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Is Artificial Intelligence the Future of PR?

 

Artificial Intelligence is literally embedded everywhere these days, and as automation advances at breakneck speed, the goalposts have already shifted further than most of us realise.

This has implications for every industry, because while creative jobs are likely to prove more resilient to the threat of automation than task-based repetitive work, there is plentiful evidence that the rise of the machines will leave no stone undisrupted.

Artificial Intelligence will leave no stone undisrupted Click To Tweet

In this article for the Huffington Post I look at some of the ways in which AI and Machine Learning have already transformed PR, and how creatives can best leverage the power of automation.

Artificial Intelligence is literally embedded everywhere these days, and as automation advances at breakneck speed, the goalposts have already shifted further than most of us realize. This has implications for every industry, because while creative jobs are likely to prove more resilient to the threat of automation than task-based repetitive work, there is plentiful evidence that the rise of the machines will leave no stone undisrupted.

Already in 2015, M&C Saatchi was using AI to optimize an ad campaign in real time by using a Kinect camera setup to sense reaction to a poster in London’s Oxford Street, and adapt accordingly – switching out images, changing font sizes and rejigging the layout in response to those interactions.

Already in 2015, M&C Saatchi was using AI to optimize an ad campaign in real time by using a Kinect camera setup to sense reaction to a poster in London’s Oxford Street, and adapt accordingly Click To Tweet

In March 2016, McCann Japan went even further, “hiring” an Artificial Intelligence for a Creative Director post. Furthermore, when that AI was pitted against its human counterpart later that year (they were both given the task of creating a spot for Clorets Mint Tabs and the results put to a public vote) the robot won.

And robots are winning everywhere, it seems. Since the Associate Press decided to employ AI to automate the writing of some of its reports, it experienced a tenfold increase in aps earnings generated by those stories. While EagleAI managed to predict the US election results where most human pollsters failed. The algorithms achieved this by analyzing billions of individual data points, and leveraging machine learning to “understand” how sentiment and tone translated into future voter behavior, which turned out to be all too accurate.

Since the Associate Press decided to employ AI to automate the writing of some of its reports, it experienced a tenfold increase in aps earnings generated by those stories Click To Tweet

In practice, this means that AI can also be used to help us understand – and consequently predict – brand penetration and engagement/buying behavior. But does this translate into the replacement of PR, Marketing and Communications professionals by droves of automated bots? Not necessarily.

Although the relationship between people and AI is often framed in adversarial terms – “us versus the machines” type narratives – the future paints a rather more collaborative picture, specially in fields such as Public Relations which by their very nature require a high degree of social chemistry.

AI can also be used to help us understand – and consequently predict - brand penetration and engagement/buying behaviour. Click To Tweet

There are actually ways for professionals in these areas to leverage AI and Machine Learning to make their work more effective – and more enjoyable in the process – by delegating the bulk of repetitive tasks such as reporting, searching, and preparing lists and documents to algorithms. Data in this context can be used to empower creative professionals in making better decisions for their clients.

However, just like in dating, information can only take you so far – the rest comes down to chemistry. And that’s where the human factor will remain relevant, as artistry and adaptation are core success factors in a métier that essentially boils down to human engagement and interaction.

Just like in dating, information can only take you so far - the rest comes down to chemistry Click To Tweet

Which leads us to another crucial way in which AI will become invaluable for PR professionals: finding the right partner.

Matchmaking technology has already fundamentally transformed the way we buy products and services. Think of the way companies like Airbnb, Uber, Deliveroo and Ebay have disrupted established industries – not by creating new resources – but by leveraging information in order to connect people at the right place and the right time with exactly what they want or need – be it a ride, a place to sleep, a meal or (as was the case for me last week) a beautiful vintage typewriter.

And we’ve already seen interesting examples of this applied to business interactions. Event matchmaking app Grip, for example, uses a Tinder-like approach to networking, presenting users at events such as conferences with a list of recommended people they should meet. They then decide whether the introduction is appropriate and swipe left or right accordingly. If both parties ‘swipe right’ a virtual handshake ensues and an in-person meeting is arranged.

While automation will certainly play an ever-increasing role in industries such as Advertising and Public relations going forward, it won’t lead to replacing humans with machines altogether Click To Tweet

Connecting people and companies in a relevant and timely way is also what David Haddad and Mohamed Fakhreddine are setting out to do for Public Relations with Publiseek, a new platform that matches businesses with the most suitable service providers for their brief.

“There are a million plus small and medium sized business service providers globally spending more than 100 billion dollars to acquire new projects per year, but a lot of that money and effort is wasted, as they don’t realize until quite late in the marketing funnel that the client is not a good fit,” Haddad explains. “That’s equally frustrating for the client, who often need help filtering a cloud of options to a few providers that match their character and needs.”

He came up with the ‘payment by results’ idea when running an on-demand, performance-based PR agency where his clients only paid if media coverage was achieved. That led to the creation of a pairing website to link up businesses with agencies. The model, which was piloted successfully in the UAE is now being rolled out in the United Kingdom as part of the UK-Lebanon Tech Hub accelerator.

“Since launching we have processed projects worth more than a million dollars,” adds Fakhreddine. A large segment of the economy consists of business service providers like law firms or PR agencies, and we hear from these small and medium sized enterprises that they spend a huge proportion of their time prospecting for new relevant clients. This can all be avoided by a transparent process that matches expectations with the people in the best position to deliver on them, and we see AI as an essential tool in that direction.”

So while automation will certainly play an ever-increasing role in industries such as Advertising and Public relations going forward, it won’t lead to replacing humans with machines altogether. Rather, the overall trend that emerges is a much more positive one; The future will see AI being used to match clients with the best people to deliver their message to the right audience, while at the same time empowering creative professionals to make better decisions for those clients at every stage of the process.

For companies looking to get into VR/AR/MR our Virtual Reality Consultancy services offer guidance on how these technologies can enhance and support your brand strategy.

Alice Bonasio is a VR Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio and @techtrends_tech on Twitter.


Also published on Medium.