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Long Read: Making AI, ChatGPT work for PR professionals

2023 has barely begun when ChatGPT and AI are all the rage. Already facing upskilling challenges from social media and a digital-first world, ChatGPT has raised fears that AI will take away the content heave jobs of PR professionals.

PRmoment India spoke to a range of communicators and content creators to understand how is AI being incorporated by them, whether fears about being replaced by machine learning are valid and what upskilling is needed to deal with the advent of AI.

ChatGPT and its effectiveness 

PR practitioners must be transparent about using AI: Abhishek Sen

Abhishek Sen, senior manager – of content, research and analytics, at 'The PRactice' shared, "We conducted an experiment at The PRactice for a few weeks to evaluate the capabilities of ChatGPT and its effectiveness. Our findings suggest that ChatGPT can help provide a starting point or overcome writer's block by generating a first draft. 

However, it requires human intervention to capture the client's tonality and nuances, and its information accuracy is questionable. Therefore, its content should not be used without validating its sources."

Must carefully consider any biases while using AI: Akshaara Lalwani

Apart from the ethical debate around the sources of the information used by ChatGBT, transparency and inbuilt biased of the input data, Akshaara Lalwani- Founder & CEO of Communicate India points out that, "Artificial Intelligence does not exist in its true meaning. We are still in a phase where we’re using deep learning software wherein computers are taught to do what naturally comes to humans."

Lalwani adds, "Some AI algorithms may reflect the biases based on the data they are trained on and display. Thus, it is extremely important and difficult at the same time to identify and choose diverse AI algorithms that are appropriate for the population they intend to serve."

ChatGPT and crisis communication

Piyali Mandal a former investigative journalist and counter-terrorism expert is working on developing frameworks for risk warning and response automation through AI-shared scenarios where ChatGPT can be useful for modelling crisis communication responses:

Piyali Mandal shares a game plan for using ChatGPT for crisis modelling

"First, ChatGPT can be used to develop and refine crisis messaging for your organisation. ChatGPT can help you identify the most effective messaging for different scenarios by analysing past communication strategies and data.

For example, if your organisation is dealing with a data breach, ChatGPT can help you craft messaging that addresses customer concerns while also demonstrating your commitment to data security."

Mandal adds, "Secondly, ChatGPT can also be used to monitor and manage your organisation's online reputation. By analysing reviews, comments, and other data, ChatGPT can help you identify areas for improvement and respond to negative feedback. While the data may only be up to 2020, ChatGPT can still analyse and identify patterns, sentiment, and key topics within text data which can be useful for media monitoring and analysis."

Mandal warns, "However, ChatGPT may not be able to effectively analyse or respond to communication in languages other than the one it was trained on. This can be especially challenging for crisis managers in India where we are working in multilingual environments and facing a crisis in regions with diverse languages."

Can ChatGPT save you time?

Arsheen K. Jain, senior manager of PR & Communications at travel portal ixigo shares her experience with ChatGPT saying, "At ixigo, we have started experimenting with ChatGPT, using it for in-house PR & social media content creation. 

Using the basic framework of press releases and social media posts by ChatGPT has cut down time spent on creating routine content. Press Releases that used to take us anywhere between 4-5 hours to draft can now be churned out in an hour! This has helped us focus more of our time on strategic planning, creative brainstorming and execution of campaigns. 

Having said that, we don’t use all AI-generated content as is and it does need to be refined further so that the end messaging and content have our brand flavour built in and are tailored to suit our target audience."

Jain adds, "You need a seasoned professional to create genuine communication for a brand that resonates with the audience. To sum it up AI can never replace PR pros but it can impact and limit professional growth if we aren’t willing to up-skill."

Sulakshna Mukherjee, GM & head of Department - Corporate Communications at McDonald's India (West & South) and organization leader - RMHC India shares how AI can be used effectively, sharing that, "
Automating routine tasks with AI tools like ChatGPT will undoubtedly help save a lot of time while boosting efficiency and effectiveness. In fact, PR professionals can benefit from many of AI's advantages if they use it wisely. 

Since tactical tasks can now be automated, PR professionals must learn to think strategically to add real value to the business. It will be important to stay up-to-date with these ever-evolving technologies to ensure that these tools augment and assist rather than pose a threat. Businesses will seek out PR experts who can break the clutter, bring authenticity, and use data and insights to develop compelling narratives to build brand trust and create lasting impact. This will definitely be a learning opportunity for all in the business of PR."

Using AI for PR productivity

How can AI be used effectively by PR professionals?

PR pros are using a range of AI tools" Pravin Shiriyannavar

Pravin Shiriyannavar, chief operating officer, of brand-comm, shared that PR professionals are using a range of AI tools that are adding to the productivity of PR teams. 

Shiriyannavar pointed to "Tools that enable advanced tracking, report making, transcribing, translating, pitch writing, minutes making, text-to-speech and speech-to-text. We are also learning what readers or internet users are trying to find about companies and products or policies. This is aiding us to align our pitches based on what people are looking for. PR teams also look at machines' suggestions on how to rewrite the content and gain multiple perspectives."

