can help out in many stages of a PR campaign. AI can sift through mounds of data and discover the factors that will most consistently lead to success -- and in a fraction of the time it would take humans to do so. For PR professionals, Ai can help determine:

  • The best time to start a campaign.
  • The most compelling subject lines to use.
  • Which social channels will be the most effective.
  • Which influencers, bloggers, and journalists to approach.
  • What facts will be most effective. 

2. Write Great Content

AI in PR (3)Content is one of key foundations of PR -- and AI is poised to provide help in the content creation arena. It has already begun, with such tools as Google's Smart Compose and AI Writer leading the way. And we're not talking about tools that predict your next sentence -- these tools are designed to write complete articles. They only need a few introductory sentences in order to glean the tone and topic.

Of course, there are still a few kinks to work out, but it is an exciting prospect for PR professionals. Some media publications have even used AI to analyze sets of data and create short articles on the content. For instance, The Washington Post has used its artificial intelligence tool (named Heliograf) to create short articles covering congressional elections and local, D.C.-area high school football games. Granted, it's a far cry from a feature article, but it shows some real potential for this tool.

3. Reach the Right People

AI in PR (5)Competition for audiences is tighter than ever. Whether you're looking to reach B2B buyers or specific journalists, there's only so much traditional strategy can do. AI, on the other hand, can offer a much more targeted reach with precision results. 

What kinds of things can AI do that traditional tactics can't?

For instance, say you're hosting an event or featuring your brand at a trade show. How can you reach people using AI? You can use geofencing to specifically target people who are physically present. This means that as soon as people enter a specific location, it triggers access to your content on social media and other sites. 

You can also set up AI to analyze your current audience on your website and other online platforms. Once AI has a solid idea of who your audience is and who are most likely to make purchase decisions, it can start to determine and attract other potential leads to your website's content.

And this is just skimming the surface. We fully expect that as time goes on AI will become even more adept at reaching the right people for your brand.

4. Automate Menial Tasks

AI in PREvery industry has the short-straw jobs -- as in, you must have drawn the short straw to have this job. AI offers a degree of relief.

Think of all the tasks that pass across a PR professional’s desk in order to do the work. This includes scheduling calendars, structuring meeting notes, setting due dates, creating Gantt charts, and sending out follow-ups.

Today, because these tasks are completed by humans, we inevitably deal with plain-oldHuman error, however, can be eliminated if we implement artificial intelligence to automate these tasks. Left with more time and less stress, PR professionals can be more productive.

5. Provide More Precise Insight

Public relations professionals collect a wide range of data, through social media, website traffic, campaign interaction, and the list goes on. It would take years for humans to sift through, draw conclusions on, and effectively use this data.

AI, on the other hand, can analyze this data in a matter of minutes and provide fresh insights. Artificial intelligence in social media is already an established area that has improved how we reach people on social.

PR professionals can use the data that they receive from AI to adapt their approach and improve their success rate.

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6. Determine True Influence

AI in PR (1)

Influencers have become an integral part of public relations -- using individuals with a strong social media following to influence their audiences toward your brand.

Once, determining influence was based merely on numbers. As the field becomes more sophisticated, influence is based on more intrinsic factors, such as engagement and audience loyalty.

Artificial intelligence has the power to quickly sift through public information -- what influencers are saying to whom and where -- and draw upon this data to determine a true level of influence. If and when we start to use AI in this way, we can expect improvement in our identifying and reaching influencers.

7. Create Accurate Buyer Personas

AI in PR (2)Getting into the mind of your buyers is a challenging task for any PR person. Sure, you have the basic demographics. But that doesn't necessarily help you determine who is an effective target.

Artificial intelligence can provide a lot more information than you could get on your own. For instance, you can use AI to learn...

  • What people purchase.
  • How much they spend.
  • What are their habits, both personal and work.
  • Who are their heroes.
  • What social networks they use.
  • What types of content is most appealing to them.
  • What pain points they have.
Thorough buyer personas are a key to hitting the mark with potential buyers. This type of personal information helps you better target your marketing. 

8. Avert Disaster

AI in PR (4)You heard me right -- AI can help you avoid PR disaster and reputation crisis. Given that an online crisis today can spread as fast as a virus, more often than not, we’re left managing a crisis after it’s already been blown out of proportion.

AI, on the other hand, isn’t restrained by our limitations. A machine can analyze hundreds of different factors, including some from social listening, to predict what brand threats are on the horizon. This gives PR professionals time to create a plan of action to deal with potential situations.

Bottom line: Artificial intelligence, while helpful in many areas, will not replace the fundamentally human roles that PR professionals play.

A Great Opportunity to Learn More

Are you interested in learning more about the future of artificial intelligence and public relations? Then check out  the webinar How AI Will Be A PR Pro's Dream Come True. I was privileged to be one of the presenters. 

Join a lively discussion with leading figures in the industry, as they delve into the issues at play between artificial intelligence and the PR industry -- and how it will affect you.

In review...

8 Smart Ways that Artificial Intelligence Will Help PR

Far from stealing our jobs, AI can make us better at them. The future of artificial intelligence and PR is bright and positive -- a future that we should embrace, rather than fear.

How could artificial intelligence improve your job? Let us know in the comments below.

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Dec 4, 2017

Wendy Marx

Wendy Marx is the founder and president of Marx Communications, a boutique inbound marketing and public relations agency. An award-winning B2B public relations pro, she has helped many small- & medium-sized firms (SMBs) become well-known industry brands and transform their businesses, going from Anonymity to Industry Icon™.

Her business articles have appeared in The New York Times, InformationWeek, Inc., Advertising Age, & Fast Company, among other outlets. 

View all posts by Wendy Marx