by Winter Smith, Public Relations Student, Mount Royal University
Entering university in today’s age with the development of AI, I cannot help but wonder what my future will look like as a PR practitioner.
The age of AI is upon us, and it seems as if there is not much we can do to stop it. One common fear is that AI could overpower the human species, replacing the human workforce. However, it is unlikely that in the next 20 years, staff will be replaced with AI-generated robots. Gary Stevens from Agility PR Solutions claims that public relations account executives have an 18 per cent chance of getting replaced by AI, while public relations directors have a 1.5 per cent chance of being replaced (see https://www.agilitypr.com/pr-news/public-relations/how-automation-and-ai-could-lead-to-a-pr-nightmare/).
Stevens also brings up another fear – the fear that a machine will go “rogue”, as we see in some movie plots. In the world of public relations, I suppose AI could go rogue by creating a controversy all by itself. As AI is only a machine, it is not able to feel emotion as humans do, and therefore, it could send out a message containing insensitive or inaccurate or false information. This could put companies’ reputations at risk or create untold catastrophes of which we have not yet conceived. This would, indeed, be a public relations nightmare.
Photo by Cash Macanaya on Unsplash
Conversely, AI still has some extremely useful PR purposes. Liana Zavo of ZavoMedia PR Group, as covered in Forbes, uses AI to track and analyze mentions of their clients (see https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2023/09/13/implementing-ai-in-the-public-relations-industry/?sh=75a31ac34ba8). By analyzing these mentions, she can identify patterns, trends and potential crises that could affect her clients’ reputations, utilizing the power of algorithms. This is called sentiment analysis. Sentiment analysis is a powerful research method to determine if mentions are positive, negative or neutral. This can help PR people determine the success of a campaign, consumer attitudes towards a brand, identify a risk, or alert of a potential crisis. Through AI-powered analytics, public relations professionals can dissect large volumes of data, while unlocking valuable insights that drive their strategic decision-making.
There are, in fact, many techniques and tools that AI software can offer such as data analytics, emergency detection and automatic incident detection and response (see https://aibusiness.com/verticals/building-resilient-organizations-the-role-of-ai-in-crisis-management-and-continuity). The benefits and tools of AI, could offset the perceived (or real?) risks. For example, major crises could be detected before they break. as algorithms can predict emergencies; companies could assess risk earlier than they otherwise might; decision-making during a crisis can be supported through AI; and AI can be programmed to give automatic responses in certain incidents/events. Reputational damage could be avoided and never need to be made public. With the help of AI, public relations practitioners may be able to have the upper hand on crises like never before. This should be explored and researched.
For the first time, public relations practitioners can ask themselves: Would they rather have greater skill to put out fires, or would they potentially rather have more fire prevention superpowers with AI tools?