Is AI a threat or benefit to marketers and communicators? 2 PR pros weigh in

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Note: This is a reposted blog by Kristen Dunleavy Muck Rack. For the original blog, please visit here.

Now, more than a half century since the birth of artificial intelligence, mass interest and adoption of the technology has accelerated in recent months, thanks to publicly available software like ChatGPT and Character.ai.

This has created both an opportunity and a potential point of concern for professional marketers and communicators who are wondering: Do the benefits of AI outweigh the threats?

In a webinar hosted by PR NetErin Moody, VP of technology and digital entertainment at BerlinRosen, and Linda Zebian, senior director of communications and community at Muck Rack, sat down to answer this question and share their predictions for what comes next.

Here are six of the top takeaways.

1. AI can speed up tedious tasks

If you hate pulling monthly reports or need a faster way to turn your bullet points and ideas into a polished pitch or press release, AI could be the answer.

Like other automation technologies we’ve seen crop up over the years, AI could handle monotonous and often time-consuming tasks, freeing up marcomms professionals to focus on big-picture strategy and relationship building.

Linda shared the example of Muck Rack’s new PressPal.ai tool. It can help you generate press releases from keywords or headlines—and even aggregate a list of journalists who might be interested in your pitch. But you’re still going to need to review the content and adjust accordingly.

2. AI cannot be successful without a human touch

It’s not all hands-free with AI. Tools like ChatGPT and Google’s Bard still require humans to feed them effective prompts.

“What you tell it to do for you has to be really spot on,” Erin said. “The other day, I asked ChatGPT to do a pitch for me, and it gave me this four paragraph long pitch. I know a journalist is going to read the first few sentences, and that’s it. You have to ask it to be succinct. Otherwise, it will use a lot of flowery words.”

Even the creators of AI tech continue to emphasize these tools are not human and cannot form functional relationships (like with journalists, *hint, hint*). They are more prone to seeing the world as black and white, while marcomms professionals know there are many layers of gray. AI tools can’t handle the nuance that comes with providing sound strategic counsel.

While AI may provide a solid starting point for a press release or blog post, it’s not going to churn out a polished product. Solid storytelling, writing and editing skills are still very much in demand.

3. Generative AI could be your next big brainstorming tool

In a remote-first world, we may not always have the option to pop over to a colleague’s desk to brainstorm new ideas, especially when you’re a solo practitioner.

Generative AI, which is capable of generating text, images or other forms of media in response to specific prompts, can be a great way to get the ball rolling on a new pitch or marketing campaign.

Linda explained that, although tools like PressPal.Ai or ChatGPT won’t give you copy that’s ready to publish, the starter text can make a great springboard for the final product. Sometimes all it takes is a single word or idea to get the creative juices flowing.

4. The importance of fact-checking will only grow

One of the biggest fears surfacing around generative AI is the potential spread of misinformation. Linda and Erin both emphasized this is where the human element again comes into play. Fact-checking and editing will continue to be a priority.

“If you’re more advanced in your career and training a new hire, you would never ask them to draft a release and send it on their own, right?” Linda explained. “You’re going to look at it through a critical lens and make suggested changes.”

The same level of scrutiny, or perhaps more, is required when working with generative AI. Tools like ChatGPT are not infallible. They’re working from a library of content available online and can be subject to the same misinformation as any average website. It’s up to marcomms professionals to be vigilant about what’s put into the world.

Erin added that accountability and mutual respect is key. The same way PR pros would not want articles written by AI about their clients, PR pros should be mindful of how they’re pitching.

Linda summed it up well, cautioning, “Don’t send a pitch written by anyone but you.”

5. Marketing and communications professionals are still valuable

When it comes to PR and marketing, Erin feels nothing is going to replace the emotional intelligence components of the job.

Quality marcomms professionals are hired for more than their expertise, she explained. They must have the right personality to fit in with the right people and build the right relationships.

“You’re probably not going to ask AI what to do when you’re facing a really nuanced crisis,” Linda said. The job is too dependent on human elements that can’t be copied. AI is not going to replace a professional’s judgment or strategic counsel.

Erin agreed adding, “AI is not a way to be lazy”—but a tool to make us more efficient and free up time for research and client strategy.

Some folks may not remember pulling out the scissors to cut out press clips, because media monitoring tech removed that tedious part of the job—and freed up PR pros to focus on telling compelling stories and building lasting relationships with journalists.

The speakers agreed AI should be viewed like these other forms of technology adopted over the years: when used well, it can make the job easier.

6. AI is not going away

Linda cited two interesting statistics from Muck Rack’s State of AI in PR 2023 report that surveyed 1,000 PR pros: 61% said they are currently using or planning to use AI, with 57% saying they’re using it to craft pitches.

It’s out there, it’s being used—and it’s likely here to stay.

Chances are, you might already be using AI without knowing it. Under its ever-broadening current definition, AI can encompass any kind of pattern-matching automation, from a digital assistant like Siri, to the algorithms social media platforms like Facebook and TikTok use to provide users with personalized content.

For those who are afraid of what the technology might bring in the future, Erin and Linda encouraged PR pros to give it a try! Pay attention to the concerns, be mindful of how you use AI, test it thoroughly and you won’t be left in the lurch.

Kristen Dunleavy is the senior content marketing manager at Muck Rack, where she creates, distributes and oversees all things content for Muck Rack’s audience of PR pros and journalists.

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