How Will Artificial Intelligence Impact Public Relations?

Artificial intelligence is going to touch nearly every industry in America within the next decade or two.

In fact, according to a study from 2013, nearly half of the jobs in the United States are at risk of succumbing to artificial intelligence within that time frame.

It doesn’t matter if you are a pilot, a truck driver, or a radiologist. Companies are working on technology right now that could, potentially, eliminate the human factor of those jobs very soon.

But! You say. Those jobs are already heavily influenced by tech. It wouldn’t be a stretch to think we could eliminate the co-pilot on an given flight since automation already plays a large role in flying an airplane.

Okay, fine. I’ll give you that. But name a job that isn’t heavily influenced by tech right now.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

That’s what I thought.

Every job is influenced by tech.

It’s hard to think of a job that won’t feel the effect of technology or automation in the next ten years, and that goes for public relations, as well.

When I think about how our jobs will be impacted by AI, I think of the AI that wrote a new Harry Potter chapter.

I’ll save you a click by telling you it was created after training an algorithmic tool on all seven novels. The final result was a chapter hilariously titled “Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like A Large Pile of Ash.”

Granted, it was terrible.

But it shows there are people working hard to train AI to write original content.

This could, hypothetically, find its way into our industry someday.

Imagine if you could have an original press release written just by inputting a few key words or phrases into a software tool that would then spit out your news release?

Don’t you think companies would be willing to invest in that tool that could write something in a quarter of the time as a human writer?

Maybe the final result wouldn’t be very creative, but when was the last time your press release was graded on its creativity?

Another area where I see AI injecting itself into our work is sifting through data to help us do our job.

Instead of searching Cision for the right reporter, hoping our pitch is in their wheelhouse, we might someday use AI to sift through hundreds of articles to find the exact right reporter who is writing about what we’re pitching, using keywords and search terms to find a target.

In that world, PR professionals and AI work together in perfect harmony and everybody wins.

Those are two scenarios I could see playing out in the near future, and I don’t think we’ll need to wait a decade.

But where we can remain valuable is in the business of relationships.

If you’re a PR person worth your salt, you’ve accumulated relationships with members of the media that are worth their weight in gold. It’s something no robot can ever replicate.

Hell, the word “relations” is in our job title! Robots are not programmed (at least, not yet) to conduct personal relationships. They won’t understand why we value them so much, so they’ll probably ignore them.

No doubt the future of work is going to look vastly different in the next few decades. Everyone is going to have to come to terms with change, and some of it might not be pretty.

But I don’t think we have to bemoan the loss of our livelihood.

As long as we continue to show off our value to our clients in the form of great coverage, born from years of fruitful media relationships and creative thinking, we can probably stave off a robot public relations uprising, or, at the very least work, work hand-in-hand with AI.

But if that fails?

I, for one, will welcome our PR overlords.

Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash