How AI will impact the PR industry in 2018 and beyond

By Simon Coughlin, Senior Account Director

The organisations we work with at Whiteoaks have one thing in common – technology is at the heart of their business. It is not surprising, therefore, that many of the conversations we are having with clients focus on the growth in use of artificial intelligence (AI).

Organisations across multiple sectors are harnessing the power of AI — when a machine mimics cognitive functions — to enhance digital transformation and try to get one step ahead of competitors. While the benefits of AI to business are undoubted, the mainstream media has been littered with stories about the potential impact of automation on human jobs.

A recent report from the University of Oxford suggested that in 45 years’ time half of jobs currently filled by humans will have been taken over by an AI system. So no matter what industry you work in, you may well be asking yourself “could a robot do my job?”.

The potential impact of AI on the PR industry has yet to be fully understood, but it is already having an impact on tasks that historically would have been carried out by a human. Systems using complex algorithms have been designed to speed up mundane tasks such as media monitoring, analysing coverage, press release distribution and identifying influencers.

As the above outlines, AI is already making the life of a PR professional easier by improving processes and allowing them more time to concentrate on the more cognitive tasks which, as yet, machines have yet to grasp. It will be many years before an intelligent machine is able to duplicate the creative process involved in writing a compelling thought leadership article, or able to take an active role in a brainstorm session on how to get maximum publicity for a client’s shiny new widget.

So what next? Well if you accept that AI has already helped the PR industry take massive steps forward, the possibilities for further advancements are endless. AI has already had a huge impact on the news industry, analysing vast amounts of data to tailor what stories we read on Facebook and other sites. Imagine if we could harness AI to tailor the content we create to match the interests and beliefs of individual influencers and consumers. With the power of machine learning, a single press release, website blog or even video content could be modified so that it reflects the needs of a specific reader or the requirements of a prospective customer.

There would still be the need for the cognitive power required to create the original content. The intelligent machine would simply enable a PR agency to reach the most influential people and speak to them in a more personal, timely manner. This, in turn, would help clients meet their business goals.

In summary, I believe that the PR industry has nothing to fear from the growth of AI. What we now require is a greater understanding of the technology and how we can harness it to further enhance the services we provide.