How you can use AI responsibly and ethically in communication

December 6, 2023

As communication professionals, we need to become more aware of the ways in which we can use AI to increase our effectiveness – both for better quality and productivity. This will require practitioners to keep up with the dramatic increases in sophistication and variety of AI tools. It also underlines the need to adopt an ethical approach to all things AI.

Benefits communicators gain from using AI

Using AI can definitely strengthen PR and communication professionals’ future prospects rather than being an occupational threat. This is recognized by industry professionals. Canadian Jean Valin, international PR award-winner who contributed to a major 2018 report on PR & AI, “AI: Humans still needed”, concluded that fundamental human traits such as empathy, trust, humour, and relationship building, which are central to the PR role, can’t be automated.

Valin also predicted that the proportion of a PR professional’s total skills (out of 52 skills) that could be complemented or replaced by AI would rise from 12% in 2018 to 38% in 2023 – an increase of more than 300% from the 2018 figure! Worth checking the extent to which this has changed now by 2023.

An important role for public relations practitioners in the future also will be to counsel organizations on how to interpret the impact of AI use on organizational reputation.

Navigating this new environment will involve an expansion of the public relations practitioner’s current skill and knowledge. In some ways, there has never been a greater need for public relations practitioners who can provide the insight and guidance relating for AI use that will be needed to guide top organizational management.

PR and communication managers are likely to benefit from these changes

A comforting article about ChatGPT by Sensorium states that several jobs in our sector are safe. Under the heading, “What jobs AI can’t replace?” it lists 5 of the top 10 such jobs:

  • Editors
  • PR managers
  • Event planners
  • Marketing managers
  • Writers and authors.

However, our good standing depends on PR/comms pros making the most of the advantages that AI brings. The best approach is to jump in and start experimenting with AI in a current project to explore the potential of the technology and how easy it could be integrated into your workflow. The experts say you can benefit by considering AI as a form of automation that can help you develop more effective processes, freeing up resources to work in a more innovative way.

Three great sources for AI ethical standards information

Maintaining good ethical standards when using AI is an essential requirement for PR people. Ethical use of AI will become important to organizational reputation and culture, so PR pros have the opportunity of becoming trusted AI counsellors within organizations – from top to bottom.

The Public Relations Society of America released a new set of ethics guidelines in November 2023 to help PR/communication professionals make informed, responsible choices in the fast-moving world of artificial intelligence. The PRSA’s ethics report, “Promise & Pitfalls: The Ethical Use of AI for Public Relations Practitioners,” builds on the issues covered in the organization’s Code of Ethics.

The PRSA sees opportunity for communication professionals to act as an “ethical conscience” and combat disinformation related to AI development and applications. The PRSA considers we can communicate and educate people throughout our organizations about the challenges raised by AI, and how to confront those challenges.

In addition, the #AIinPR panel of the UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has established a web page, “Artificial intelligence in public relations,” which it claims contains “the most comprehensive review of AI tools in public relations” in 2023. Worth reading.

Finally, Muck Rack offers a practical AI for PR checklists you can print and display near your laptop for your reference. This checklist provides key reminders when you’re working with generative AI. Really helpful! The PDF document contains key info in 5 sections:

  • Before you get started, don’t forget…
  • Words to get you started
  • Research prompts
  • Social media prompts
  • Writing enhancement prompts.

Key principles to guide you

The key to ethical decision making is to identify which principles are involved. Once identified, a decision-making tree can guide professionals through a process that helps to arrive at an ethical decision. This includes principles of using AI. The ethical principles adopted by the Global Alliance (GA) are a valuable reference.

Here are the 16 principles that the GA believe are universal and fundamental to the practice of public relations and communication management:

Guiding principles

  1. Working in the public interest
  2. Obeying laws and respect diversity and local customs
  3. Freedom of speech
  4. Freedom of assembly
  5. Freedom of media
  6. Honesty, truth and fact-based communication
  7. Integrity
  8. Transparency and disclosure
  9. Privacy

Principles of professional practice

  1. Commitment to continuous learning and training
  2. Avoiding conflict of interest
  3. Advocating for the profession
  4. Respect and fairness in dealing with publics
  5. Expertise without guarantee of results beyond capacity
  6. Behaviours that enhance the profession
  7. Professional conduct

After identifying the issues and confirming the principles are in place, communication professionals are ready to go through the CIPR decision-making process below:

CIPR decision-making process

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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