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CIPR researches impact of AI on PR practice



IN the report “The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Public Relations Practice,” researchers Steven Waddington and Andrew Bruce Smith explore how artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming public relations (PR) practice.

The report, which was published by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), is based on interviews with more than 100 PR professionals and senior business leaders, as well as an international survey of more than 1 000 practitioners.

The main purpose of the CIPR report was to explore the role that AI tools are playing in PR and how they have impacted the practice. It was co-authored by Andrew Bruce Smith and Stephen Waddington, with contributions from Professor Anne Gregory, Jean Valin and Scott Brinker.

The research found that while AI is present in just 2% of the original 5 800 tools analysed, the range of tools and technologies available has grown rapidly since January 2023.

“This report has been published at an inflection point in the public relations tools market. The growth has been steady over the past five years but has exploded with the release of the ChatGPT and related generative AIbased technologies. Practitioners can readily see many of the tactical public relations activities such as transcription, editing and content development being handled by machines,” says Stephen Waddington, managing partner at Wadds Inc. and visiting professor at Newcastle University.

The report is in two halves. The first one focuses on the current range of public relations tools, as revealed by Scott Brinker’s Chiefmartec dataset. Scott has built a comprehensive dataset of more than 10 000 tools used in marketing and related fields, including PR. The second shows the dramatic increase in communications, PR, and marketing tools that will arise from GPT-3 Large Language Model and AI-driven technologies.

The main findings were that AI tools have had a significant impact on the way in which PR practitioners perform their jobs, regardless of whether they use them frequently or infrequently.

The researchers found that the use of AI tools has a positive impact on PR practice, as well as increasing productivity, and that they have been in use for some time now and are becoming more popular every day.

Yet, many professionals are still unsure about how they can use them effectively. There is a need for more education on how to use AI tools in public relations. This could take the form of online courses, workshops, or one-on-one training sessions with an experienced professional who has already implemented AI into their workflows.

“Practitioners who are prepared to invest time and energy into understanding the role that technology can legitimately and ethically play in public relations are more likely to enjoy the best that the AI has to offer as a digital assistant to human agency and creativity, free to spend time on tasks such as data analysis, and relationship management,” says Andrew Bruce Smith, chair of CIPR’s AI in PR Panel.

Other critical findings were that the use of AI tools increased productivity by 50%. AI tools also reduced the time it takes to complete tasks by 30% and allowed for better tracking and analysis, the report found.

The report emphasises the need for immediate action to address the ethical implications of the swift rise of AI, like whether experts must reveal their utilisation of AI in their work and the potential of “weaponising” it to generate a vast amount of false information rapidly.

The report reminds us that public relations is much more than communication – it is about building and maintaining sustainable relationships with all stakeholders. That, in turn, secures the future of organisations.

Yet one cannot communicate his or her way out of bad behaviour or poor decisions – and AI does not offer a solution to either of these issues. In fact, it may make it worse if bad decisions and what others say about them are the narrative from which AI tools draw their data.

“Ignoring AI isn’t an option. At the same time, it seems wrongheaded and defeatist to assume AI will remove the need for human PR practitioners completely unless we let it. Our challenge is to keep up and make sure we dictate the role of technology and not the other way around,” the report says.

The conclusions of the research are that AI tools are here to stay and will continue to be used by PR professionals for years to come. No matter how sophisticated AI tools become, there will always be a need for good governance, leadership, and management of AI resources in public relations that requires informed human intervention.

You can access the full report and others at this link:

Lenox Mhlanga is a specialist communications consultant with wide experience in PR, the media and corporate communications. He is available to provide strategic communications counsel, facilitation, mentorship and training in these areas. Contact him on mobile: +263 772 400 656 and e-mail: [email protected]