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Enhancing PR with AI: Moving Beyond Automation to Explore the Potential – and the Limits

By Stephen Marcinuk 

I think a lot of people view my job as a bit of an oxymoron. I’m the founder and general manager of a public relations company powered by artificial intelligence. And if you believe the hype, generative AI is on track to replace organizations like mine wholesale.

I’m here to tell you: Don’t believe the hype. Generative AI is not an all-out killer of PR jobs. Yes, it will replace some. But for others, it will be a powerful tool that, if we wield it properly, can improve individual abilities, and enhance capabilities across the industry as well.

This shift to the AI-enabled agency is already well underway. But it’s important that PR professionals not allow excitement over AI’s revolutionary potential to overshadow its true value. In other words, you need to know what it can do and what it can’t. Before exploring some of the exciting, real-world applications of generative AI for our industry, let’s first discuss the common mistakes PR professionals make when integrating AI into their workflows.

Common pitfalls

Generative AI makes a lot of the various job functions we perform in PR every day much more efficient. But in truth it will also add its fair share of complexity. While the power of AI is pretty awesome, it’s not limitless, nor is AI infallible. Any PR professional leveraging AI needs to be intimately familiar with these limitations.

One major area of concern for PR practitioners integrating generative AI into their work is over-automation. While AI can automate many tasks, over-reliance on automation can lead to a lack of a human touch and flatout inaccuracies. And as we know, personalized communication is crucial in PR. It’s important to strike the right balance between efficiency and human oversight. Effective PR often requires tailoring messages to specific people and audiences. But even when generative AI gets the audience right, machine-generated content can still come across as generic, awkward, or impersonal. 

AI can also struggle to grasp the full context of a situation, especially in rapidly evolving or sensitive scenarios. PR professionals often need to respond to real-time events or crises, and relying on AI-generated content might lead to inappropriate or tone-deaf messaging. What’s more, generative AI is notorious for creating content that is inaccurate or outright offensive. Obviously, this can interfere with messaging and damage a company’s reputation.

Fortunately, AI systems improve over time with retraining. PR practitioners should not only monitor AI-generated content performance, but develop close relationships with the companies that build and adapt AI platforms. This way, when these companies develop new versions of the LLM platform, they’re more precisely responsive to the needs and pain points of PR pros.

AI in real-world PR

Now let’s dive into some of generative AI’s day-to-day applications in PR. Let’s start with the basics. PR professionals can use generative AI to assist in crafting press releases. AI can analyze vast amounts of training data and quickly generate initial drafts of releases, which human professionals can then review and refine. This approach not only saves time, it also allows PR experts to inject their insights and creativity while also fact checking.

Generative AI can also help PR practitioners with social media content. They can input key information into a generative AI interface, and the algorithm will generate engaging and on-brand posts—provided you give it sufficient information and guidance. As many people are now discovering, generative AI needs a special touch when it comes to the prompts you feed into it. In short, AI is only as good as the person who is using it. 

Say you’re putting together a social media post. You’ll find that you need to tell AI very explicitly what you need the text for, as well as give it specific instructions about how long the output should be. You can then provide the model with examples of viral posts, and with that real-time training, it can replicate the language and formatting patterns therein.

Vector of a robot working on laptop sitting on a growing up arrow.

Or, say you’re working on guest articles, blog posts, or op-eds on behalf of clients. Once you tell the AI model exactly what you need, it can create a rough draft for you, which you can then edit and refine to reflect the clients’ individual goals and stylistic preferences. Once you become an experienced AI whisperer, you can get a lot done in a relatively short amount of time.

Here’s where it gets really exciting. AI can actually be trained to reflect a specific voice and style. Again, this comes down to strategic prompting. At my own company, we’ve developed a library of workflows and style guides that are specific to particular writing tasks, and we’ve put together a list of prompts that reflect our best practices for achieving particular results regarding voice and style. These prompts contain detailed instructions on the language that we’ve found helpful to get the AI to produce the results we’re looking for. 

Beyond generating content, PR practitioners can also leverage AI for analysis. For example, AI tools can monitor and analyze media coverage for specific clients. These tools can track mentions of a brand, identify sentiment, and provide insights into how a PR campaign is resonating with the public in real time. This feedback enables PR teams to nimbly adjust strategies as needed, and even proactively identify opportunities for coverage.

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What the future holds

Given the radical changes that generative AI has already brought to PR, it’s hard not to feel like the future’s already here. But the fact remains that more innovations are on the way. With a single model upgrade, what AI is capable of today could be fundamentally different tomorrow.

To stay ahead of the curve, PR agencies and in-house PR departments need to start investing in generative AI now. Part of that means hiring and training AI specialists who understand both the practice of PR and the development of AI technologies. Having experts on hand who can bridge the gap between platform and people will be essential.

Above all, agencies and in-house PR departments need to establish clear workflows, strategic prompt guides, and review checks for AI-generated content. By regularly reviewing and refining AI-generated materials, practitioners can ensure they’re getting better and smarter at using AI models over time.

Final thoughts

If PR professionals are nervous about the impact of AI on our industry, it’s understandable. The frantic, hyperbolic tone with which generative AI has been discussed in the media lately would leave anyone thinking that the situation is dire, if not completely apocalyptic.

But, again, we have more to be excited about than to worry over. And this is hardly the first seismic shift to hit the field of PR. The internet, social media, and influencer marketing all created upsets in the industry, but we recovered and thrived. In fact, today, we can’t imagine doing our jobs without them. Chances are, given time, we’ll be saying the same thing about generative AI.

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