AI-generated content has captivated the world with its exceptionally intelligent abilities, shifting the needle in today’s technological revolution. Even though the prevalence and mainstream use of AI has been a long time coming, it seems as though this technology has somehow managed to inject itself into every aspect of life in recent months.

AI-generated content first entered the spotlight in 2019 when Microsoft invested $1 billion in OpenAI, an AI research laboratory with the infamous ChatGPT in its repertoire. Since then, AI has exploded among the masses as it expanded its capabilities to include copywriting, digital art, and audio and video creation. 

AI is now the focal point in the next major tech war between Microsoft and Google, sending investors and users into a frenzy about what the future of –– quite frankly –– everything holds. The public use of AI-generated content tools like ChatGPT, DALL-E and Co-Pilot has caused virtually every industry to rethink how it operates. Individuals are side-eyeing the tools that complete day-to-day tasks faster and more efficiently than humanly possible. Writers, artists and coders are all asking the same question: Will AI come for my job? 

The short answer is no, at least not for the moment. 

Public relations professionals and agencies must learn how to harness the capabilities of generative AI but also understand its shortcomings.

AI tools like ChatGPT are initially impressive. But as more time is spent interacting with these tools, it’s easy to see that their intellect and sophistication aren’t on par with their human counterparts.

Ask ChatGPT to write a byline. You’ll quickly realize that the foundation is there, but it reads as if it was written by a 15-year-old English student who waited until the night before to finish an assignment. Developing long-form content requires a deeper level of insight into storytelling and audience captivation, which AI has not yet mastered. But AI’s keen ability to provide a foundation for content is the key to leveraging its current powers for business needs and is why PR professionals should not fear but embrace its common uses.

How AI is changing PR

To craft an impactful PR strategy that garners results, PR teams often engage in hours, if not days or weeks, of research to supplement their campaigns and projects. Especially with content creation, mundane tasks take up valuable time PR professionals could spend developing creative content.

AI tools speed up this process. PR teams aren’t asking AI to write a complete article. AI instead provides PR teams with an efficient means to research and construct the foundation of content. PR teams can utilize AI’s speed and efficiency to complete the brunt of work in the early stages of developing content.

Developing topic lists, outlines, headlines and interview questions, although simple, can be tedious and time-consuming. AI-generated content completely removes this burden and allows PR professionals to shift their focus, prioritizing high-level tasks such as writing long-form content and then pitching it out and placing it with the right media. 

Although tools like ChatGPT have only been publicly available for a few months, bloggers and marketing gurus like Lori Ballen have already published lists of hundreds of ChatGPT prompts for consideration. These prompts can be easily copied and pasted into ChatGPT and generate base-level copy ideal for PR purposes. 

If promises of speed and efficiency aren’t enough to make any PR pro hop on the AI bandwagon, its improved relevance in messaging may be. Content developers are often tasked with writing about something they’ve never tackled before, and AI tools can provide definitions and explanations of highly technical and complex topics. Here’s an example:

Another way to optimize AI’s sophistication is by using it to monitor and assist with tone. Use ChatGPT to rewrite copy as inspirational or dreary or in the style of Bugs Bunny. Other tools, like Grammarly, automatically check for tone as text appears on the page and provide suggestions for improvements and clarity. 

Do these tools always produce the most insightful content? No, but they provide PR teams with a new ground zero for content development, which alone has monumental results on the efficiency of work across the entire agency.

Challenges and limitations of AI-generated content

With any new technology comes challenges in its practical use. In the few short months that AI-generated content has gone mainstream, there has been a wide range of concerns in terms of quality control and accuracy.  

AI tools are not always up to date: ChatGPT is only updated through 2021, missing a wide array of information and events that occurred in the last year. AI acts as an aggregate, limiting what information it outputs without any citations or verification of accuracy.

ChatGPT doesn’t acknowledge the recent FTX collapse but does recommend seeking expert advice and conducting outline research when asked high-stake questions:

A way to combat this is by manually fact-checking any statistics or wide-reaching claims provided by AI. Using AI tools as a starting point is best advised to avoid these pitfalls altogether. 

Without an extra layer of protection from human eyes, AI-generated content may allow fake quotes, phony statistics and subjective statements to slip through the cracks. There are also  privacy concerns with entering sensitive data, such as news announcements and financials, into AI tools. Because most AI systems operate as learning models –– using interactions to develop further insights that are shared across all users –– confidentiality can be breached and risk potential issues of copyright infringement. AI-generated content, when not moderated, can set PR agencies up for reputation damage and legal trouble.

Transparency is imperative when using generative AI. Without it, there can be potential abuses of the technology. Recently, CNET was caught secretly using AI on articles that didn’t disclose that fact. At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss a robot-authored article as permissible. But AI produces responses based on already existing data, which can lead to plagiarism, disinformation and the perpetuation of bias. 

For the record, ChatGPT was used to create an outline for this blog:

The results from ChatGPT were astoundingly helpful and touched on points from previous research and interviews about the subject. A flaw in this outline is the rigid structure of the subheads, producing a wordy introduction and conclusion. The first and second subheads were combined into one section –– the beginning of this blog –– without the unnecessary verbage about definitions and examples.

Although not perfect, this AI case study should be a sign to all PR professionals that AI can and should help in the early stages of content development.

The future of PR with AI-generated content

AI’s role in content creation has only just begun. According to SimilarWeb, ChatGPT has amassed a whopping one billion users since its initial launch in November 2022. This comes after a UBS study announced it was the fastest-growing consumer application in history, achieving 100 billion users in just two months post-launch.

As more users continue to flock to AI platforms and provide them with more data, the technology only gets smarter. There’s no telling what AI will do in a decade, let alone at the end of 2023. With its rapid pace of innovation, PR professionals must embrace AI to stay ahead of the curve. 

PR agencies will begin to brief teams on how to properly use AI tools and the content it generates. AI should be approached as a new team member –– think of it like an intern without the initial training. With any team member, AI’s content should be vetted and reviewed, so that it can play a role in the development process.

AI-generated content has the potential to aid in a number of typical PR tasks, such as document editing for spelling and grammar, cross-referencing data, shifting the tone, SEO optimization, media training and message refinement. With the proliferation of AI as a key tool in content creation, new opportunities may arise, such as an AI prompt writer.

At the end of the day, PR is about relationship building and management and authenticity in the stories told. There is an essential human element to pitches and storytelling that can’t be replaced with AI-generated content. Part of good PR is presenting the reader with a diversity of sources and viewpoints and letting them come to their own conclusions. PR acts as the gatekeeper of new and unique information in the relationship between businesses and the media, holding an upper hand since AI doesn’t draw from contemporary insights.

AI isn’t sentient (yet), and PR professionals shouldn’t be fearful of its abilities. As with any new technology, industries can choose to adapt their current processes to stay competitive or fall behind using outdated methods. AI-generated content is not competing for the jobs of content creators; it’s reimaging what these jobs look like, so we humans can focus on making the content meaningful.