The Rise of AI  by Todd Van Hoosear 

The Rise of AI  by Todd Van Hoosear 
May 18, 2023 Eric Berman

I prompted Google Bard to “write an introductory paragraph to a story about how public relations professionals should prepare for the rise of artificial intelligence, and specifically, generative AI.”

This is what it gave me (you will note that it was more than a paragraph):

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is having a profound impact on many industries, including public relations. Generative AI, in particular, is being used to automate tasks such as writing press releases, creating social media content, and managing media relations.

While AI can be a valuable tool for PR professionals, it is important to be aware of the potential risks. For example, AI-generated content may not be as accurate or creative as human-generated content. Additionally, AI-powered tools can be used to create fake news and propaganda.

As a result, PR professionals need to be prepared for the rise of AI. They need to understand the potential benefits and risks of AI, and they need to develop strategies for using AI effectively.

Here are some tips for PR professionals on how to prepare for the rise of AI:

  • Stay up-to-date on the latest AI trends. This will help you understand the potential impact of AI on your work and make informed decisions about how to use it.
  • Develop skills in data analysis and storytelling. These skills will be essential for working with AI-generated content.
  • Build relationships with AI experts. These experts can help you understand the capabilities of AI and develop strategies for using it effectively.
  • Be prepared to adapt your work practices. As AI becomes more sophisticated, it is likely to automate more tasks. PR professionals need to be prepared to adapt their work practices to accommodate these changes.

By following these tips, PR professionals can prepare for the rise of AI and continue to play an important role in the communication industry.

I was tempted to rest on my laurels and call it a day; despite not giving me exactly what I was looking for, it got pretty close. And that’s about the best summary of the capabilities of AI I could possibly give: “it gets pretty close.” And it’s only going to get better — and more dangerous, but not perhaps in the ways some of us fear.

Should we fear AI?
And that fear is one consistent theme you’ll find in conversations about AI — fear of the spread of misinformation, of its potential uses in creating compelling propaganda, the loss of jobs, or even the existential fear of the loss of life. Even today, with millions of dollars being allocated toward its study and its growing use in the field, the term evokes thoughts ranging from the deadly “Skynet” to the possibly harmless — if easily misled — chat bot.

The case for AI
According to research firm AIContentGen, AI can play a huge role in producing effective marketing content. The firm, led by John Cass and Scott Sweeney, analyzes generative AI tools and produced a report in 2021 (well before the buzz around GPT-4 began) that identified and reviewed 20 different AI tools marketers are using to step up their content production. In today’s world, Google is your home page, most transactions are electronic, and landing page conversions can make or break a new product. To quote the title of Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman’s book, “Content Rules,” and AI is a critical tool for creating and refining that content.

The more data you have to work with, the better your AI-generated content will be. With hundreds of thousands of press releases to source from, AI tools can spit out a perfectly usable one in seconds.

Today, generative AI has advanced well beyond mere copywriting, thanks in part to the new capabilities introduced with GPT-4. I have been able to use ChatGPT to write very compelling situation analyses (it only got a few details wrong), Bard to research reporters for a pitch (it needed a little prodding to differentiate media outlets from actual reporters, but the final list was spot on), Midjourney to create compelling visual images for a design project, and Lensa to create photo-realistic headshot alternatives and some fantastically creative social media avatars.

Christopher Penn shared his own insights into AI trends at the 2022 Annual Meeting of PRSA Boston, highlighting what PR professionals need to know about the emerging space. He echoed many of the themes Bard identified in its introductory “paragraph.” And he pointed out that the skills needed to successfully interact with AI could lead to the creation of an entirely new profession: the AI “prompt engineer” capable of crafting effective queries that get the most out of AI’s capabilities.

The case against AI
Bard itself was seemingly aware of its own risks as it was assessing its impact on PR. Its ability to synthesize and analyze is directly tied to the amount and quality of data it has to work with. Like any computer algorithm, it is subject to the basic GIGO rule: “garbage in, garbage out.” Weak AIs won’t deliberately lie, but they can hallucinate — their reality is shaped directly by the data we feed them, and if that data is limited or skewed, they may fill in the blanks in surprising and even disturbing ways.

This can make them dangerous effective tools in propaganda wars and disinformation campaigns. I asked Bard what the biggest dangers were from generative AI, and it gave me the following:

Generative AI is a powerful tool that can be used for good or for bad. Here are some of the biggest dangers that generative AI poses:

  • Misinformation and disinformation: Generative AI can be used to create fake news and propaganda. This can be used to manipulate public opinion and sow discord.
  • Deepfakes: Generative AI can be used to create deepfakes, which are videos or audio recordings that have been manipulated to make it look or sound like someone is saying or doing something they never actually said or did. Deepfakes can be used to damage someone’s reputation or to spread misinformation.
  • Job displacement: Generative AI can be used to automate tasks that are currently done by humans. This could lead to widespread job displacement, as machines become capable of doing more and more of the work that humans currently do.
  • Loss of control: Generative AI is a complex technology that is not fully understood. This means that there is a risk that we could lose control of it. For example, generative AI could be used to create weapons that are more powerful and destructive than anything we have today.

These are just a few examples of jobs that may be lost because of AI. As AI continues to develop, it is likely that even more jobs will be automated. However, it is important to note that AI is also creating new jobs. For example, AI engineers and data scientists are in high demand. As AI continues to develop, it is likely that new jobs will be created in areas such as AI research, development, and deployment.

So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth. Do you have concerns specific to your role? Are you worried that AI might impact your day-to-day work, or ultimately cost you your job? Log on to ChatGPT or Bard and ask them your questions. For the moment, at least, they are giving pretty honest answers.

Todd is a senior lecturer in public relations at Boston University’s College of Communication. Disclosure notice: Todd served as a reviewer for AIContentGen’s 2021 AI Content Generation Scorecard & Analysis report, providing feedback and a marketing “blurb” for the report, but did not receive financial compensation for the review or endorsement.

1 Comment

  1. Gladys McKie 10 months ago

    I teach PR courses part-time at Northeastern University College of Professional Studies. I have taught PR classes for many years for the School of Journalism at Northeastern University. (I’m retired.) It was relatively easy to determine if a student plagiarized a paper. Turnitin and Google Search were valuable tools. With AI, WHAT DO WE DO NOW? How can we determine if a student used AI to craft a perfectly written news release? Maybe we should move backward to the days when classroom typewriter labs “forced” students to do original work!) 🙂

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