It’s currently the talk of marketing town, but this is no fad – AI ain’t going anywhere. With weekly Google searches regularly surpassing over 30 million, ChatGPT, the darling of generative AI is set, alongside the likes of Midjourney and DALL-E, to be the disruptive tech of a generation. It’s an exciting development for the industry, just don’t go making premature retirement plans just yet.
These powerful AI systems have the potential to revolutionise the way PR professionals work but they are not without their drawbacks. In this blog, I aim to show you that, whilst ChatGPT offers a great opportunity to improve workflows and efficiency, the role of the PR professional is still very much a human one and one that ChatGPT will not be taking over anytime soon.
Arguably, the greatest strength of ChatGPT is its ability to produce content in a matter of seconds. It can be a game-changer in this regard. With their ability to generate coherent and informative content, PR practitioners can quickly draft the base of a press release, article, blog post, or social media post. That being said, what you get is exactly that – a base. If all PR practitioners switched to 100% AI written press releases then the quality of our media would drop dramatically.
Whilst journalists rely on press releases to provide them with the facts, they also rely on PR professionals to convey the emotion and feeling behind campaigns and initiatives that AI simply cannot do. What makes AI so strong in regards to content generation is its ability to collate concise information about a topic very quickly, it still needs a human eye and touch to help the audience connect with that information and the wider story it is telling.
Media Monitoring and Sentiment Analysis
Keeping track of media coverage and monitoring public sentiment is crucial for effective PR. This is also another area where AI can assist by analysing vast amounts of textual data from news articles, blog posts, social media, and other sources.
It’s worth pointing out however that we’re on number two of this list and we’re already into territory that ChatGPT cannot assist with. ChatGPT is good at content creation but that’s about it – this is because of two main issues.
Firstly, contrary to popular belief, ChatGPT does not comb the internet in real time – it has a ‘bank’ of information through various sources which, as of the time of writing, only date back to September 2021. Therefore, its insights on sentiment analysis and media coverage would be outdated and of little use.
Secondly, it cannot trawl social media in real-time either. Social media is the most effective arena for analysing brand sentiment and awareness therefore this is a major drawback of ChatGPT in this regard. Analysing sentiment is something only a human can truly do. Fundamentally, AI understands patterns and data, but emotion and sentiment are still something that we, as humans, have a monopoly on.
Crisis Management and Reputation Repair
During times of crisis or reputation damage, PR professionals face immense pressure to respond promptly and effectively. As mentioned, when discussing content creation, with their ability to process vast amounts of information and generate coherent responses, PR practitioners can utilise AI to draft crisis communication messages, press statements, and social media responses swiftly.
However, when it comes to Crisis Management, this is also where AI’s shortcomings are most obvious. Whilst responding promptly and effectively is indeed very important in Crisis Management, the most important part of reputation repair is the ability to understand how the crisis has come about in the first place and come up with a strategy to reconnect with your consumers in a meaningful and authentic way. Meaningful and authentic are words that AI can quote the definition of but not understand the way a human PR practitioner can.
It is also worth highlighting that LLM systems like ChatGPT have come under fire in the past for generating racist, sexist and other inappropriate content. So yes, whilst ChatGPT can provide you with quick content in these situations, it’s important to be wary as it can also cause crisis management situations all by itself!
The verdict: Integration versus Invasion
Whilst AI seems to have exploded into the public sphere over the last 6 months, I think it’s fair to say that platforms such as ChatGPT are here to stay. It now becomes a question of how, as an industry, we adapt and integrate them into our everyday work lives. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t have some caution though. Whilst these powerful systems could prove game-changers when it comes to boosting our capabilities and efficiency, the system is far from perfect.
Since the explosion in popularity of ChatGPT we’ve seen questions raised about data privacy and GDPR in particular – with the likes of Italy outright banning AI from accessing millions of its citizens’ data.
As alluded to earlier, there’s also the issue of accuracy – ChatGPT is not the fountain of all knowledge. It is a system created by humans that has flaws and limited data sets. It doesn’t generate its own content from scratch, it simply takes from information that was already out there and that is why it still suffers from human flaws such as racism, misogyny, and factual errors.
Finally, for all its strengths when it comes to gathering data, ChatGPT struggles to maintain a consistent tone of voice in its writing and convey emotion effectively, leading to a ‘robotic’ tone and style in its content.
Put simply, the integration of AI in public relations has the potential to revolutionise the way we work – but it is not here to take over the role of the PR Agency. From content generation and media monitoring to customer engagement and crisis management, AI can streamline PR workflows, enhance productivity, and enable PR professionals to focus on more strategic initiatives. It is through these strategic initiatives that we as PR professionals come into our own.
To borrow a metaphor from another industry, ChatGPT could tell a mechanic the steps for changing a tyre, but it can’t change the tyre itself and it certainly can’t explain the reasoning and emotions behind why the owner bought the car in the first place.