No disrespect intended, but it seems that for many senior and mid-level PR and communications pros, artificial intelligence is pretty, pretty, pretty low on their priority list.

It’s as if they’re waiting for someone to send them the Official Memo with a timeframe and process to get ready for AI.

Well, I have a bit of news for you. There is NO memo!

AI isn’t coming, it’s here and it’s only going to become a more pervasive part of our business and personal lives.

Case in point:

  • If you do searches on Google, you’re using AI.
  • If you use social media, AI helps determine the news and content you see.
  • Netflix recommendations? AI.
  • Ads? AI is used to change them dynamically based on your personal data and history so they’re personalized to your needs.
  • Digital voice assistants? Analytics? Check and mate.

Why is PR Sleepwalking into AI?

In many ways, communicators’ current approach to AI reminds me of the early days of social media. Back then some senior PR decision makers wrote off social as a passing fancy.

Sure, a lot of communicators did see the potential, but they were often drowned out.

I remember how much resistance Gini Dietrich got with the PESO Model when she first proposed it. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way and the industry’s embraced the importance of shared media in an integrated program.

Yet, because PR was slower than it should have been to claim its strategic role in the implementation of social, that set us back and let marketing zoom ahead.

I’m worried the same thing with happen with the implementation of AI.

The Wake-Up Call and the Pitch

OK, maybe I’m being overly dramatic, but it seems like we need a wake-up call when it comes to learning about and implementing AI.

We’ve been pressing the snooze button on AIinPR for far too long.

And the only way to do this is to start understanding what AI is and does, what the risks, challenges and opportunities are, and the strategic role communicators can play.

That’s why the Artificial Intelligence in Public Relations Panel (AIinPR) of the Chartered Institute for Public Relations is undertaking a global study in partnership with Page to assess AI literacy and readiness in PR. (Disclosure: I’m a member of the AIinPR panel.)

The goal of the research, which launched in April, is to determine level of knowledge and competency in data and artificial intelligence within the global public relations profession.

And we encourage you to take 15 minutes or so to complete the AIinPR Literacy survey.

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Survey responses will be analysed by leading AIinPR academic researchers and those working on AI in PR and will enable us to report back to the industry where the profession is with data and AI knowledge, understanding and upskilling.

Resources for Your Leap into AI

Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, including sentiment analysis, predictive analytics, chatbots and natural language generation are beginning to have a direct impact on our industry and that will only continue.

And communications professionals may not be as prepared as we must be for the coming upheaval.

According to AIinPR Chair Kerry Sheehan: “Data and AI literacy is an essential skill to develop for public relations practitioners who want to remain relevant. The coming months and next year will be crucial for us with AI in our own roles and in our advisory roles.”

Professor Anne Gregory, AIinPR lead academic, said: “Rarely is there as much agreement about the importance of an emerging technology as exists today about artificial intelligence. Understanding AI is vital for the PR profession. With the power for good and harm that big data and AI offers, someone has to the perform the ethical guardian role. That is down to us.”

If you’re interested in learning more about how artificial intelligence is changing public relations and communications, check out some of the free resources the AIinPR panel has produced including:

  • AIinPR Toolstack – a compilation and summary of available PR-relevant AI tools
  • Ethics Guide to Artificial Intelligence in PR – decision making framework and case studies

You might also want to read You Look Like a Thing and I Love You, a humorous and easy to understand book by computer scientist Janelle Shane that explains AI algorithms, what they do best and what their limitations are.

No doubt there is much work and learning ahead of us. And we believe this research survey is a great place to start.

And of course, where would I be if I didn’t repeat my call to action and ask you to complete the AIinPR readiness survey.

Maybe the results will provide the wake-up call our profession needs.


About Martin Waxman

Martin Waxman, MCM, APR, is a LinkedIn Learning instructor, president of a consultancy and conducts AI research. He’s also a past-chair of PRSA Counselors Academy, and a member of the #AIinPR panel.  Martin teaches digital strategy and social media at the Schulich School of Business, McMaster University, and UToronto SCS and regularly speaks at conferences and events across North America. Martin is the 2019 recipient of the Institute for Public Relations Makovsky Best Master’s Thesis Award. Connect with Martin on Twitter or LinkedIn and subscribe to his Digital Marketing Trends newsletter.


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