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AI in PR: It can’t do what you want us to do

Posted 13.02.2024
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No brand should want to be communicating to their market with a robot voice, or relying on PR material created by a silicon brain. BLUE’s Senior Consultant Sam Jackson explains why.

The BLUE team is familiar with artificial intelligence (AI). We work with dozens of technology businesses that to some degree utilise AI to solve problems for their clients across the marine and renewable energy markets. Driven by the digital transition, our clients communicate about the benefits of AI, machine learning technology, and how it can transform their sector by enabling rapid data analysis, insight and recommendations. The advantage AI brings in these situations is often measured in savings of multiple metrics: thousands, or even millions of dollars, of course - but also mammoth time and resource savings, better welfare, improved safety, and creating a more sustainable industry and world.

In each of these circumstances, our clients take an AI+ approach to ensure they deliver value to their customers, overseeing algorithm outputs with a team of human experts. In other words, AI is used as a tool and an assistant to engineering and operational expertise, and is not the sole source of that expertise in its own right.

At BLUE, we have been messaging and communicating about machine learning and AI for years before OpenAI was founded, let alone when large language models hit the front pages in late 2022. We have a clear view of the benefits of using AI in our clients’ sectors. But for us at BLUE, and our world of digital PR, the algorithms are supposedly “coming for our jobs”. How should PR respond to the emergence of AI that could plausibly do what we do? And what is our view, at BLUE?

Critically, we feel passionately that much of the value that is generated by current digital PR activity cannot be replicated by AI. AI should not be relied on, or even allowed, to talk directly to the market through a PR lens. The downside is steep and deep - content that doesn't engage your audience and affects brand and reputation - is too high a risk.

Just as in other industries, data collection and trend analysis is one way in which digital PR will benefit from AI. But we know that AI models can be constrained by their inputs, and that asking the right questions is essential to extracting usable insights. On this basis, trust in AI outputs will likely remain fairly low. Like engineering and operational experts in the marine and energy industry, PR and marketing professionals will frequently need to stand between the outputs from AI and their clients.

We anticipate using AI to help measure the impact of stories in the marketplace. But we don’t expect AI to fully grasp the nuances of the industries we work in, and therefore we used to create factual, contemporary, and truth-worthy content. In making it faster to develop story ideas, AI won’t replace human experience that brings with it a deep knowledge of our sectors and an understanding of the relationships, opinions and attitudes of the people in it that are required to intuitively know how a story will work.

At BLUE, we do more than splurge words onto a page and fire them out to a media audience, which is the imagined role of AI. This is no better illustrated than by the process that goes into creating AI content versus the process used to create powerful PR and marketing content at BLUE.

PR consultants’ knowledge of the market and their relationships with clients, media and many other stakeholders will remain crucial to turning ideas into content and campaigns that build enduring business reputations. This is perhaps best encapsulated by how content is developed.

At BLUE, for example, we put a lot of onus on creating strategic pillars:

This is not to say that AI does not offer significant benefits to elements of digital PR and marketing. At BLUE, we will benefit from using AI to process data and draw conclusions; and so, by proxy, so will our clients. In particular, collecting and reporting on news coverage to understand the conversation is a fundamental element of PR where AI offers an improved solution.

In a world where some marketing firms in the marine and energy space are offering instant, throwaway content churned out by AI – as PR and marketing professionals we aren’t holding our breath to see which celeb will be taken down first by an AI deep fake - provenance and integrity will be the watchwords for our business, our clients, and their corporate communications. For all that it might deliver faster, more valuable insight to inform some communications decision-making, no brands should want to be speaking to the media with a robot voice, or relying on PR material created by a silicon brain.


Sam Jackson

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