The rise of the machine is threatening our jobs, our way of life and even our very existence.
As a tech pr agency that is constantly monitoring the latest industry trends these stories have been dominating the headlines. The AI march into digital marketing territory with massive advances in areas like programmatic advertising has raised the marketing bar and brands are shifting more of their marketing budgets into these services as the advantages –transparency, efficiency, real-time measurement and reach – are all too apparent.
When algorithms were developed enabling AI to do the more mundane tasks that journalists didn’t particularly want to do, the move into the world of PR became all too real. The Washington Post started using its home grown technology, Heliograph, to generate short reports on the Rio Olympics and have since used it to cover congressional races on Election day. It turns out that the big US publication has posted around 850 articles using this technology. At the moment AI in the media is about pushing content out at volume but there are plans to explore how journalists can use these automated processes to support their work. It’s still a work in progress but it’s coming.
In PR we are a little less advanced in AI and still very much in the “we know it’s coming but we don’t know what it means to our business” phase. The fact is that many people are convinced that what separates us mere humans from the super intelligence of robotics is creativity. Robots will never be able to replace that kind of sophistication and we are all about being creative so our jobs are relatively safe for now. Sounds good, and along with the old adage that AI will take away the mundane stuff and leave us human PRs to concentrate on the real work we just have nothing to worry about do we? I’ll agree with this for now but I do not subscribe to all of it.
"So AI will eventually replace some PR tasks such as press release writing but the biggest advantage for now lies in the richness of data and how we can use that to improve our results."
Let’s look at the ways AI can help our jobs. I’ll use social media as an example. Brands would be very keen to know where their logo is being featured across social media channels and what kinds of people use their products. It’s great data right? But it would be impossible for us to monitor them all, so we have tools that monitor the key ones. That’s OK but we are missing valuable insights here which could help us decide who to target, when and how.
With improved understanding of digital DNA, we can create fine-tuned messages. Advertising and offers can be optimized specifically in real-time, producing higher results with messaging being relevant for the consumer.
So AI will eventually replace some PR tasks such as press release writing but the biggest advantage for now lies in the richness of data and how we can use that to improve our results.
Looking ahead there are already big strides into computational creativity. AI algorithms are being developed that can compose music, poetry and even recipes. A few years ago Saatchi launched a poster that adapted itself according to the reactions of the audience. I think we can expect further advancements in this area so what does the future hold for PR? I think it lies in our powers of anticipation and responsiveness. Something a computer cannot do.
This is a world of unpredictability and the power to anticipate the next move – like chess – separates us from machines. We need to develop our skills in these areas to ensure that we can work alongside AI in the future.
In the meantime, I strongly recommend Jim Sterne’s @jimsterne latest book “Artificial Intelligence For Marketing”