AI or not to AI, that is the question

I’ve lost count of the number of articles regarding the potential extinction of the press release and to be honest I’m fed up with it. The amount of time and focus we put on this question is unhelpful to our profession. By giving it so much airtime, we make it look like our role revolves around writing and issuing press releases, which in my opinion is downright offensive. Don’t get me wrong, the press release certainly had a place and still does to some extent, but with the proliferation of communication channels and broader PR mix, it’s important we don’t get too hooked up on this age-old debate.

Luckily for us then that the emergence of AI means we can spend less time worrying about writing press releases and more time focusing on being creative and strategic, or can we?

I was speaking to someone last week about AI and its ability to draft press releases amongst other things. Somebody else asked me if I was worried about the developments in technology as presumably this could lead to the end of PR and with it, my career.

I’m sure many of you reading this will have endured similar conversations and I’m sure one day all of us, regardless of profession, will be replaced by robots, but until then how can we demonstrate the role of PR beyond the press release?

The developments in AI are exciting and welcome but the platforms I researched are a long way off from being functional in the real world.

To make sure I’m ready to defend the profession and justify my existence I’ve been doing my homework on AI and here’s what I’ve learned so far…

From poetry to social media ads, these platforms offer several tools to help organisations develop content without (air quote) “much” human intervention. Most of the platforms are paid for, but I tested a free version called ‘RYTR’. I was able to select the language, tone of voice, type of content and level of creativity and number of variations. All I had to do was add a few keywords (125 characters max) and topic (150 characters max). To be honest I think by the time I’d submitted the content I could have written it myself. Nevertheless, despite my initial scepticism I was pleasantly surprised with the results.

The first piece I submitted was for a blog about a recent International Women’s Day event we held in Wigan. When it came back, the blog included information I had submitted and additional content too. The second piece I submitted was for social media ad content for our fostering service. I requested 3 versions, all of which I would be happy to publish online. I even included spelling mistakes to see if I could trick the robots, but they didn’t fall for it. The third piece I submitted was for interview questions; quite useful if you’re planning to interview a case study and looking for inspiration. Finally, I submitted a request for a brand name for a new mixed-use town centre redevelopment scheme. This was the most entertaining, with suggestions including: ArtyTown Centre, Retailution Revolution, City Sparkle. I repeatedly changed the keywords to see if anything better would come back but most of the suggestions were terrible, despite notching up the creativity level to ‘optimal’.

To conclude, the developments in AI are exciting and welcome but the platforms I researched are a long way off from being functional in the real world. I don’t doubt that one day they will be good enough to be used by PR professionals and when that day comes it’s important we embrace these technological advances to shape the future of PR and to stay relevant.

So, for now I will sleep well knowing that a robot will not be replacing me any time soon!

Lucy Downham is PR Manager at Wigan Council and an LGcomms Executive Committee member.


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