How to use AI in Public Relations
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making a huge splash in the PR industry, but don’t worry about robots stealing your job just yet. According to estimates from Forrester, it’ll take 100 years or so for mankind to arrive at the possibility of “Pure AI” (where machines think and function like how humans do). That having been said, PR companies are already using another form of AI (termed Pragmatic AI) to outsource certain tasks and increase productivity.
Pragmatic AI includes but isn’t limited to deep learning, machine learning, speech recognition, image and video analysis, sensory perception, natural language understanding (NLU), natural language generation (NLG) and robotics. In this article, we’ll explore how you can capitalize on these forms of AI, and use them to your advantage.
Applications of AI in PR
#1: Create more content
For your B2B clients, content generation is likely to be a huge challenge. Let’s face it – most B2B companies simply don’t have the time to produce all the white papers (and case studies, data sheets, ebooks…) that they’d like. But what if you could help your client produce high quality, compelling content using a simple tool?
Here’s a real-life example: Associated Press (AP) is now using Wordsmith, an NLG platform, to create publishable stories on corporate earnings. After the Wordsmith team configured the NLG machine to write in AP style, all AP had to do was plug the relevant earnings data into the system. Wordsmith would then churn out publishable AP stories, and at an impressive rate of one story in less than one second!
#2: Automate low-value tasks
Imagine a world where PR executives across the globe could focus on conceptualizing campaigns (instead of wasting their time on administrative tasks). No more scheduling calendars, preparing meeting agendas, and sending out follow-ups… now, doesn’t that sound like a dream?
Here’s the good news – with AI tools at our fingertips, it’s possible to outsource certain menial and repetitive tasks. There are AI scheduling assistants, for example, which will help you manage your calendar and book meeting rooms. These tools can deal with cancellations and different time zones, and they’ll save you a massive amount of back-and-forth with your clients and colleagues.
#3: Avoid PR crises
Without the help of AI, PR teams tend to be more reactive instead of proactive. Sure, you can monitor the web for mentions of your clients manually, but this is time-consuming and tedious. Plus, it’s hard to tell whether a single negative comment is likely to just blow over, or whether it might escalate into a full-blown PR crisis.
When you have AI tools at your disposal, on the other hand, things are a lot easier. Take a leaf from hashtag analytics company Keyhole, which uses Google’s machine learning framework, TensorFlow, to predict social media crises for its clients. According to Saif Ajani, CEO of Keyhole, the company plugs its data sets into the AI cloud to get predictions which are 80% – 90% accurate.
Here’s what this means: within just three days, Keyhole is able to predict how a crisis might unfold over the next 30 days. With this knowledge, PR agencies will be able to determine when (and if!) they need to ditch the pre-scheduled posts and start doing damage control.
How to get ready for AI in PR
Firstly, make sure everyone on the team understands that AI is an asset and a member of the team. Reassure your employees if need be, and articulate to them that the function of AI is to lighten their workloads (thereby allowing them to focus on more high-level, strategic tasks). The less your team believes that AI will make their roles obsolete, the more they’ll embrace the technology.
Next, take small steps in integrating AI into your agency’s workflow and processes. Use Evie (the AI assistant mentioned above!) to automate your calendar scheduling, and Ubermetrics Delta to track media mentions and brand sentiment. Once you’ve experienced small wins with these tools and gotten your team’s buy-in, move to incorporating AI into your projects in a more meaningful way.
Last but not least, consider recruiting an AI specialist or training up an existing team member to take up this role. To start off with, this person will be tasked with identifying the right AI tools (plug-and-play solutions) that will help the agency overcome some of its existing challenges. In the long run, this person should ideally be able to work with a tech team to develop new software that uses machine learning (or other AI applications) to streamline and simplify your agency’s workflow.
PR Measurement / Impact Measurement
Now that you’re using AI to serve your clients more effectively, this naturally has to be reflected in the PR measurement reports that you send over at the end of each campaign. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution that we can offer, and how you measure the impact of AI will differ based on each campaign.
Let’s say you’ve used a tool such as Hashtag, and helped your client successfully avert a social media crisis. In this scenario, you might measure the (negative) social media mentions that your client might’ve racked up if your agency didn’t step in and smooth over the situation, and quantify how your client’s social media influence might have changed during this period of time. There’s no exact science to it (for now, at least!), but at the end of the day, you’ll be able to arrive at a ballpark figure that helps you explain how AI has increased your client’s PR campaign ROI.
A final word on AI in PR
Next, to growing investments in AI and the technology’s potential, the topic of AI is certainly associated with a lot of negative connotations. Risks such as ethical consideration and others certainly need exploring which is why the U.K.’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) launched the #AIinPR project in February this year. A new panel will explore the impact of artificial intelligence on public relations, and conversation in the public sphere.
As PR consultant Steven Waddington puts it, the PR industry is practically “sleepwalking into the issue of artificial intelligence”. Seeing as how AI is primed to be a massive gamechanger – allowing us to outsource menial tasks and increase the effectiveness of our campaigns at the same time – this has definitely got to change. It’s time to understand and capitalize on the full potential of AI.