Will PR Professionals Be Replaced By AI-Driven PR Software Programs?
By Thomas J. Roach
Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is currently developing the ability to perform basic public relations tasks like generating media releases and mission statements. Results are pretty basic right now, but they will improve. Media releases and mission statements are very formulaic, and AI is all about formula writing.
Media releases are news stories: who, what, where, when, why in the first sentence, no personal pronouns, sources for all quotes, no opinions and arrange the paragraphs in descending order of importance. That’s the easy part. The hard part will be teaching the AI software to weigh news value issues like conflict, prominence, timeliness, proximity, and novelty. AI programs will also need to learn to identify and use only facts from authoritative sources.
Most AI programs are having trouble writing essays and speeches that are based on reliable information and don’t talk in circles. However, AI is a collection of software that is continuously under development. At some point the AI programs will be writing their own upgrades and competing for Pulitzer Prizes.
In their present manifestations, AI programs can write press releases if someone enters all the pertinent data, and they can probably write good basic mission statements. Mission statements are a much easier formula: define the organization, state its goals, and reach for the sublime. Most mission statements are so clichéd, AI authored statements will probably be an improvement.
So, will PR professionals be replaced by PR software programs?
For external communication, the machines in your office can send information to the machines at Facebook, Twitter, CNN, and the New York Times. Internally, a big part of the communication agenda involves disseminating information through employee publications and intranet postings, and it isn’t hard to imagine future AI programs identifying topics, generating copy for an employee publication, organizing the layout, and posting everything on the intranet.
But there is a lot more to public relations than generating publicity. Public relations can involve providing reward and recognition for employees, meeting with NIMBY groups, speaking at city planning sessions, running an advisory board and wining and dining clients and public officials.
Corporate culture is nothing more than the collection of all the ways in which an organization communicates. How we communicate defines who we are. Whether dealing with external or internal publics, the ultimate goal is to manage the reputation of the organization, and reputation is built around human traits like being well-intentioned, creative, trustworthy, caring and kind – all things that can’t be measured in words alone.
One of the main tasks for professional communicators in the future will be making sure that company representatives and managers don’t hide behind a wall of AI generated texts. All the important messages need to have a face behind them.
Our adaptations to a work-from-home environment during the pandemic are telling. We didn’t settle for replacing all communication with email; we employed Zoom and other face-to-face communication platforms. Professional business communicators will have to monitor future corporate communication and make sure it remains personal where and when it counts.
On a more positive note, if AI programs take over the more menial and less personal writing and proofreading tasks, they may free up professional communicators to spend more time meeting in person with key publics.
Computers were supposed to make our work easier, but they made it harder. In the old days one person wrote the copy, someone else typeset it, someone else printed it, and someone else delivered it.
Now, one worker uses software to write, typeset, layout and send. We eliminated some jobs and made others harder. Maybe there is hope that if we let AI take over the bulk of less important information dissemination, we will finally have more time to manage the people part of the work equation.
Thomas J. Roach Ph.D., has 30 years experience in communication as a journalist, media coordinator, communication director and consultant. He has taught at Purdue University Northwest since 1987, and is the author of “An Interviewing Rhetoric.” He can be reached at [email protected].