Smita Khanna, COO, of Newton PR pointed towards scalability as a key outcome of AI in PR. She said, "In the current scenario, where the effectiveness of human resources vis-à-vis cost of business is of paramount importance, ChatGPT is a tool that can be used to scale the delivery of service for PR agencies, without the need for additional human resources. Chatbots can handle routine tasks such as scheduling appointments, sending out reminders, and answering simple enquiries that can be pre-programmed."

Nakul Ghai, a corporate communications specialist, explains, "AI is definitely not a replacement for PR professionals, but it is something which can augment and enhance our abilities. The rise of AI is creating new opportunities for innovation, growth, and progress."

Ghai adds, "To make the best use of AI or AI-powered tools, the most important skill for us to learn is the art of writing prompts or instructions. The clearer and more direct your input is, the more likely the chances of getting the desired output."need to acknowledge that as a language-based model, AI can never know it all. It has its knowledge cut-off and limitations, and it will always need human intelligence and oversight.
Ai cannot check for empathy: Dilip G

Dilip G PR manager - MENA, APAC, ANZ & Europe Pixis points to another facet of the AI debate, "Not just the PR industry, we as adults need to see how the younger generation is consuming data. Most of the Gen-Z are well versed with online tools. They have understood the basics of coding and are using AI to complete tedious research-based projects almost effortlessly. This is something the PR industry needs to look at while welcoming the next generation of the workforce into their premises. 

This apart, the senior management in a PR firm or in-house PR department, will have to have an understanding of laws governing the implementation of AI in their respective countries or states."

Downside of AI 

Dr Pooja Arora, group manager and head- of corporate Communications at HCL Corp and Shiv Nadar Foundation.HCL and Shiv Nadar said, "AI can replicate human biases and may not understand how to rectify it. For instance, the concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion are something that people have started recognizing now. AI tools like ChatGPT while creating content, for instance, will use the work that has already been used in the past. It will not think and write. The skill of being human or having a diverse mindset will be required by a PR professional while it works with AI.

AI tools would help in easing the task of PR professionals by creating first drafts of content including press releases, speeches for spokespersons, and articles on industry trends. However, most of this information will have to be reviewed manually by a PR person to avoid plagiarism. It would not be wrong to say that specifically in content creation, PR’s role might get limited to a copy editor.

On the other hand, relationships are key to being a great PR professional. While an AI tool can help create a good media list in a fraction of time, it will not be able to establish a good relationship with the relevant ."

Dilip adds, "An often overlooked area of concern is empathy. The implementation of AI should not come at the cost of hurting beliefs or sentiments. For instance, if a healthcare brand is promoting its capability of ultrasound services, the understanding of local challenges pertaining to it such as female foeticide should be considered, lest the messaging can go awry."

Parnika Deora, PR lead at Grant Thornton Bharat says, "ChatGPT and other AI tools and chatbots hold little relevance for PR professionals who understand strategic communication. PR and communications are so niche that AI can merely help with content support, but who to write for, what to write, when, and how, are some things that only a PR professional can know, through experience."

Using AI to build PR campaigns

Mamtaa Dhingra, podcaster Unbound with Mamtaa shares tips on how to build campaigns using AI:

She starts with a note of caution saying, "Any representation that is done by the PR professional or agency on behalf of the client must be mutually agreed upon. Some of the key and foremost factors that need to be considered are -

  1. Defining the purpose or objective of the campaign and does AI align with that objective i.e. be it media monitoring, or sentiment analysis as automation may not be suitable for all business or communications objectives.
  2. Data quality -it must be ethically procured, accurate, relevant, up to date and well represented without biases.
  3. Ethical consideration and evaluation of the potential impact that it can have on the brand's image and its reputation (case in point Microsoft's Bing chatbot).
  4.  Expertise and skill development - The use of AI requires specific skills in data science and machine learning therefore the agency must either look at upskilling the in-house team or look at roping in a third-party vendor such a decision needs to be made in cognizance with the client.
  5.  Costing: it needs to be evaluated whether the cost of using AI is actually outweighs its results or are the benefits of the results more than its the cost. Discretion needs to be exercised by all the stakeholders before the decision-making is done on the use of AI in a PR campaign, as the cost of using AI is variable and depends on the complexity of the task

Case Studies

Connie the Robot

Lalwani shares that there are many impressive examples of the use of AI in marketing and PR, "Such as Hilton's Connie, the Robot. Hilton Worldwide launched a campaign that used an AI-powered robot named Connie to improve customer service. The robot, presented at a PR event, was able to answer guests' questions and provide recommendations about local attractions and restaurants."

ING Bank

Dhingra says,"One of the most touted and effectively 'publicized' campaigns that were run on AI was in 2016 - 'The Next Rembrandt' by ING Bank, as it partnered with J.W.T Amsterdam and technical universities to create a new painting in the style of the Dutch master Rembrandt using ML algorithms. The AI system analyzed the artist's paintings to create a new masterpiece, which was unveiled in an exhibition. Here it worked as a great tool/enabler to create an innovative PR campaign."

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