Use of AI in public relations and communication management.

Using AI in PR and communication management in 2024

February 7, 2024

Digital strategist Bruno Amaral wrote an excellent article in February 2024: “AI Adoption in Public Relations – How it started and how it’s going.” He gives good context on using AI in PR and communication management. This includes work by Stephen Waddington, who found AI can be useful in the following PR areas:

  1. Production of text and images
  2. Editing and summarizing
  3. Assessment and model creation
  4. Planning and Decision Making

Also, Waddington published an outline of how to use ChatGPT, based on a real-life example, to follow all the steps of producing a press release. He adapted the AI tools to the 4 stages generally understood to represent the broad stages in a PR/comms program or project:

  1. Research
  2. Planning
  3. Action / Communication
  4. Evaluation

Image, opposite: 2024 Global Comms Report, Cision.  The chart reflects the perspective in Sept-Oct 2023 of 427 senior level professionals across 10 countries, U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, U.K., Australia, China, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Comprising 51% female, 49% male. Also 59% from corporations, 15% from PR agencies, and the rest from nonprofits, govt agencies and PR arms from other types of organizations.

Why aren’t we using more AI tools in professional communication?

Only 32% of senior comms pros in the survey were using AI frequently, and almost the same number (33%) were using AI infrequently in Sept-Oct 2023. Why haven’t more comms pros found that using AI in PR and communication management leads to better results?

Possible reasons for not using AI yet

Bruno Amaral discussed the main reasons he thinks PRs don’t use AI:

  1. People in PR don’t have access to these tools or know how to use them.
  2. They still haven’t set up a process for AI use in-house and agency.
  3. AI doesn’t provide that much added value.
  4. AI still doesn’t have the level of quality humans provide.
  5. We’re at the peak of the inflated expectations of the Hype Curve (see image below).
  6. PR is a profession where sensitivity to stakeholders, publics, and context can’t be adapted to current AI models.

1. People in PR don’t have access to AI tools

This isn’t really an issue, we have seen there is an abundance of tools and the real problem is that some of them promise more than they deliver. Some of these tools will also fade away, so there is a risk in relying too much on them.

2. We still don’t have a process for AI in public relations

PR already has a process, from research to evaluation of results. We can try to fit the tools to the process, or see where the AI can improve the output for the client. You can surely write a press release for a generic audience, AI can take it and create variations for different audiences or scan it to extract a fact sheet.

3. There’s not enough added value yet

Fiction made us believe AI would replace humans; the general response to ChatGPT’s launch was that AI would take away jobs from people not using AI to do their job better or faster. Yet, with all the biases and uncertain quality of output from AI, it is only natural that we don’t feel that added value is present.

4. AI still doesn’t have the level of quality humans provide.

AI image generation still can’t draw hands, it gets confused with cables, and some of them are just too perfect to be realistic.

5. We’re at the peak of the inflated expectations of the Hype Curve

Gartner illustrates their Hype Curve, below, in a 2023 article, “What’s new in artificial intelligence from the 2023 Gartner Hype Cycle.” Gartner sees two sides to the generative AI movement on the path toward more powerful AI systems:

  • Innovations that will be fueled by GenAI.
  • Innovations that will fuel advances in GenAI.

5 key phases of the Hype Curve or Hype Cycle

The Gartner hype cycle is a graphical presentation developed, used and branded by the US firm Gartner to represent the maturity, adoption, and social application of various technologies. The hype cycle claims to provide a graphical and conceptual presentation of the maturity of emerging technologies through five phases.

Each hype cycle drills down into the five key phases of a technology’s life cycle. The 5 phases of the Hype Cycle or Hype Curve are:

1. Technology trigger
A potential technology breakthrough starts the process. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity. Often no usable products exist and commercial viability is unproven.
2. Peak of inflated expectations
Early publicity produces a number of success stories—often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; most do not.
3. Trough of disillusionment
Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the technology shake out or fail. Investment continues only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters.
4. Slope of enlightenment
More instances of how the technology can benefit the enterprise start to crystallize and become more widely understood. Second- and third-generation products appear from technology providers. More enterprises fund pilots; conservative companies remain cautious.
5. Plateau of productivity
Mainstream adoption starts to take off. Criteria for assessing provider viability are more clearly defined. The technology’s broad market applicability and relevance are clearly paying off. If the technology has more than a niche market then it will continue to grow.

The term “hype cycle” and each of the associated phases are now used more broadly in the marketing of new technologies.

Criticism of the Hype Cycle or Hype Curve concept

There have been various criticisms of the hype cycle notion, including that it is not a cycle, that the outcome does not depend on the nature of the technology itself, that it is not scientific in nature, and that it does not reflect changes over time in the speed at which technology develops. Nevertheless, it does give a broad view of the most common phases.

Image: What’s New in Artificial Intelligence From the 2023 Gartner Hype Cycle™ August 2023.

6. PR is a profession where sensitivity to stakeholders, publics, and context can’t be communicated to Large Language Models

For instance, images created don’t take account of the sensitivities of certain stakeholders.

How can we accelerate the adoption of AI tools?

First we need to better identify the specific, tangible needs of PR and comms professionals. We need to identify our pain points within the profession. Once those are identified we can look at the existing tools and filter out the mere interfaces to OpenAI’s tools. Most of all, Amaral feels we need to share more with the community. This should not be a race to find the best tool to gain competitive advantage:

There is always a better tool around the corner, a new shiny object. My belief is that by sharing more we can provide better service, grow the profession, and make it rise to the C-level of companies.

Further reading

You can read further helpful information about using AI in PR and communication management in my article, “How to use AI prompts to ask the right questions.”

Kim Harrison

Kim J. Harrison has authored, edited, coordinated, produced and published the material in the articles and ebooks on this website. He brings his experience in professional communication and business management to provide helpful insights to readers around the world. As he has progressed through his wide-ranging career, his roles have included corporate affairs management; PR consulting; authoring many articles, books and ebooks; running a university PR course; and business management. Kim has received several international media relations awards and a website award. He has been quoted in The New York Times and various other news media, and has held elected positions with his State and National PR Institutes.

Content Authenticity Statement. AI is not knowingly used in the writing or editing of any content, including images, in these newsletters, articles or ebooks. If AI-produced content is contained in any published form in future, this will be reported to readers.

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