What will AI really mean for the PR industry? (TL;DR – it won’t take your job)

If you asked me what Artificial Intelligence was two and a bit years ago, I would have looked at you with a slightly blank expression on my face. Similar to this emoji, in fact:¬†ūü§®.

Earlier this week, I read this piece by Stephen Waddington on the topic of how AI will impact PR skills and it got me thinking –¬†what will AI really mean for my job and my industry?

At Aira, we work with a number of businesses in the tech industry and brands who lend themselves well to technology related content. This has, almost by accident, given me a fairly broad understanding* of the world of AI and what it will mean for a number of industries.

*Not an expert Рsoz. 

Creating content around what the future of AI will mean for jobs, whether it will have a positive or negative impact on our society and the new jobs it will help create has, inadvertently, opened my eyes to something that is undoubtedly going to affect pretty much all of us. There’s a whole multitude of figures, predictions and reports out there that tell us when we should expect to see AI barging in on us and nicking our desks at work – such as this stat that tells us that¬†one in five existing jobs in British cities is likely to be displaced by 2030.

Maybe it’s naivety or maybe it’s my stubbornness to ignore anything that tries to scaremonger me, but I feel like we’re only exposed to news stories and articles that look at the ‘shocking’ impact of AI rather than a realistic idea of what it could truly do.

So, what will AI really mean for the PR industry?

The human advantage 

Something I’ve always been interested in is human behaviours, the way we interact with one another and the importance of recognising and reacting to different emotions.

Emotion plays a central role in PR. Campaigns that incorporate storytelling to draw out particular emotions from a consumer stand out the most – and, at the moment, this is something that AI and machines aren’t able to do to the same level as humans. However, it’s been argued that emotionally intelligent AI¬†is on the rise – in the next few years, could we be brainstorming campaigns with robots?

We can also assume that journalists are, on the whole, going to be more accepting of listening to your pitch and coming to you for stories than they are a robot. We’ve all seen the backlash that can come about when PRs address bloggers and journalists with the wrong name in an email – imagine the mistakes that could happen if we had robots in charge of media relations! Not to mention how unpersonalised and generalised pitches and outreach emails would be, too. As PRs, we’ve learned the skills needed to communicate with journalists, editors and reporters and I think this is something we’ll always have in our favour compared to AI.

Day to day tasks

This one is all to do with delegating. Just as a line manager would delegate to a junior member of staff, over the next few years I think we’ll be seeing ourselves delegate to robots. Yup.

Recruiting for a new role? Chatbots could be there to filter out the unsuitable candidates from the top talent before you get involved at the interview stage.

Organising your calendar, replying to mundane emails and answering sales calls for things you will literally never, ever want? These tasks could all become automated, to stop small businesses from spending on average 120 hours a year on admin tasks, as we’re currently seeing happen in the UK.

Content creation

I know – the highlight of many of us PR people’s jobs. AI better think twice before trying to take content creation away from me, right?

Well, not necessarily.

Algorithms are not only helping content creators, marketers and PRs to collect data on specific audiences but they can also help make sense of it too, meaning the time spent on creating news-worthy and targeted content is sped up significantly. And we all wish we had more time to create more content, don’t we?

In fact, this is something Coca-Cola has already done. Last year, Coca-Cola decided to choose AI over agency creatives (ouch…) to see whether they could create narratives, schedule social media posts and choose music for adverts more efficiently than humans. Anyone spotted a super dodgy Coca-Cola advert recently?

Ultimately, I do think AI will come to play a big role in the PR industry – for both digital and traditional – but do I think we’ll be fighting to keep our jobs in the future? Not really, no. Unless all our clients decide to follow in Coca-Cola’s footsteps, of course…

For me, the PR industry is very much a human focussed industry. It’s success relies on being able to communicate effectively with consumers and businesses and, truthfully, I can’t see a time where the public are able to resonate with a robot more than they are another human.