Paper Review: Artificial Intelligence: A Strategic  Disruption in Public Relations 

This review intends to summarise Artificial Intelligence: A Strategic Disruption in Public Relations by authors Komal Khandelwal, Geetanjali Panda, and Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay. The research was first copyrighted in 2019. The objective of the study is to prospect the possibilities of integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) into Public Relations. In the context of PR, AI has the potential to automate and perform various tasks. With artificial intelligence (AI), machines can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence. AI can be leveraged to perform operating activities like creating media lists, managing social media, handling inquiries to being instrumental on a real-time basis in crisis management for a client. This article explores the potential of AI assistants in developing smart, engaging, and productive work solutions in the PR industry. 

The study uses a qualitative research strategy that branches out into unstructured, semi-structured, and structured interview types. Interviews were conducted across the industry with 31 professionals (entry-level (10), mid-level (14), and senior position (7)) by using purposive and snowball sampling. 

This study aims to address the following research questions: 

Q1: What is the general perception and attitude of PR professionals towards AI applications? 

Q2: Which applications of AI are meaningful in the PR industry? 

Q3: How is the adoption of AI going to impact the job of PR professionals and client-agency relationships? 

Q4: Does AI have the potential to be a strategic disruption in the PR industry? 

Based on the aforesaid core questions, 13 additional questions were formed as a part of the survey. Based on Creswell’s (1998) guidelines for coding the data, the responses were categorised and coded to understand patterns in the data. Using an inductive approach, the emerging categories were further grouped to identify themes to highlight the core idea of the responses.

The increased inclusion of technology has brought a paradigm shift in communications and PR. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is leading to concerns related to its impact on jobs. PR professionals need to consider social and relational issues while understanding up-and-coming technology. Increased availability of information on the Internet and the rate at which new data is generated are resulting in newfound challenges. PR professionals are under pressure to unlearn old manual skills and learn new digital capabilities to survive in the new ‘tech-first’ work environment. The core skills needed for a PR professional include writing, problem-solving, critical thinking, and new media skills. It is said that AI can potentially challenge the foundational concept of PR, including its moral compass and focus on ethics. (Tilson, 2017).

To communicate with a younger audience that is tech-savvy and social media friendly, senior PR professionals are required to make a speedy transition toward acquiring digital literacy. The study highlights AI-enabled task automation prominently. Out of all the references considered, none of the studies expresses whether PR professionals are prepared and skilled enough to survive and prosper in an AI-powered work scenario. Millennials and Gen Z have access to the Internet and other technologies at their disposal and are more comfortable with new technology. Young executives have been observed to be doing several digital courses before joining the job. They are more receptive to learning new digital skills, including AI-based systems and processes. A disparity is observed in the industry concerning the speed of navigating toward technology and AI among professionals. Age here is a prominent factor.

It is a general understanding amongst the PR fraternity that its professionals are well acquainted and exposed to the new digital technology. However, several professionals are sceptical about its penetration. They believe that the adoption and penetration of new digital technologies lag due to a lack of strategic intent, especially about AI. Experts believe that artificial intelligence can assist the PR industry in bringing about much-needed digital transition for its development in sustaining itself in the digital age. Such systems are smart and can unleash the power of social media and other data. PR firms can employ AI to gather social data insights, manage media lists and influencer databases, influencer engagement, content creation, crisis prevention and management, and aid in establishing a leading reputation. Firms must be aware of the existing prowess of AI and its influence on the existing PR services, its internal operations, and systems. PR firms must also ensure adherence to the privacy and security norms for handling personal data as per the law of the land. The consultancies must make sure to balance the AI systems’ operational efficiency and the creative potential of humans without compromising either.

The following use cases were observed and could be potentially leveraged:

  • Automate Tactical Tasks 
  • Lead to Current and Relevant Insights 
  • Help Identify and Tailor Content for Influencers 
  • Create Accurate Personas 
  • Identify and Respond to the Crisis
  • AI-Assisted Measurement and Reporting 
  • Content Creation 
  • Manage PR Crisis 
  • Managing Agency–Client Relationship 
  • Use in Journalism

However, Finding suitable AI talent with AI compatibility is a massive challenge for PR firms. Measuring and predicting the return on investment (ROI) is a prime measurement challenge observed in AI. A general lack of understanding of state-of-the-art AI systems and integrating its operations with clients are also potential hindrances. The new wave of AI technology is predicted to disrupt many essential industries, including PR. With AI, PR managers can make data-oriented decisions. AI-assisted PR measurement gives concrete, quantifiable performance metrics, which will help and assist both clients and firms. There is a dire shortage of research in the field of AI application in PR. This article has explored the potential of AI as a strategic disruption and its impact on the client-agency relationship, measurement, and journalism in particular.

PR professionals can conserve time, energy, and resources spent on mundane tasks and better use them on strategy building and campaign conceptualisation. This research highlights the skills needed by existing employees of PR firms that can be acquired through a broader understanding of AI-based cognitive machines. It is expected that new entrants with innovative technology will come up with solutions thereby creating new functional norms  in the PR industry.

Author: Digital Onca

Digital Onca is a blog that documents the concepts of Digital Marketing and Public Relations. Digital Onca is the effort to stay with the times, understand more deeply, more closely the working of a digital space that is steadfastly emerging around us.

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