The Role of PR in a Post-Search World

Business man clicking internet search page on computer touch screen

Public relations client: “Can you ask the reporter to include a link to our website in the story?”

If you’re in PR, you’ve heard this question many times. Probably too many. But it’s a logical request: links are serious juice for search engine optimization. The more high-quality links to your business, the more easily you’ll “get found” when people are looking for services like yours on Google and Bing.

But what if that changes? What if we’re approaching a world in which Google and Bing simply don’t matter as much?

With the rise of large language models like GPT-4 (which powers the ChatGPT application), artificial intelligence (AI) has already begun to render traditional search engines like Google less relevant. Almost overnight, millions of people are using AI tools like ChatGPT to quickly find answers to myriad questions—without all of the ads and SEO-heavy, annoying articles that make it challenging to find what you’re actually looking for.

One notable example of the changing search landscape is Microsoft Bing, which uses ChatGPT to provide information with tiny citations. Users rarely click on these citations unless they have a keen interest in the topic, resulting in a decreased amount of traffic sent to brands’ websites, particularly on unbranded search topics.

Brands Must Build Mindshare

As AI continues to intermediate more channels, brands must focus on building mindshare to ensure they remain top of mind for consumers. This means when users ask a large language model about a specific brand or product, they are more likely to receive directly relevant and clickable links. In turn, strong branding will become critically important in this AI-driven environment.

Social media channels, which are primarily AI-mediated, present a unique challenge for brands, as they must compete for space in users' feeds. Building brand awareness and trust becomes essential in this context, and PR pros must be prescriptive and adapt their strategies to reach their target audience effectively.

Traditional media won’t disappear completely. But AI-generated content will increase exponentially. PR professionals should focus on making their clients' brands present in these language models by creating content, such as blogs, that can be easily consumed and associated with their brand.

To stay ahead of the curve, PR pros need to tap into non-traditional channels and prioritize influencer-based marketing and community-based marketing as cornerstones of their strategy. This approach allows them to communicate directly with the public and minimize AI intermediation.

Popular platforms like YouTube, TikTok and Discord offer opportunities for PR pros to engage with audiences where they consume information. Email newsletters remain popular as they operate outside the control of AI, while platforms like Twitch and YouTube provide loyalty-building opportunities with specific creators.

The Bottom Line

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, PR pros must stay in tune with consumer behavior and ensure they are present wherever their target audience is investing time and seeking information. By embracing the shift toward AI-driven communication channels and focusing on brand building and influencer strategies, PR pros can help clients navigate and flourish on this new frontier.

Parry Headrick is Founder of Crackle PR. He can be reached at [email protected]

Chris Penn is Co-Founder and Chief Data Scientist at He can be reached at [email protected]