PR professionals are pondering how Artificial Intelligence (AI) will impact their industry.
Some fear that AI-driven writing engines may soon render the craft of the wordsmith obsolete.
Others take a more positive view. Tools featuring some level of machine-learning are already helping with mundane, time-consuming tasks.
Among the more interesting applications is AI’s potential for spotting the first signs of an impending PR crisis.
Applying Machine Intelligence to PR
Elements of machine learning are also being integrated into the PR process to monitor media lists in real-time and update them automatically when changes occur. They are also present in applications that transcribe recorded audio and video into text.
In short, AI is enhancing the quality of the information PR professionals use to support their work.
To Err is Human
Everyone makes mistakes. It’s human nature.
I remember one time I had to go to a big conference where a client was giving his presentation right after lunch. The whole team was there to lend support. Afterwards we were going on to a black tie awards dinner.
It was agreed I would get there at lunchtime but having stopped off en route to acquire a new dress shirt the meal was ending as I arrived.
People began heading for the conference hall. Still hungry, I told my colleagues I would join them in a minute and headed for the dessert trolley before it could be cleared away.
Hurriedly I helped myself to chocolate brownie and cream. Big mistake!
As I returned to the seat where I’d left my bags some of the cream spilled off the plate and onto my lap. Mortified, I rapidly had to figure out how best to save face.
Saving Humans from Themselves
Humans, it seems, cannot help anthropomorphizing their robot helpers.
But for the most part, we want AI to protect us from ourselves.
To this end we are developing self-driving cars to make the roads a safer place. We are placing AI inside corporate networks to spot the early signs of a data breach and it is an essential component of preventative healthcare.
AI and Crisis Management
Clients also make mistakes.
When this happens, the hyper-connected world of social media and 24/7 deadlines conspire to spread the bad news worldwide in minutes.
There is little or no time to plan. You are caught up in a fast-moving, high-adrenaline ride that can take hours or even days to contain.
Keeping pace with fast-moving developments and supplying multiple media channels with regular updates and comment is a resource-hungry and challenging process. If only we could see it coming.
Some believe the answer may lie with AI-based software.
The idea is to use machine-learning applications for ‘crisis intelligence’ to help spot and avert an impending PR emergency at source.
Emerging tools are able to analyze hundreds of thousands of social media posts to look for early signs of discontent.
This gives PR teams time to flag up issues to clients and prepare a pre-emptive response, including swapping planned activities for ones tailored to the situation.
Software will not Replace Soft Skills
Regardless of how successful AI may prove at providing us with crisis intelligence, the onus of strategy development, telling the story and re-establishing trust must remain the province of PR professionals.
Back at the conference center, my little mishap had been accompanied by a couple of lucky breaks.
First, no one on the client side had been present when it happened. Second, I realized I had a spare pair of black trousers with me. They belonged to the black tie outfit and had a regulation black strip down the leg but they would have to do.
Picking up my overnight bag, I headed past the smirking waiters towards the gents’ cloakroom. Five minutes later I was able to rejoin my colleagues in the hall.
Nobody remarked on, or even noticed, my subtle change of Iegwear.
Managing a crisis demands soft skills like imagination, discretion, empathy, and good old-fashioned quick thinking – essential human qualities that, if this example is anything to go by, no machine is likely to match any time soon.