Google voice search, facial recognition in Facebook pictures, Instagram shopping suggestions...artificial intelligence isn’t on the horizon. It's here. In your life. Every day.
Whether or not Alexa or Siri are your best girlfriends, PR practitioners should understand the extent to which their organizations use AI and its performance. According to the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute: “AI is the umbrella term for the algorithms, technologies and techniques that make machines smarter, and give them superhuman capabilities.”
While AI may seem smart enough to set and forget, responsible pr pros should lean in to the learning, advantages and possible disadvantages the tools may provide.
Using AI in PR
Public relations encompasses so much more than just the press release writing of old. On top of media relations and pitching, pros need to know how to excel at social media, digital ad buying, event management, and more. How nice would it be to automate some of those tasks so you can focus on the top-of-line items like vision, strategy and time for creative thought and execution?
Connect with fellow coworkers and ask what they may use AI for. You may be surprised at the array of options and extent of use in the marketing or finance departments. You may come across some ideas and results that you can use in your own day-to-day life.
Do you have way too many inquiries and not enough bodies to answer them all in a timely manner? Are you available for outreach on too many platforms to monitor them all? Companies can now enable chat bots on social media messengers and inboxes, as well as websites. Many consumers would rather get an instant answer on their computer or mobile browser rather than having to dial a phone and feel their blood pressure rise with every minute passing on hold. The timely reply of chat bots cannot be beat. It may take some time to set up, but can save organizations a lot of resources in the end.
And chat bots continue to evolve through improvements in AI listening methods. In 2018 Facebook purchased machine learning tool Bloomsbury AI to “strengthen Facebook’s efforts in natural language processing research, and help us further understand natural language and its applications.” Facebook saw this as a way to improve communication for its audiences and consumer clients allowing for smarter automated social listening capabilities. Bloomsbury’s tech allows for more humanized responses and better translations, which can probe a greater sense of trust from the public, regarding AI.
Your responsibility: Nothing in AI is perfect. Check in to make sure your customers are getting what they need, and not hanging on the line for hours and days waiting for an answer. Make sure consumers are getting the answers they are looking for. People will always be at the heart at every conversation, and bots cannot do everything on their own. For simple yes or no questions and specific answers such as hours or prices, bots can save a lot of time for a team. But there should always be resources available to provide a human conversation.
“AI needs untold amounts of data to do its job,"said Sophie Scott, global managing director of the technology sector practice at FleishmanHillard. "In part it will be PR’s role to ensure our brands have permission to use that data. In addition, PR should help maintain clarity and transparency in explaining where data is obtained and how it is used.”
Consumer research no longer just consists of 10 people sitting around a table in a focus group. Communicators have the opportunity to capture and measure audience sentiment from everything regarding what page they go to next on a website to what time of day they order a pizza on a delivery app. The amount of data can be overwhelming and more than any one person can get through in one day. Automated reports and media measurement can make any PR pros job much easier when the CEO asks for even the most minute demographic details.
Your responsibility: Transparency to your audience. Don’t keep up some aura of mystery for your followers. Serve timely updates on data practices and possible upgrades in experience for your users. A lot of AI is about listening and filtering, ultimately for providing the best experience for those interacting with you.
Mark Weiner, chairman of the Institute of PR’s (IPR) Measurement Commission and chief insights officer at Cision reminds pros about the responsibility of utilizing AI for measurement. “Smart communicators recognize that tools are a good way to begin, but they cannot evolve through tools alone,” Weiner said. “Beyond technology, the human element is essential in the form of subject matter expertise, statistical acumen and critical thinking.”
The first question that comes out of many communicators mouths when they hear of this phenomenon is, “am I going to be out of a job?” For many teams ideation and creativity is at the heart of what they do, however, some organizations just do not have the manpower or resources to produce the amount of content they need to achieve their goals or fulfill their strategies. APCO Worldwide has created a communications lab simply for studying and working to create content automation. AI video production is a storytelling method on the rise.
Your responsibility: Don’t wave the white flag just yet. AI content creation needs to get its ideas from somewhere. Videos and stories do not appear out of thin air. Therefore, communications can hold a greater sense of control, and allow more time for creativity, as they write and concept the story through the text of the script.
“Humans will always be necessary in these communications processes because they are the visionary and emotional drivers, said Kareem Farid, lead storyteller, APCO Worldwide, Ideation Factory. “Technology allows humans to spend more time being creative and bold, focusing on what really matters in the communications industry—the story and how it's being told.”