Chat GPT and implications for the PR industry

Will generative AI technologies such as ChatGPT augment the role of the PR professional, or make much of their role redundant?

Open AI's ChatGPT launched in November of 2022, and within a week gained one million users. Survey data released by Glassdoor subsidiary Fishbowl in January this year found that nearly a third of white-collar workers in the US had already used or integrated the tool into their everyday work.

In simple terms, ChatGPT is a highly capable ‘large language model’ chatbot that can generate seemingly authentic content. Writing is a core element for any PR professional, so it is easy to see how ChatGPT could help with the production of internal and external PR content, ranging from press releases, to email pitches and messaging documents. It is surprising how good the AI’s basic writing is. If you provide it a prompt, it will produce a reasonable, coherent draft in seconds. There are a huge range of potential applications. Why not ask ChatGPT to write a PR plan, generate social media posts, or create crisis messaging scenarios?

Rather than expecting the AI to do all the work, it can help PR teams with a volume of writing on tight deadlines, allowing them, in a sense, to ‘delegate’ work, so they can focus time and effort on generating more valuable, bespoke content.

There are issues, however. The AI doesn’t have the nuance of local cultural or historical context, proper or ideally sequenced data, or quotes from spokespeople. The results are often simplistic, or clichéd. If use of AI chatbots becomes routine – and their responses taken at face value – what are the implications for corporate reputation? The ability to generate fake news and misinformation at a massive scale is concerning.  As Emily Bell of the Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in New York says, “a platform that can mimic humans’ writing with no commitment to the truth is a gift for those who benefit from disinformation”. It could pose legal problems with data privacy and intellectual property, and could ultimately engender automation and job losses. And what of the ethical implications for PR professionals? Should you declare using AI in creating content? And what term to use? Collaboration, Augmentation?

PR isn’t just about communication – it is about building and maintaining sustainable relationships. In a culture where there is already an aversion to ‘spin,’ ubiquitous AI may deepen that divide, adding compositional inauthenticity to a dynamic where authenticity of intention is already doubted. You can’t communicate your way out of bad behaviour or poor decisions – and AI currently doesn't seem to offer a solution to either of these. Indeed, over reliance on AI and flaky data may make things even worse.

ChatGPT is unlikely to replace the need for real human beings in creating high quality PR content that is instinctual, expressive and compelling, and characterised by the perspectives of people in the know. There is a skill in providing AI with an ideal prompt; indeed, “prompt engineering” may well be a highly-prized ability in the future. PR professionals may find their skillset shifting in emphasis slightly, from content creation to editing – looking for abstract lapses where the AI has failed to produce statistics or failed to account for a localised context.

It is important to understand the job description of each technology tool, and how to use it. You can take more routine work off the plates of employees, but you still need somebody to oversee the generated outcomes. The more critical thinking work is probably still not going to be done by that tool. In fact, the creativity part of PR may likely become more compelling again as a differentiator. Every PR professional should try out these AI technology tools to understand how they could be helpful and position themselves to make an informed judgement as to how and whether AI can or should be used for PR purposes.

Kiwi PR leaders would benefit from exploring the benefits of ChatGPT. It's always advantageous to be across emerging technology. People should test it within their own organisational context and see how it might assist. In our estimation, ChatGPT is an interesting tool, but not one that we’re putting in our arsenal just yet.

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