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Will AI replace public relations professionals?

Is PR the kind of job that could ultimately end up being done by robots?

While practitioners will point to the fact that PR is traditionally a relationship-based game, there are a number of tedious tasks that it could make sense to automate. Sending out press releases on the wires, for a start. Artificial Intelligence systems would also hopefully be clever enough to never make a “Hi [*FNAME]” mistake, or say to a journalist “Hope you’re well?”.

There’s been a lot of debate and conjecture about robots replacing journalists. It is possible, or so it is said, to create machines capable of writing articles better than humans. Thomson Reuters claims that its own proprietary AI technology has already reached this point.

Many in the media industry have – quite rightly – taken offence at the suggestion that machines can do their jobs better than them. While the best-known exponents of the craft can point to quality scoops and awards as proof of the quality of their output, there are plenty of clickbait-type articles out there which could easily be done by machines. And the great thing about AI is that it never gets tired, so it could churn out article after article, each perhaps with dozens of variations to hit highly specialised audience segments.

However, there remain a lot of things that will need to be improved if AI-based journalists are really to become a thing. At the moment, AI can create readable, flowing copy but would have a hard time doing things like building and maintaining relationships with key contacts, chasing up a tip or snooping on a target to find evidence of wrongdoing.

Theoretically, AI could learn to do this. It can learn to do anything, in theory. In practice though, this is still some way away. For the moment, humans have the edge over the machines.

Back here on the other side of the fence – could the days of human PRs really be numbered? My (much more realistic) vision for the future is that AI will not replace PR pros or journalists, but empower them to be better at their jobs.

Like I said in my predictions about the PR agency of the future, data will play an increasing role in how PRs spread the word on behalf of their client. While technology makes the business of PR all the more measurable, and there’s plenty of data – both quantitative and qualitative – to be gleaned from the pitching process, for example, there still remains the problem of harnessing this data. AI systems will be able to gather, interpret, and create efficiencies in the process. So agencies won’t be letting robots do the pitching, as such, but they will be using AI to guide them on the best way to pitch a particular journalist or publication, and at what time. It’ll also allow PRs to have a whole variety of other useful, relevant information at their fingertips while they pitch.

There will also be dozens of other applications for AI in PR – helping in the sales process, for example, or producing reports for clients. However, it’ll be a case of AI assisting the humans, not replacing them. Robots are our friends.

For now, anyway…

by Ben Camm-Jones

Will AI replace public relations professionals?
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