PR Hot Take: The PR Business Solutions AI Can’t Provide

Automated intelligence, or A.I., is a hot topic at the moment, and for good reason, it is revolutionizing the job landscape and our global economy. Right now, a shift is happening in the job market, where this innovation is replacing skilled professionals because some believe this technology solves many issues in today’s workforce. While this may be true in some aspects, I firmly believe that there will, in time, be a reckoning as companies learn what solutions A.I. cannot provide that a skilled human being can and should do for a company.

Despite this shift, I am in support of the use of A.I. when combined with a skilled PR professional. An experienced public relations professional who engages A.I. has the ability to work more efficiently, be more adaptable, and provide more comprehensive solutions for clients and the companies we serve. However, A.I. cannot and should not be any company’s primary solution to communications needs. Not only will there be communication gaps that leave customers confused or disengaged, an AI-only approach has the potential to severely damage a company’s reputation.

Here are the top five things that A.I. cannot do in public relations work:

Knowing Subtleties and Nuances:

A friend and fellow P.R. professional recounted a story to me last week that perfectly illustrates why having a human at the helm of a company’s P.R. efforts is a good idea. My friend was given a news release to distribute on behalf of the company. This release was about a new marketing campaign. The campaign was clever and edgy, but it had one serious flaw, the main topic of the campaign was based on a very sensitive subject. My friend knew that if they’d distributed the release, the potential reputational damage to their company would have been catastrophic.

My friend’s knowledge of the current news cycle and the sensitivity around the topic in the release would not have the company’s intended outcome of communicating their campaign positively. Had the company used A.I. to generate and distribute the release, the potential reputational damage would have been long-lasting and cost the company money. My friend’s knowledge of the news landscape and the subtleties around the issues in the release saved the company. A computer will do as it is told. A human can reason, use common sense, and understand subtleties and nuances where a computer cannot.

Create lasting sentiment:

Public relations aims to create a positive image for a company or person. This positive image creates customer loyalty and increased business. Many A.I. platforms advertise their ability to create brand marketing. But actual brand creation and marketing is about building customer loyalty. I believe it takes a deeper understanding of the particular business, the community and industry the business operates in, and the behavior of its current and ideal customers to thrive. People are complex, and there is no one size fits all solution to creating a long-lasting sentiment that builds brand loyalty. Even the best-planned campaigns can have a hiccup or, worse, accidentally alienate a segment of your customer group. A skilled P.R. and marketing professional will have the foreknowledge to see and avoid these potential issues or be prepared to smooth things over when they’re encountered.

Build dynamic and resilient relationships:

Business is built on relationships, and so is skilled P.R. work. The relationships that this agency has built with our vast press network are something that no computer can imitate. Public relations professionals partner with media outlets, creating long-lasting and resilient relationships. These relationships set a skilled P.R. professional apart from A.I. Early in my career, it was the relationships that I built that saved me a time or two. Over the years, I’ve been able to return the favor to media contacts and in return. In building these relationships, not only do I have a great working relationship, but I know which story to bring to which outlet. Over time, as I’ve built these relationships, I’ve learned the preferences of my media contacts, which ensures excellent coverage that is mutually beneficial to all parties. A computer cannot possess the skills needed to create dynamic working relationships that guarantee quality coverage. Human-to-human conversations, humility, understanding, and support make a genuine working relationship.

Speak to your customers in your voice:

Every business has a voice; it is part of the uniqueness that makes it what it is. Understanding your company’s voice is critical to reaching your desired customer base. One might argue that you can prompt A.I. to create content in your company’s voice. I can honestly say I’ve read some decent examples, but most read like a computer has written them. When a company’s tone, cadence, and language usage change drastically, it can alienate customers. I fear that many companies are learning this vital lesson right now. Most people don’t want to talk to a computer; they want to talk to a person.

There is a content shift happening at the moment where companies are embracing the content put out by A.I. instead of a human author, and suddenly, the social media posts don’t have that same feel. The marketing materials look and sound a little different. This shift in tone and language may be subtle, but your customers will notice. A skilled P.R. professional won’t erase your company’s voice; our job is to enhance it so you can truly speak to your customers.

Fix a Crisis:

A skilled P.R. professional can help you avoid a full-blown P.R. crisis in most cases. A.I. simply does what it is prompted to do and does not have the interpersonal skills or the ability to “read the room” to instruct a company on how to avoid reputational damage. Furthermore, when a company finds itself in the middle of a crisis situation, a P.R. professional has a professional “toolkit” to help repair the damage. This “toolkit” includes learned skills, a deep knowledge of an industry, stakeholder’s needs, and the ability to be agile in the situation. There are complexities and nuances in these moments that I believe a computer will never be able to replicate. I’ve had extensive experience guiding companies through crises and rebuilding reputations. I can honestly say that no two crisis situations are the same; my ability to be agile and listen to the ever-changing needs of stakeholders in those situations has allowed me to be successful.

In Closing:

At this point in time, there are some aspects of P.R. that A.I. cannot do, where a human at the helm is needed. I strongly caution companies from relying solely on A.I. solutions for business communications. Language is complex, and so are humans, and when we rely on machine intelligence, there is a large margin for unintentional error. Warren Buffet famously said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” In the five minutes it would take to have A.I. write and distribute a press release or put out a social media post, blog post, or other business communication without human oversight, I fear that companies are going to learn from Mr. Buffet’s wise words.

Photo by Massimo Botturi on Unsplash