Evidence suggests almost every industry wants a slice of the AI-pie, and it seems the public relations sphere is not immune. Recent research shows two-pronged PR interest in AI – with 92% of PR professionals believing that AI has a significant role to play in the future of journalist-agency relations, and 55% wanting to harness its power to predict media interest.

But AI risks removing the all-important human touch from PR – never discount the imagination of content creators, organic PR leads and social media marketers in what are still an extremely creative processes. Remember the human touch – or the human brain – is always important within data driven processes and AI is no different.

So, I intend here to focus on just where AI can help remove pain points from manual processes and allow PR pros space and time to focus on developing quality relationships with journalists and crafting killer content! Here are a few emerging use cases that are truly humanizing AI in the PR industry.

AI can bear the brunt of manual analytical jobs

We know that data is a vital part of analyzing and improving PR campaigns. How many times have you been lost in a spreadsheet or swamped by analytics? PR professionals are multi-skilled individuals but juggling numerical data crunching, content creation and media pitching can be taxing. Our job is to act as a proactive and effective conduit between businesses and their media, and with AI bearing the brunt of manual analytical jobs such as coverage analysis and social media stats, we can focus on what we do best!

Large international campaigns can generate thousands of coverage items every quarter. What we’re looking for is spotting trends at a geographic, message or content-type level – a task with all that data that is far too much for any one PR or marketing manager to effectively analyze. Here analytical tools such as Microsoft PowerBI can come in to parse through vast data sets and provide graphical representations or analysis to specific input questions – leaving PR Pros and marketing teams to focus on more pressing matters at hand!

But a word of warning, even the best AI models need cleansed data. The old GIGO acronym “garbage in, garbage out” applies here. AI needs a human helping hand to ensure the correct coverage is input – for example distinguishing between earned and paid coverage to start this valuable analytics process.

Digital tools can help piece together the mailing list puzzle – but there’s a long way to go before they can offer a complete jigsaw:

Keeping up with rapidly changing data on distribution lists is a chore. New digital tools reportedly allow PR pros to leverage data through single, centralized databases, but we’re yet to see a system that offers a real-time list of every journalist name and publication that is relevant to your particular needs. There’s always the need to research publications manually to gauge not only who the editorial contacts are, but their relevance to your technology or industry messaging. This is before we get into the realms of a system that fully automates coverage tracking and monitoring – especially one that can pick-up both hardcopy coverage and digital publications.

Additional technology such as Cision Impact and Onclusive promises to attribute sales outcomes to earned media, for example if a prospective buyer reads an article about a client, then downloads their white paper. This could be game-changing for an industry hungry for an objective way to prove ROI, but also remains relatively untried and untested. This is B2B and the prospect is not buying training shoes, but often making a six-figure decision that affects the success of the business.

PR Pros could use CRM in the future
Muckrack recently asked ‘Why don’t PR pros use CRMs?’, and the answer is ‘because they don’t offer the correct functions around data centralization and audience optimization…YET’.

These tools are in their infancy and could offer a solution to the mailing list headache one day – but remember journalists are not prospects, so you can’t treat them as such. They are not buying goods or services, they are buying something that is radically different – it’s a story.

Writer’s Block? Predictive text and deep learning offer help when it strikes…

We’ve all been there. With clammy hands and a disconnect between brain and page, you set to work on the daunting task of constructing a complex thought leadership article for a field leading expert. Writer’s block is real and can even frustrate the most seasoned PR professional, which is where solutions such as predictive text are starting to provide word and phrase suggestions dependent on topic and focus area.

AI can even quicken pitching processes by harnessing metrics to suggest language choices likely to command journalists’ attention.

But at the moment, that’s as far as it goes. New third generation GPT-3 Generative Pre-trained Transformer solutions are now being developed. They use deep learning to produce human-text mimicking and Natural Language Processing to help cut through cluttered journalist inboxes. But there are good reasons for scepticism around automated pitching systems. In a recent study from the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, the best GPT model was just 58% accurate when answering questions compared to 94% for human performance.

It’s not yet AI’s time to shine, but we will always need the human touch:

There is a reason PR-related AI is an industry already valued at $4.53 million, so don’t discount the immense potential of AI systems. Moving forward AI could streamline operations to quicken manual processes and assist in the creative processes of content creation, but there is no way it can replace the imagination-driven work of human PR executives.

So please don’t fall into the habit of turning your system on, and your mind off. The human brain is invaluable, use it!

Tom Wrath is a PR Executive at IBA International.

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