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The Race Is On: Marketing Disciplines Show AI’s PR Potential

Published on October 26, 2023

Generative AI tools will be a PR advantage. Early adopters are seeing the benefits of content creation driven by artificial intelligence.

As the business community has rushed to embrace artificial intelligence, many public relations specialists are still wondering about the benefits of AI in PR content creation and what generative AI tools like ChatGPT mean for their jobs. So far, AI-driven PR content has not matched the innovations in martech and other engineering-focused applications. But even in its infancy, natural language processing technology is proving to be a boon to the marketing industry.

Anyone with an ear for hype might be skeptical. As fast as AI technology has advanced, with software vendors rushing to add AI chat enhancements, their marketing claims seem to sprint ahead of the pack. When Cision US in October 2023 launched its “all-new, all-in-one, AI-powered PR and comms partner,” many CisionOne features were “coming soon” and had not arrived in early 2024.

The media outreach game remains the same, despite claims of a revolution in the making. PR professionals’ inboxes are lined with AI-themed sales pitches. Many messages fall far short of the mark in suggesting services the recipient would find useful. How intelligent can these AI tools be? 

After AI False Starts, Marketers Take Fast Track

The Purpose Brand team has seen the prequel to this drama. Newsrooms tried to automate (or send offshore) bread-and-butter narrative reporting–high school sports, quarterly earnings reports, obituaries–only to let errors slip by or simply to restate the obvious.

Generative AI still has far to go. Machine learning helped lawyers research cases and judges set sentences–producing fictional case law and harsh penalties. Image generators have been churning out AI deepfakes that AI fraud detection stumbles to recognize.

Nevertheless, most marketing disciplines see the advantages of automation and have long passed publicists on their AI content creation journey. McKinsey sees marketing as one of generative AI’s prime benefactors. With its ability to recognize multichannel marketing patterns, the technology is expected to lift revenues for its adopters by up to 15%.

Even as some publicists deny the need for search engine optimization, Google has blown past SEO second-guessing and introduced a range of responsive carousels and snippets. Google Labs’ Search Generative Experience turns queries into an interview with users to find the most relevant answers.

The many marketing uses for generative AI show the potential for the possibilities that advancements hold for PR practice:

  • Google’s Spotlight Moments uses AI targeting to pair a sponsor’s ads with complementary third-party content on YouTube. The program includes sponsor-branded, dynamically generated playlists for holidays, entertainment award nights or other cultural events.
  • Microsoft’s Predictive Targeting AI reads ad and landing-page text to find hidden audiences for placements on LinkedIn, MSN and other sites.
  • In Meta Advantage, which tailors ads for different formats and feeds, AI pulls ad copy from Facebook page posts, chooses among ads or shuffles product cards based on viewer profiles.
  • Dynamic pricing learns shopping habits to calibrate e-commerce discounts, maximizing sales and profits. Online and brick-and-mortar marketers are testing Uber’s surge pricing and airlines’ capacity management strategies. 
  • Chatbots are mastering a range of problem-solving personas to answer consumer questions. Zendesk suggests giving chatbots a name and visual representation to reflect brand voice and tone; going as far to suggest backstories such as a retired history teacher for an educational-supply catalog.
  • The capacity and speed and capacity of machine learning systems allow more precise bsiness analytics that forecast demand, manage inventory and do competitive analysis.

Early missteps have led many PR practitioners to pronounce AI not ready for prime time, but this attitude often has the air of whistling past the graveyard. Hollywood screenwriters walked out over AI’s existential threat to their careers. Content marketers likewise read the reports on AI’s threat to knowledge workers and think twice about where AI advances will lead. We’ve met business executives happy to let robots write corporate blogs and press releases despite lackluster results. Low cost is a powerful motivator. 

Our View: AI Generates Capacity, Benefits PR Clients

Purpose Brand consultants do not believe automation will replace PR. They do their jobs better with AI tools. Coming off of a year of learning about machine learning, our teams are mastering generative AI to improve their content creation craft. Even while writing this, an AI-supercharged word processor anticipates our typing and suggests ways to auto-fill the sentence.

The spelling corrections are welcome, but the auto-fill prompts can be more annoying than intimidating. The writer thinks, “I can do better than that,” then does so. As content strategists learn how to prompt the AI tools—the more observed detail they contribute—the better the AI output. Human connections and insights drive communications; software platforms can only mediate. 

Strip away the hype, and AI performs the function of a scaffold. PR specialists who know how to set it up safely will get closer to where they can start doing the real work of painting stories at a high level. For more from the Purpose Brand team on AI and the art and craft of PR, watch this space.

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