Everyone's seen at least one film in their time that depicts the end of humanity because of a particularly clever new race of robots. From classics like The Terminator to newer efforts like Ghost in the Shell, the fear that artificial intelligence (AI) could take over remains ingrained in pop culture. However, despite Stephen Hawking claiming that "the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race," scientists around the world continue to make advances in AI.
Most recently, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) released a bot that has the ability to write horror stories. While more creative industries were once seen as relatively safe from the impacts of new technologies, this development suggests that might soon change. Could public relations be next on the list of industries at risk of AI taking over?
— MIT (@MIT) October 30, 2017
Collaboration over conflict
Historically, communication professionals haven't been too bothered about the rise of AI. So much so that a PR News Online study found that only 3 per cent of news stories that discuss the PR industry also mention AI. When AI is mentioned, it is generally seen as a positive. For example, collaborating with new technologies such as big data and predictive analytics allows communication professionals to better pin down their target audience and create more effective PR campaigns as a result.
There are several ways AI might be used by communication professionals in the not too distant future to make their work easier:
- Keeping up with the news – There are already several apps that help communication professionals monitor the news. As AI gets more sophisticated, these will only get better. AI that completely understands your clients and their audience will be able to alert you to much more relevant news results. These will be both for events that are happening now and predictions about future events that might be relevant for clients.
- Pinning down your audience – As the ability to analyse data improves, communication professionals will be able to much more easily process the masses of information created by customers. They will then be able to use this to create a fuller picture of the spending and personal habits of their target audience, and tailor PR campaigns to this.
- Text structuring – New tools are currently being developed that can process text and pull out the most relevant information. This means no more sifting through all those media releases, emails and any other documentation that communication professionals receive on a daily basis. Instead, they'll only have to look at the important information.
- Predictive analytics – Communication professionals can use predictive analytics tools to find out when interest in a particular campaign might peak or which campaigns might work best when.
AI, therefore, doesn't have to be seen as something communication professionals need to battle with to survive. There are many ways it can be used to improve their work.
But what about creativity?
Using the AI technology that's come out of MIT might be a valuable way to leave the more routine tasks to technology.
One of the reasons PR has always been seen as fairly safe from the negative aspects of AI (such as robots replacing jobs) is because of the creative element of the work. It's been assumed that AI simply cannot do what a human can in terms of writing and creativity. However, the developments from MIT have shaken this assumption.
In terms of writing press releases, this might be a good thing. While press releases are important, communication professionals often would rather spend time developing the more exciting aspects of a PR campaign. Using the technology that's come out of MIT might be a valuable way to leave the more routine tasks to technology.
Some have also posited that robots can be used to send press releases to journalists. However, the problem with this is the fundamental issue with AI more generally – it isn't human. Good PR is about building strong relationships, and using a robot for many aspects of communication just won't cut it.
Good PR is about building strong relationships, and using a robot for many aspects of communication just won't cut it.
So, just like the tools mentioned above, if a robot writer ever comes to fruition, it will probably only serve to make communication professionals' work easier, rather than take their jobs away altogether.
Even with these new developments in AI, true creativity remains elusive for robots. While AI may take away some of the more routine elements of PR, and therefore may lead to small cuts of the responsibilities communication professionals hold, those that continue to come up with innovative ideas will remain in their jobs for many years to come.
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