Can AI breathe new life into PR?
By Maria Loupa
Remote work has become widespread across industries, in large part driven by the pandemic. We have seen hundreds of agencies turning to remote work patterns and trying to find new ways of engaging with teams and clients, measuring success and being more productive. At the same time, the PR agency model is certainly changing – long gone are the days of ‘throwing spaghetti against the wall’ tactics. Now, more than ever, we need to be able to engage audiences and media remotely with the same ease as if we were standing face-to-face.
The global crisis has also caused a strain in terms of budgets and ‘human’ resources, forcing PR agencies to look at ways to drive efficiencies and simultaneously stand out in a busier, and more competitive than ever, news world. To tackle these new complexities, the PR industry is looking at new technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation and how they might free-up time for humans to be more creative and strategic, while AI deals with repetitive, more mundane tasks.
However, agencies and PR professionals need to learn about AI, automation and data, carefully examine and measure the available tools against clear objectives, while identifying ethical issues and factoring PR principles into the decision-making framework. Here’s some tips to give you an idea of how AI and automation can help super-charge your PR campaigns:
Get a general grasp on AI tools and capabilities
For those of us working in B2B tech PR, we shift through data points about AI and automation daily as we craft narratives for clients. It makes sense then that we elevate it to the next level as an industry, and harness AI and smart data initiatives in our workstreams, where appropriate.
In the PR context, tools powered by AI and automation can provide profiling data on stakeholders, generate content, predict media trends, track coverage and analyze sentiment among diverse audiences and employees. AI can help mitigate possible crises via predictive analytics – for instance, with AI you can accurately quantify people's feelings and opinions about a brand and compare that sentiment against other metrics like engagement, stock price, or sales, and so on.
Plus, there are many other AI and automation-driven applications which aid organizational workflow when it comes to running a PR campaign. PR pros can use these tools to compile a customized newsletter for the day, with top news their clients can leverage, or produce competitor reports quickly, among other things.
To be clear, most of the currently available AI-powered tools in the media and PR fields are more automation-focused – geared towards allowing the automation of tasks, or so-called low-level AI. This is at least partly due to the fact that tools using higher level AI pose many more ethical challenges than they do solutions for our industry at this point, as they do much more than just replicate human actions, they make decisions based on data analysis.
Reuters and the FT are using AI-powered tools to automate releases, or to generate automated video reports. For PR professionals, Propel is a neat platform to track and optimize the performance of your PR campaigns, and even analyze the effectiveness of your subject lines to journalists – you can also leverage it to automatically personalize emails. At Waters Agency, we use tools like Otter.ai, an AI-powered assistant to take notes during meetings – automatically transcribing content and saving us significant time, which allows us to focus on further shaping those notes into impactful, catered content and on-target actions. Other useful PR tools in this genre include those that can translate audio or text files into multiple languages for wider distribution or build an online newsroom quickly as you can with Prowly.
Setting your AI framework
With the right business drivers and an ethical approach, AI-powered tools, like other technologies, can be enablers that help us achieve our objectives – we just have to get the framework right. To that end, it’s crucial to set specific objectives from the start and quantify measurable results so you can measure ROI. For example, a draft framework on AI and automation-powered tools might guide their use for the following objectives:
Perform advanced sentiment analysis on media clippings and social posts/comments ahead of pitching a press release
Optimize the time your team needs to write, pitch the press release and craft media lists (track % time saved and efficiencies, targeting media with % probability of generating coverage)
Automate reports to track sentiment after press release distribution
AI can be implemented across different parts of businesses and unified to drive efficiencies across the spectrum. It can make us more creative and help us work smarter, while building trust with key stakeholders and positioning PR as an industry that is leading the way when it comes to the ethical use of new technologies. But it must be tied to specific business outcomes, in compliance with data privacy provisions, and within an ethical framework that considers the impact on the human workforce – i.e., do employees need to be trained how to use it? Does it free up resources to focus on other business?
Ongoing research & life-long learning
While AI in PR is still in its infancy in terms of widespread adoption, there’s no time like the present to upskill and make sure we are all part of the change we want to see. Practically, that plays out as everything from participating in online and CIPR courses, to setting up trials of new tools and making a case for them in your organization – whether you work in-house or agency-side.
Ongoing research, education and training on ethical implications, best practices and innovations, and sharing of relevant industry reports, should moreover be required for all employees.
If you are keen to find out more, here’s some useful background reading:
CIPR’s AIinPR Primers on Artificial Intelligence (AI): these guides explain concepts such as AI, machine learning, big data, media and how algorithms work.
#AIinPR tool stack: a categorization of more than 130 tools, being used in the practice of PR, that have automated features or embedded AI
CIPR's AIinPR pioneering research reveals the impact of technology, and specifically AI, on PR practice. It’s the first comprehensive assessment of the impact of AI on PR skills.
CIPR’s AIinPR literature repository details an intensive 12-month review of nearly 200 global publications on AI and its impact on the profession.
The global AI Literacy in Public Relations Survey has been fielded to assess the AI understanding and readiness of PR practitioners – watch this space; findings to be announced soon!
For more information on how we leverage new technologies to drive efficiencies for our PR campaigns, contact us today for a consultation.
About Maria Loupa
Maria Loupa is a Senior Director with the Waters Agency UK team, bringing with her 10 years of experience in B2B tech and corporate comms, having worked with blue-chip companies and start-ups - from Red Hat to HP and Nokia to Starship Technologies. Maria holds a MA degree in Multimedia Journalism & PR, and she is part of CIPR’s #AIinPR panel, exploring the impact of AI on professions. She is also a guest speaker for Texas Tech University, and co-author of PRStack, a guide of tools to modernize the public relations workflow.