Will AI ever replace Digital PRs? In short, absolutely not!
Don’t get me wrong – this is a super exciting evolution in the digital world, historic even - so it shouldn’t be underestimated. But now that you’ve all breathed an initial sight of relief, I wanted to share with you in more detail why I think Digital PRs can sleep easy, safe in the knowledge that their uniquely creative brains will always be necessary, and - instead of fearing AI – dig into how we can utilise the technology to improve the ways in which we work.
The benefits of AI for Digital PR
Let’s start by looking at some of the potential benefits we can get from AI as Digital PRs.
One of my favourite ways that AI can support in creating actual Digital PR content (at this point) is via visual tools like MidJourney and Stable Diffusion.
The detailed images they produce as a result of text prompts are based on reams of image data that already exist. The results are often unique, beautiful and can make for excellent creative campaigns
In addition to a bit of visual beauty, AI also provides numerous benefits that can make our working lives more efficient. It’s a great tool for templates, structural and process driven activities, enabling us to be more productive and focus on strategic thinking rather than repetitive tasks.
First and foremost, it has an important role in data analysis. AI can process and analyse a huge amount of data, providing valuable insights into audience behaviour, sentiment, and preferences. Having quick access to this kind of information can help Digital PRs create more targeted and effective campaigns – which will inevitably raise the bar in terms of campaign quality.
AI can also be useful when coming up with comms plans and strategies, identifying themes for campaign ideas based on target keywords and even for suggesting the structures for presentations and press releases. Or use it to generate ideas for blog headlines (the title of this blog was AI generated!)
I’ve done all these things through ChatGPT by inputting simple but clear prompts, detailing what I needed in terms of tone and key themes.
The most effective agencies are putting the time into building tools which utilise AI to help with this kind of stuff, to the benefit of themselves and - in time - the wider industry. At Yard, we’re using AI in all sorts of ways, but my favourite has to be how it helps us analyse online sentiment.
Not only does this provide us with data and information for our campaigns, but it also supports our brand building strategy by giving us an understanding of how our clients are perceived by their target audience.
Distinctly have created the ‘Headline Grabber’ - a tool which generates 5 potential headlines to include in your journalist pitches. So, while I don’t believe AI should be relied upon to write longform copy, it certainly has its uses when it comes to creating or inspiring headlines and titles.
The limitations of AI for Digital PR
Now, let’s look at three limitations of AI that Digital PRs should be aware of:
To come up with high-quality Digital PR that earns you top-tier coverage, you have to be creative, right? That is something that AI can try to imitate, but cannot authentically replicate.
Creativity is based on emotional intelligence and critical thinking, understanding what appeals and may prompt people think differently about things. It is also subjective; a matter of opinion, taste and often involves taking risks. Anyone who’s asked ChatGPT for its opinion on anything will know those elements often do not compute.
Human intuition and understanding of human behaviour are essentials for Digital PR, and AI cannot grasp this, at least not in full.
When it comes to written Digital PR content, you’re either providing an opinion (which we know AI can’t generate for itself), or a flat right or wrong. But even when providing an opinion, you want to back up your position with sources and surveys as much as possible.
Anyone who's engaged with AI-generated copy will be familiar with caveats such as “don’t automatically trust the output” and “check your copy to make it sound more human”. One of our experts, Doug, has taken a look at the issue of AI citations in one of this month’s other articles.
A key limitation – particularly when it comes to the highly up-to-date, and often forward-looking world of Digital PR – is that of being current. For all ChatGPT’s strengths, it is transparent about the fact that the most current information on its database – as of writing – is from September 2021.
While this may work well for certain on-site content creation, where long-standing information and advice goes back much longer than 2021, for Digital PR, it’s a non-starter.
We need our information to be as current as possible, 18 months ago is a lifetime in Digital PR, and that’s the most up-to-date ChatGPT could possibly be at this point, much of the information it provides may go back even longer.
But at the same time, it is important to note that ChatGPT will update its database in time, likely much more frequently as its capabilities expand, and there are other AI tools out there with different time periods on their database, so I'm interested to see this area develop.
So, while AI may be able to drive efficiency in certain aspects of digital PR, it cannot replace the creativity and intuition that human brains bring to the industry.
As AI technology continues to advance, it is crucial for PR professionals to embrace AI and learn how to use it effectively to enhance their work and stay on top of their game. Because, to paraphrase this tweet from Kieran Flanagan, AI won’t replace Digital PRs. Digital PRs using AI will replace Digital PRs not using AI.