As is customary every January, the PR world buzzes with discussions and predictions about the trends set to shape the industry in the coming year.

For 2024, Commetric has chosen to contribute to this annual tradition with a focused approach, honing in on a topic we believe will significantly impact the industry: Artificial Intelligence (AI).

While we typically rely on data and analytics to decipher industry trends, this year we decided to turn to another one of our key assets – our experts. Here’s what they had to tell us.

Impact of AI on PR Relationships and Networking

James Robbins, a Senior Consultant at Commetric, brings a realistic view to the table. He acknowledges AI’s growing influence but argues its impact on the crux of PR – human relationships – is intrinsically limited.

James envisions AI as a tool for bolstering efficiency, particularly in identifying journalists and conducting topical research. However, he firmly upholds that the core of PR is rooted in the personal connections between PR professionals and journalists – a realm where AI falls short.

His stance underlines a key principle: in PR, while technology can refine processes, the irreplaceable value lies in human interaction and rapport.

The Disinformation Challenge

Christina Arshadi, another Senior Consultant at Commetric, addresses a critical issue at the intersection of AI and public relations: the growing difficulty in distinguishing between authentic information and AI-generated disinformation.

Christina stresses the need for robust strategies to combat the latter. PR professionals, according to her, should be vigilant and employ due diligence in their communications strategies.

This includes thorough fact-checking, verifying sources, and being cautious of content that seems too provocative or contentious. Additionally, she underscores the importance of crisis planning to address potential issues caused by AI-generated disinformation.

Christina also discusses the role of AI tools in identifying and flagging potential disinformation. She suggests that while AI is part of the problem, it can also be part of the solution, as advanced AI tools can analyae large datasets to detect patterns indicative of disinformation, helping PR teams to identify and address it more effectively.

The Importance of Trust

Echoing Christina’s comments, Sofia Tzamarelou, Alan Walker and Matt Couchman, all Senior Consultants at Commetric, emphasise the critical importance of trust in balancing AI tools with human insight.

Sofia and Alan point out that while AI can offer substantial benefits in terms of data analysis and pattern recognition, it is the human capacity for ethical judgment and contextual understanding that establishes trust. They advocate for the careful use of AI, ensuring that it supports but doesn’t undermine the trust built with clients and the public.

Matt agrees with Tzamarelou’s sentiment, elaborating on how AI can augment, rather than replace, the nuanced understanding and emotional intelligence inherent in PR professionals. He underscores the fact that AI, while being a powerful tool for enhancing efficiency, does not absolve human professionals of their ultimate responsibility to maintain trust and authenticity in communications.

Matt references data from a recent Muckrack survey, which indicates that 64% of PR professionals are integrating AI into their daily routines, to illustrate the growing influence of AI in the PR industry. For him, this data reinforces the idea that while AI’s role in PR is expanding, the need for human oversight, ethical considerations, and trust-building remains paramount.

Managing Reputational Risk in an AI-Driven Era

Both James and Christina discuss the limitations of AI in the realm of crisis management and reputational risk.

They agree that while AI can offer early insights and warnings, the nuanced, high-pressure nature of crisis management demands experienced human judgment and intuition. James reiterates that “it takes an experienced PR Pro to navigate the socio-political news agenda to bring a crisis under control”.

This perspective positions AI as a supportive tool in reputational management, aiding PR professionals with data and insights for effective strategy formulation and response.

Addressing AI-Related Anxiety and Adaptation

Maya Koleva, the Director of Research and Insight at Commetric, delves into the underlying reasons for the anxiety prevalent among PR professionals regarding the integration of AI.

She identifies two primary drivers of this anxiety: job insecurity among junior practitioners and the challenge for senior professionals to stay abreast of AI tools and trends.

Maya stresses the importance of continuous learning and education to address these anxieties. She advocates for creating a supportive environment within organisations where professionals at different levels can explore and understand how generative AI tools can assist them.

This approach involves securing sufficient “learn and play time,” allowing teams to experiment with AI tools and understand their practical applications and limitations.

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