Dara Cothran, Executive Vice President Global Strategy + Insights at KWT Global, asks, "You control the impact that AI will have on comms – what do you want the future to look like?" Read on for her intel on how marcomms pros can own the AI narrative.
One of the principles we often discuss in communications is the importance of controlling your own narrative. If you want to maintain control, you need to speak first and steer the conversation down the desired path – otherwise, someone else will beat you to it.
AI’s potential impact on the communications industry can be viewed the same way.
Some professionals have already seized the narrative, shaping what the future of AI in comms could look like. Some are hanging back to observe, while others are against AI altogether.
But let me be clear: AI is already impacting communications and has the potential to completely reshape our industry – from the skillsets needed to the service offerings provided. If you’d like to be a part of that future, you need to get involved now, understand the landscape and develop a perspective on the opportunity. If you don’t, others will – communicators and non-communicators alike – and that puts our industry at risk of losing control of our narrative and the strategic value we bring to businesses.
AI is already impacting communications
Chances are, AI is already a part of your daily workflow – and you may not even realize it. Monitoring and measurement tools, transcription tools, translation tools and grammar and spellcheck tools all incorporate some element of AI to provide more accurate results. Even if you consider yourself the least savvy technologist – if you’ve Googled or used Instagram or TikTok, AI has impacted your life through the information you’ve received and the framework you’ve used to make decisions.
Change will continue to come in bite-sized nuggets; the tools you use every day will increasingly incorporate AI to enable better outcomes. We’ll also see new offerings that have the potential to reshape the future of our industry. To control the narrative, it’s important to evaluate these advances within the framework of the value you’re providing now and the value you want to offer in the future. Consider how these advances in AI can help you get there.
Considering the strategic value of AI
When I think about the opportunities of AI, I see three clear buckets emerging that will help supplement and showcase our value as strategic advisors to businesses.
1. Saving time and resources – The manual work that is often associated with our jobs – gathering and organizing information, transcribing meeting notes, building coverage reports, creating media lists and project management – is key to successful outputs, yet often the least rewarding. AI will continue to be able to understand and take on these tasks for you, whether it be scheduling meetings with dozens of participants, sifting through massive coverage reports to remove irrelevant coverage or quickly identifying the most relevant reporters for your pitch.
2. Ideation – AI is not yet at a place where we can comfortably trust it to sort through data and provide accurate insights, nor am I sure I want it to be; I love that part of my job. However, AI can help inspire you. ChatGPT can serve as a starting point for research ideation and generate hypotheses to inspire your research. PRophet can suggest a reporter target you may have never considered. Taylor, PRophet’s AI writing tool, can generate a first draft of a pitch or press release you’ve been procrastinating. Relative Insight can compare language usage in customer reviews to help you understand messaging challenges. DALL-E can generate sample images to help you understand the visuals your language might evoke.
3. Iteration and Optimization – Strategy isn’t created in a vacuum, nor should it be created and put on a shelf. We should be constantly measuring, optimizing and iterating based on the information we have access to. AI can help you process and identify trends across massive amounts of data to inform these shifts. ChatGPT can help you iterate and refine or test headlines and copy. Grammarly can help you put your best self forward. Tools like Yoodli can help you practice your pitch or support your media training efforts. PRophet allows you to test message effectiveness. Adobe Photoshop now even has tools that allow for AI-generated edits.
The biggest threat is not participating
Simply put, if you aren’t using AI – or uncovering new ways to provide strategic value with AI – others will.
Fear lies in the unknown. Get to know the possibilities of AI and shape the future you want to see. What should the next innovation be? What would make you better at your job? What new roles and capabilities could AI facilitate?
Challenge the current model, the current vendors and the current options, and be an instigator of change – the future of communications depends on it.
By now, we’ve all heard many perspectives on the effects of AI on the comms industry, from the early adopters to those resisting the benefits in fear of the risks. Leaders in our space, though, fall into the former category, and are considering AI as an opportunity to make us – and our work – better than ever. Here’s why and how three PR pros recommend embracing AI.
As Praytell owner Andy Pray shared in a recent LinkedIn post, “PR is one of the industries cited as most vulnerable to ChatGPT in a new study. GOOD.”
He continues, “This is a wake-up call, an opportunity, an inflection point long in the making. A chance to focus more on impact and strategy vs. hours and hours drafting press releases no one ever reads or needs or coverage reports that invent global viewerships in the billions. To not drive designers crazy asking for 9 rounds of revisions on mock-ups for new business pitches that aren't paid for. And on, and on, and on.”
The opportunities AI presents go beyond eliminating some tedious tasks and helping us be more efficient. As Pray explains, “Fact is, AI tools already are making our agency more creative, more efficient, and ideally, more able to have a true four day work week. We're not there yet but we're fearless about embracing this opportunity. Because though no one really knows what's coming, we do know that the industry has changed, forever. The question is how quickly folks can embrace the change and work with it vs. sit in conference rooms and worry about it. I know where we are, that's for sure.”
ZavoMedia Group founder Liana Zavo counts four key ways AI is already being used in PR, emphasizing how much we’re already using this tech. Media monitoring and data analysis rank high on her list: “AI-powered tools can scan news articles, social media posts and other online content to identify mentions of a brand or topic. This allows PR professionals to quickly respond to relevant conversations and track their brand's reputation,” she writes. “AI can also analyze large amounts of data to identify trends, patterns and insights that can inform PR strategies. For example, AI can analyze social media engagement to identify which types of content resonate most with audiences.”
Also in AI’s capabilities: content creation like blog and social media posts that are optimized for SEO and social platforms alike. Zavo also highlights a consumer-facing benefit: “Chatbots powered by AI can handle customer inquiries and support, freeing up PR professionals to focus on more strategic tasks.”
The Brand Agency CEO and founder Priscila Martinez shared her take on how to properly take advantage of AI, and she put it bluntly: "if you're a PR pro not using ChatGPT, you are wasting your precious time.”
She continues, “Using ChatGPT, you can now research, develop, identify customer values or changing trends, and strategize optimal campaigns for your clients in a matter of seconds.” Don’t take these enthusiastic takes on this technology to say that our creativity, our skills and our expertise are no longer of value, though. On the contrary: tools like ChatGPT can help us do what we do best, and we can’t rely on them without the human touch.
“Not all chatbot answers will be correct, and this is where your hard-earned skills as a publicist can come in,” says Martinez. “ChatGPT will probably never replace human communicators — industry connections, insider knowledge, and taste level are a few reasons. Publicists will always be valuable; they add a personal touch and provide pathos to your campaign. But ChatGPT is a shortcut that needs to be finessed.”
Zavo concurs, summing up the aforementioned intel concisely: “Overall, AI has the potential to make PR more efficient and effective by automating repetitive tasks, providing insights, and improving communication with stakeholders. However, it is important to remember that AI is only a tool and cannot replace human creativity, empathy, and strategic thinking.”