AI and Strategic PR: The new frontier

By Miguel Martinez, PhD,

In the last decade, the PR and communications industry has gone through a huge transformation, with sources of information increasing exponentially in volume and speed, as well as a complete change in information consumption patterns. Unfortunately, this has forced PR professionals to focus on more tactical tasks, rather than using their expertise to full effect.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the tool that will empower PR professionals to achieve their strategic goals. By embracing the symbiosis of AI and human expertise, the technology assists humans rather than replacing them.

This is what we refer to as augmented intelligence, and what I believe is the future for PR.

Media perception

The industry has traditionally determined its impact by measuring reach and audiences for articles mentioning their brand. This might be the correct approach to measure brand awareness for new or lesser known brands, events or movements. However, I believe it is flawed to use these metrics to measure the impact of PR. Instead, they should measure, influence and predict changes in media perception, which relates directly to communication and positioning strategy, as well as business impact.

For instance, imagine a company wants to be seen as innovative within the autonomous vehicles industry. They will need to understand how their own brand and their competitors are seen and what their main differentiators are. There is also a need for a similar understanding of the whole market, detecting and understanding new trends, risks and potential partners or competitors. This might include discovering information they did not know was needed. These famous “unknown unknowns” are critical blind spots for any organisation.

By focusing the spotlight on these aspects using augmented intelligence, opportunities and risks will become apparent, providing a clear competitive advantage.

An interesting note about perception is that its change might be more important than the actual perception itself. For instance, knowing that Tesla is seen as the main “innovator” in the self-driven car industry might not be surprising nor insightful. Knowing that a new player is better perceived than Tesla in Chile is, however, a massive piece of actionable information. An additional piece of insight would be to understand why perceptions have changed (e.g., the new player launched a ground-breaking self-driven tech at a local conference).

Answering these types of questions manually is a complicated and non-scalable process, requiring human experts to analyse all articles related to a brand or an industry to understand how they are talked about. AI might not yet be able to solve all these challenges, but I am confident that augmented intelligence can. The technology is advanced enough to be used in conjunction with users in order to find the insights that will bring most value.

What does the future hold?

Looking slightly more long-term, one of the major changes that AI will bring to the industry is the ability to think more about the future rather than the past. This will help prepare us to respond to future events, both expected and unexpected. In either case, the ability to predict potential outcomes (e.g., financial, reputational or political) of these events would be extremely powerful.

With this, PR and communications departments will recover their rightful place as one of the main influencers of company strategy. However, I strongly believe this will only be possible if the industry fully embraces the power of augmented intelligence. They must see it as an enabler for their own skills that will empower them to move towards a much needed and impactful strategic perspective.

This seismic change will differentiate between the people who can adapt well and those who cannot, eventually rendering the latter obsolete.

Miguel Martinez is the co-founder and Chief Data Scientist of Signal AI.

Photo by Margaret Weir on Unsplash

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