This blog posts appears as part of a new series by the IPR Street Team. The IPR Street Team focuses on new and emerging topics that will affect the future of the PR industry.
Public relations, as well as other branches of communications, has seen a rise in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the field. AI is fairly new and is still quite a controversial topic, but advancements in the technology may persuade public relations practitioners to use it more frequently in their own practices.
Artificial intelligence has its origins in 1956, when Dartmouth College students began inventing the new field of science (Cristianini). Over the years, artificial intelligence has developed its way into daily life, including traffic predictions, speech translations, and much more. There are two types of artificial intelligence: weak artificial intelligence and strong artificial intelligence. Weak artificial intelligence is also known as narrow artificial intelligence and is used for specific or familiar functions. Strong artificial intelligence is also known as artificial general intelligence and has the ability to improve itself because it can find solutions, making it able to perform unfamiliar and familiar tasks (Singh). Public relations commonly uses automation in its work. Automation is, according to the article, “The process of control systems and technologies by which the system can work automatically; hence it reduces the human work.”
In “AI’s PR Problem,” author Jerry Kaplan describes how artificial intelligence has a bad reputation and connotation among consumers, mostly due to its intimidating and futuristic-sounding name. He further explains that machines have been taking over skilled work for centuries, but they do not want better jobs and/or higher employment, as many people are scared into believing. He gives the example of how jacquard looms replaced needle-workers (but not tailors). He also explains how computers replaced mathematicians/computers, but it now allows them to focus on tasks that require broader skills. Basically, newer technology will always replace the older methods of completing tasks, but not all hope for the industry and its workers are lost. They must simply adapt their procedures in order to stay productive and relevant.
Sam Frizell, author of “At Your Service,” a Time article, also described a current use for artificial intelligence that is used in the current day. This particular piece of artificial technology, SmartThings, is similar to Siri and Alexa, other forms of home installations of artificial intelligence by Apple and Amazon, respectively. This device connects, monitors and controls other devices, right from your phone. SmartThings goes the extra mile by connecting to other forms of technology, such as a moisture detector, and alerts you when something goes wrong. It only requires a smartphone and a $200 starter kit, which includes sensors and the hub they sync with in order to complete commands. Creator Alex Hawkinson said that more creative uses of the device “makes you start to see the world … as programmable.” Some more functions that could help communicators in the workplace include automatically starting programs as the workday begins to simply even brewing coffee while practitioners complete their work.
In terms of communications, Melanie Peters describes Microsoft’s most popular newsroom artificial intelligence, a Chinese chatbot called Xiaoice, in the article “Making Sense of Social Media Requires Brains and Robots.” As one of the newest innovations in journalism, Xiaoice is helping to tackle fake news posted online. “She” can complete tasks such as completing weather reports, working as a news anchor and writing her own columns. According to the article, “Print journalists can’t compete with news which is put out almost instantly on social media and the web. For example, 400 million tweets flow through Twitter a day. It is a constant challenge for traditional media. However, much of the news on social media was fake.” Artificial intelligence helps communicators by weeding out fake news and any information posted by the “water army,” a group of ghostwriters paid to post information online. Although Xiaocie is popular, she is imperfect and steers clear of sensitive and controversial topics. Still, Xiaocie is a great tool for journalists and is just the beginning of artificial intelligence in the newsroom.
One use for artificial intelligence in public relations is that AI will be able to send direct, relevant messages to specific audiences. Real-time big data offers practitioners the information they need to provide current content that consumers want to see. It is already being used by servers like Facebook, which use it to filter advertisements and in chatbots, and the Associated Press, which uses it for writing full earnings reports. According to the article How Advancements in Artificial Intelligence Will Impact Public Relations, “Savvy PR professionals will understand that big data and AI can provide their readership with amazing, data-rich research on a myriad of topics. Companies should not fear big data and AI, they should instead embrace the trend and experiment with new stories that match big data analysis and messages to the audience.” Meaning that artificial intelligence is a tool for public relations practitioners, not a threat. Using artificial intelligence in the public relations industry will mean faster, optimized results that will in turn allow practitioners to meet their goals faster than ever.
When applied to public relations, artificial intelligence is able to process data and statistics much faster than any public relations practitioner would. Artificial intelligence has already been introduced to public relations throughout the use of automated social media platforms and paid media and marketing analytics, thanks to digital advertising and programmatic buying. According to the article How Will Artificial Intelligence Affect PR?, “Although artificial intelligence offers benefits to PR, with the potential of removing some of the more timely processes, creative thinking and messaging are aspects that would fundamentally need human input.” Meaning that while artificial intelligence will be able to make public relations more efficient while dealing with numbers, it ultimately cannot replace human creativity, which is essential to public relations.
Some companies, such as The Washington Post and the Associated Press, have already begun to use AI. Both companies use AI to write full earnings reports. The Associated Press is also working to generate AI-written articles for minor league baseball games (Whitaker). Shift Communications also uses AI for natural language processing, sentiment analysis and more (Chen).
Artificial intelligence is an ever-developing tool that can aid communicators in many of their day-to-day tasks, allowing them to put more time and energy into more creativity-based duties. Practitioners should stay open-minded about the introduction of artificial intelligence in their practice because it has many benefits for efficiency and productivity. Like Kaplan said, “Yes, we should be careful about how we deploy AI…Instead, we should accept these remarkable inventions for what they really are—potent tools that promise a more prosperous and comfortable future.
Carly Rogers is a member of the IPR Street Team. She is a public relations student at the University of Florida. She is the Assistant Managing Director of Alpha PRoductions, UF PRSSA’s student-run public relations firm. Follow her on Twitter @Carly_A_Rogers.
Chen, Yuyu, et al. “PR Firms Start Using AI for Mundane Tasks.” Digiday, Digiday, 19 Sept. 2017.
Cristianini, Nello. “INTELLIGENCE REINVENTED.” New Scientist, 29 Oct. 2016.
Frizell, Sam. “At Your Service.” Time, 26 June 2014. EBSCOhost.
Kaplan, Jerry. “AI’s PR Problem.” MIT Technology Review, vol. 120, no. 3, June 2017, pp. 11–11. EBSCOhost, Academic Search Premier.
Peters, Melanie. “Making Sense of Social Media Requires Brains and Robots.” Argus Weekend, 24 Sept. 2017, pp. 08–08.
PRCA Training. “How Will Artificial Intelligence Affect PR?” LinkedIn, 21 Apr. 2016.
Singh, Archana, and Raj Shree. “RECOGNITION OF NATURAL LANGUAGE PROCESSING TO MANAGE DIGITAL ELECTRONIC APPLICATIONS.” International Journal of Advanced Research in Computer Science, vol. 8, no. 5, May 2017.
Whitaker, Abbi. “How Advancements In Artificial Intelligence Will Impact Public Relations.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 20 Mar. 2017.