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From the moment a computer named Deep Blue defeated world champion Garry Kasparov in a game of chess, the world has watched Artificial Intelligence (AI) develop with equal parts excitement and fear.  Most PR professionals may find that they use AI, defined as the simulation of human intelligence in machines or systems to perform tasks, as an everyday part of their work.  Google Analytics, text prediction and grammar checkers like Grammarly are all powered by AI.

However, could AI supersede human intelligence?

In just the last week, we have seen AI submit successful job applications, pass university exams and write songs.  Illustrators are fearing that image creating AI like DALL-E 2 may put them out of their jobs.  With the number of AI products marketed at the PR industry growing, will AI prove to be a problem or an opportunity for our industry?

AI has the potential to make the way the PR industry works more effective and efficient.  Software like Notified by Intrado or PitchPrefer by Proper use AI to analyse existing copy produced by thousands of reporters and suggest which journalists you will have the best chance of pitching to.  AI can also support with media monitoring by surveying online discourse and identifying sentiment around a topic, while speech-to-text AI like TVEyes turn broadcasts or podcasts into transcripts to be scanned for keywords.

PR is not alone.  There are now few industries in which AI is not currently providing solutions.  In industries like construction where data is key, we again see the rise of AI software.  AI has been used on projects to trawl historical data to predict potential costs overruns, and Continuum Industries’ Optioneer uses AI to tests millions of design possibilities and select the most effective option.

AI can perform these tasks faster than a human being while taking in more data than an individual could.  It will become increasingly important that we take advantage of these products and tools to enhance our offer and ensure that we deliver the best outcomes.  AI should, in part, be considered a tool that can elevate the skills and contributions of humans, rather than render them obsolete.  By completing routine, labour-intensive tasks like media monitoring, AI will free up time for people to spend on more creative, value-adding work.

But what happens when AI can be creative too?

AI is continually developing and will gain new capabilities with each year.  Recently, natural language generation software like OpenAI’s ChatGPT has allowed AI to produce human-sounding text according to the specified tone or style.  When prompted, it writes articles, poems and, in 2020, ChatGPT even released the world’s first AI-written press release, albeit about itself.

While AI might one day be capable of rivalling human creativity, it is ultimately no substitute for humans in the PR world of the future.  Existing AI products rely on data inputted by humans, often over the course of many years, and the levels of bias which are therefore embedded within their ‘thinking’ is a subject for a whole other debate.  Furthermore, and crucially, computer scientists are a long way off developing AI that can make decisions when faced with anything new.  Humans on the other hand are capable of adapting what they already know when faced with completely new situations.

This is the crucial skill that PR professionals must take advantage of to assert their authority in a brave new world of AI.  By focusing on our powers of forward-thinking, responsiveness and strategy, we can continue to build strong relationships and deliver distinctive campaigns.  More than anything, we must be willing to face all the challenges and opportunities that AI presents because, as ChatGPT told us in its press release: “Whether or not you like it, we are here to stay”.

Cian Jones is an account executive at Camargue