Navigating the AI Era: Transforming Public Relations in the Digital Age

Since nobody’s talking about AI, we thought we’d introduce this new phenomenon to you. LOL! 

All joking aside, we’re knee-deep in AI at Upright! We’ve had a couple of years to play with the tools, gather our thoughts, and kick the tires. We’re watching what companies are doing and even had a few AI clients over the last few years. Integrating artificial intelligence (AI) has become a popular topic in every industry. AI offers a plethora of opportunities for PR professionals. However, understanding how to effectively leverage AI while maintaining authenticity and ethical standards is paramount. Since our specialty is PR, here’s our take on how AI is reshaping PR and communications.

AI is PR Powertool

AI is often hailed as a game-changer, promising to revolutionize PR practices. However, it’s essential to recognize that AI is merely a tool—a powerful one, but a tool nonetheless. 

Our CEO, Paul, plays softball every weekend. He shares, “I have a great time. It’s a great league. It’s great to get out in the fresh air. I bought the best glove, the right gear, and cleats that were optimal for my size, weight, and speed…or lack thereof. And I bought a bat that was balanced based on how I swing, and I’m the worst person on the team. I know it.”

Like sports gear or a sports car, AI is only as useful as the human using it. You still need to hone your skills. PR and other professionals dipping their toes into the AI landscape had better have enough expertise to harness AI effectively and ethically. Otherwise, it can be detrimental, even dangerous, in inexperienced hands. While AI can streamline processes and offer valuable insights, the human touch ultimately drives strategic decision-making and fosters authentic communication.

So, how will AI change how we work in PR? It may speed up tedious tasks, and yes, it might take away some jobs. It might create new jobs too. AI is here. It’s happening. Here are a few things we already see and some ways to make it work for your organization.

Enhancing Content Creation and Optimization

AI excels at content creation and optimization – to a point. A year ago, AI wrote like a high school sophomore. Today, AI has a college degree in communications. Here are a few ways we like to use it.

  • Generating a selection of targeted headlines and subheadlines
  • Refining draft copy 
  • As a thesaurus
  • Tailoring content in a specific style
  • Writing first drafts of certain pieces
  • Trimming or expanding text to meet word count

While AI can assist in these tasks, it’s not perfect. Human oversight is crucial to ensure that the final output remains true to the brand, accurate, and aligned with the intended voice and objectives. And in a crisis, AI hasn’t learned to replace humans to communicate with grace and the right emotions we naturally possess.

Ethical Considerations and Transparency

As AI continues to permeate various aspects of PR, concerns like sharing misinformation, jeopardizing data privacy and unintentionally incorporating bias means PR professionals must navigate a complex ethical landscape. AI is displacing some journalist jobs already, writing simple articles and sometimes putting info out that isn’t beneficial for society. Ethical questions keep coming up like, “When should you use it? When shouldn’t you use it? Is it plagiarizing something?” Transparency and authenticity should remain at the forefront of all AI-driven initiatives. Clients and stakeholders expect honesty and integrity in communication efforts. As we consider answers to these ethical questions and start using AI more to help perform our PR tasks, upholding best practices, sometimes the old-fashioned way, remains critical to our jobs.

Should Companies Without PR Staff or Outside Support Rely on AI to Do the Work? 

There are elements of AI that do a good job. AI can often provide a solid rough draft if someone in the company is a decent writer, but the team is strapped for time. AI has limits, though, and it can’t replace the wisdom and human connection required to fine-tune corporate communications. Good writers know their audience’s expectations for quality and content, and they understand the goals for creating what they write. AI doesn’t do that. AI doesn’t take all of that into consideration.

Integrating AI into PR practices while maintaining authenticity and human connection remains a primary challenge. While AI algorithms can automate specific tasks and optimize processes, tools lack the nuanced understanding and emotional intelligence of an actual person. PR professionals must strike a delicate balance, leveraging AI to enhance efficiency while preserving the human touch that fosters genuine connections with audiences.

Strategic Implementation and Adaptability

Successfully integrating AI into PR requires a strategic approach and adaptability. What AI couldn’t do last month, it may be able to accomplish perfectly this month. And what seemed like a great way to incorporate AI into the workday may later have flaws as the technology evolves. PR professionals should continuously assess the efficacy of AI-driven initiatives, refining strategies based on performance metrics and feedback. Moreover, as technology changes, PR strategies must evolve in tandem. Flexibility and innovation have never been more important to stay ahead of the curve in an ever-changing digital landscape.

A Brave New World Awaits

Let’s face it. We’re all fumbling around in a dimly lit room when it comes to AI. It’s still in its infancy. In media and PR, we find agencies and journalists with significant amounts of skepticism, fear and bias against AI. And on the other side, outlets touting their use of AI as the miraculous be-all-end-all. We fall in the middle. AI should be approached thoughtfully and used wisely. Any PR agency that says they don’t use AI is missing opportunities. Tools like Grammarly check for spelling, punctuation, and even plagiarism. Media monitoring is done with the help of tech tools, too. AI can make writing better. AI can do the first drafts and help with writer’s block. It’s becoming a game-changer for data management and analysis. It affords PR teams more time for higher-level tasks. While AI presents exciting opportunities for PR professionals, its integration must be approached ethically. 

PR 101 still applies. AI doesn’t change the newsworthiness of a story (here’s an Uptake that will help you evaluate newsworthiness), and it can’t replace the human touch required to be authentic and ethical. By recognizing AI as a tool rather than a panacea, PR practitioners can harness its power to streamline processes, enhance creativity, and deliver impactful communication campaigns that delight clients and audiences. Maintaining authenticity, transparency, and human connection remains paramount. By balancing between AI-driven innovation and fundamental PR principles, our team is navigating the evolving landscape with insight and integrity.

And full disclosure, we had our own original conversation about AI on our Uptake video. And we fed AI the script to generate the first draft of this article. It wrote about 10% of what you’ve read here – basically, the outline and some of the text. Humans wrote and edited the other 90%. 

Interested in a trusted and transparent trust to help launch your organization’s brand and message to the right audience? Let’s talk. Email to get started. We’re excited to take the next steps with you!