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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Sherwood

The double-edged sword: How AI is influencing PR & Marketing in 2024 and beyond?


As a PR and marketing consultant who has worked in the industry for a good (ahem!) number of years, I’ve watched how the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has affected the sector.


While news outlets including Bloomberg has been using AI to share news stories since 2014, in the past 18 months AI has made its presence more apparent. From the fun “this is what you’d look like as a High School jock” applications of AI to its more serious and immoral, “write my dissertation” uses, it has become part of our everyday lives.

Of course, this is the same in the media.


At its heart, the technological advancement of AI is marvellous; bringing incredible opportunities for personalisation, data-driven insight and ultimately, helping us all do more with less. However, there are drawbacks and many copywriters are concerned the technology could put them out of a job.


But how is AI impacting journalism?

Publishers are already using AI to generate and edit articles, with titles including the Daily Mirror announcing that a “small proportion” of its content has been produced with the aid of AI to “enhance” coverage. Reach Media, which manages national newspapers and regional news sites including the Daily Mirror, started to publish AI authored articles last March.

Is replacing journalists with AI a good idea?


The first, and most important thing to note here is that newspaper readership is declining.

Traditional media outlets are not just competing with one another. From podcasts and blogs to streaming services and social media channels there are now thousands of outlets vying for our attention. Therefore, it is imperative that publishers use technology to stay relevant. Yet, it’s highly unlikely that AI will ever replace journalists completely; rather it will be used as a tool.  


From a media law perspective, allowing AI to write and edit articles could be dangerous…

Language is so nuanced that changing a turn of phrase for a smoother sentence structure, could make content libellous. Furthermore, AI is not the most reliable when it comes to fact-checking. It takes existing insight and opinions from many different sources of varying bias and accuracy. Without proper verification this content could spread misinformation and create “fake news”. The risk of defamation and lawsuits will mean human editors need to be responsible for checking and managing AI output.


Will AI devalue the media?

Notably, computer-generated content is not subject to copyright, which calls into question the value of these stories to publishers when they could easily be replicated elsewhere. (Of course, legal technicalities can protect entities using AI to a degree but authenticity and intellectual property remain integral in the publishing industry!) 


AI is surrounded by ethical discussion, which certainly applies to the media. In 2018 we saw the Advertising Standards Authority issue guidance for social influencers to ensure audiences are always aware when they are being paid to discuss items or have a vested interest in promoting something. As a result, #spon and #gifted hashtags quickly entered our social media feeds. Undoubtedly, the same level of transparency will be required to disclose when content is AI generated.


YouTube is another rolling out rules that require creators to reveal when AI is used. This follows Google’s insistence that any political ads using AI, that are featured on its platform, come with an overt warning. Some publications, such as German news outlet Express.de, have even created AI personae that are cited as the authors of AI-generated stories.  


Is AI creative?

AI can only create based on what it knows from existing materials. When the media is fuelled by “clicks”, AI can easily look at trending content and write similar stories quickly. However, it could easily cannibalise its own success as people quickly tire of the same trope and crave something new. This is where human brains excel. For brands looking to stand out, this offers an opportunity to harness fresh thinking and create work that sets them apart from competitors taking the AI route.  


What does this mean for PR?

What AI really lacks is the ability to foster the same level of connection that storytellers establish. Evoking an emotional response is the key to success, whether you’re a journalist, social media personality or brand marketer.


Successful PR campaigns prompt a reaction, first from a journalist and then from the audience. AI struggles to apply sarcasm, humour and sincerity – all ingredients for memorable communications – it can also fail to navigate sensitive issues such as cultural differences. What’s more, AI-generated content often lacks authenticity. So, ultimately, leaving content generation to a bot could land brands in hot water.


It can, however, effectively manage data, identify rising influencers, and adapt content for different audiences, which is another example of how AI will help PR professionals and Marketers achieve more with less.


So, will this put PRs and Marketers out of a job?

In some ways, the answer is yes. But that doesn’t mean it will end careers.


Consider AI as a useful and intelligent tool to add to your armoury. While AI will replace humans for certain tasks, it will also create new roles for us to fill.


History has taught us that with every innovation, there will always be a need for someone to manage the technology. We might need to retrain and adapt to stay relevant but isn’t that what we PR professionals and Marketers are good at? After all, responding to new market conditions is in our blood!  


Are you currently using AI to generate your marketing collateral? Let me know how it’s going, caroline@clsrealtions.com.

 

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