The Impact of AI on PR: A Comprehensive Review

The British-based Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), of which Purpose Communications is a Corporate Affiliate since 2022, has been proactive in regard to Artificial Intelligence (AI), by founding all the way back in February 2018 the “CIPR Artificial Intelligence in Public Relations - #AIinPR – panel”. The purpose was to explore the impact and opportunities of AI on Public Relations and the wider business community. CIPR published a comprehensive report on February 2023, co-authored by Andrew Bruce Smith and Stephen Waddington, with contributions from Professor Anne Gregory, Jean Valin and Scott Brinker, a report which offers the most comprehensive review of AI use in public relations, examines the current tool landscape and identifies the technology that will influence the future of PR practice.

Titled “Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools and the impact on Public Relations (PR) practice (2023)” the report notes that the application of AI tools in PR is gaining momentum, following the introduction to the wider audience of Open AI's ChatGPT on 30 November 2022.

After many years of scepticism and resistance, and up until last November the application of AI within PR-related tools remained somewhat limited, we’re finally witnessing a surge in interest in AI within Public Relations, following the launch of ChatGPT which is merely one of a whole raft of new generative AI and related technologies that have arisen in what seems like the blink of an eye. Within a week, ChatGPT gained one million users. By the end of January 2023, this had risen to 100 million global users. There seems to be no sign of user growth (or interest) abating.

The report analyses the sophistication of AI tools that can be used in the PR sector, exploring over 10,000 marketing tools with a focus on PR-related tools. It found that the market for AI tools for PR is still in its infancy and characterized by point solutions for media analysis, influencer mapping, social media listening, and press release distribution. However, the recent arrival of generative AI and machine learning tools and services has created the potential for significant effects upon all aspects of the PR profession.

For example, given that writing is still one of the most prevalent required skills for any PR professional of any level of seniority or experience, it isn’t hard to see how ChatGPT may impact this aspect of practise. ChatGPT and similar tools such as Jasper AI can create written public relations content of any kind - press releases, email pitches, messaging, etc. Simply feed in a prompt and you’ll get a response back in seconds. Sceptics have already pointed out that the results are oftensimplistic, cliched or downright wrong. They argue that ChatGPT can’t and won’t replace the need for real human beings to create high quality content.

But according to the report, that might be missing the point. ChatGPT, as one of the new generative AI and related technologies that have arisen in the PR sector, along with similar tools such as Jasper AI, can create written PR content, including press releases, email pitches, and messaging. These AI tools can support the content creation process, allowing PR professionals to focus on generating more valuable written content.

Also AI isn’t just about writing. The list of possible PR use cases for large language model AI grows by the day. The Global Body of Knowledge (GBOK), lists 50 skills (covering everything from research, planning, analysis, forecasting, campaign delivery and measurement) and notes that many of them could be impacted by AI.

The report concludes that the PR industry should focus on accurately assessing the likely short-term and long-term impacts of AI on the PR sector. The rapid arrival and accessibility of new AI and machine learning tools and services presents challenges in this regard, but the PR industry should focus on the near-to-medium term future and suggests that practitioners should develop the skill of prompt engineering, which may be a highly prized ability for all PR professionals in the future.

It’s extremely difficult to make hard and fast predictions about the exact impact of AI on the public relations industry over the next 12 months, let alone the next five years. If anything can be said with any certainty, it is that AI technology will continue to offer ever more varied capabilities and use cases that will have an impact on the profession. But ignoring AI isn’t an option. At the same time, it seems wrongheaded and defeatist to assume AI will remove the need for human PR practitioners completely.