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The future of artificial intelligence in PR

Posted by Annoush Kerianoff on 21st June 2018

As PRs, we constantly write about artificial intelligence (AI) for our clients and the effect it could have on transforming business and industries.

And while, of course, AI promises immense benefits, many are worried that it could result in huge job losses when machines finally become clever enough to think for themselves to solve problems. Naturally, as PR people, we’re wondering what effect AI will have in our own industry. A recent report claimed that 30% of existing jobs could be affected by automation by early 2030, which is a hugely worrying figure. Am I going to lose my job in less than 15 years?

To find out more (and whether I should really be bricking it) I recently attended a PRCA debate on AI, comprising three PR experts on either side of the will-AI-take-our-jobs fence.

After much thinking and deliberation, I’ve concluded PR will be safe from the AI threat. Why?

1) AI is biased because it is programmed by biased programmers. These algorithms form the basis of AI software and can be programmed to fit the human programmer’s bias. Bias in AI was tested on Norman — a computer program only exposed to things from the dark web. At the end of the experiment, Normal demonstrated the same traits as a psychopath.

2) People do not trust AI and automation, especially since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where personal information was allegedly harvested from more than 87 million Facebook profiles without users’ permission for political purposes. Some people, therefore, don’t see AI as ethical, and that it needs a massive privacy overhaul for it to work without continued data breaches.

3) AI can’t take the place of a person because it can’t understand the cultural differences or nuances in tone of voice, slang or sarcasm. It cannot act as a full replacement for a human who understands subtle differences in culture between the UK and the USA. For example, media relations is key to effective PR, and AI will never be able to replicate the natural human conversation between PRs and journalists.

Both sides of the debate agreed that AI would eventually be able to take over repeatable tasks like reporting, writing agendas, sending coverage notifications and building coverage books. Beyond the mundane, AI is likely to help us analyse audiences and journalists in more detail so we can hone PR strategies more effectively. PRs will therefore be able to spend their time more productively on more valuable tasks like media relations and writing unique and engaging content.

So rather than taking over jobs, I see AI working side by side with us human PRs, making our lives easier and more interesting. The implementation of AI will be gradual and won’t be happening for another 20 years or so, but when it does, we’ll welcome it with open arms.