Keeping AI Real and Ethical in PR

If I had a penny for every time I heard the word AI (Artificial Intelligence) at a PR (Public Relations) conference or peer discussion, I would be a millionaire! And it’s not being used in these gatherings just because it is a buzzword. It is being discussed because AI is slowly, steadily (and if I may say stealthily) getting integrated in our work. It is a tool that’s reshaping how we work. 

The public relations industry has evolved drastically in the last few decades. From cutting out brand mentions or interviews from newspapers, pasting them on A4 size papers and generating physical copies of media coverage reports, we now generate reports with just a click!  As communicators, we’re seeing rapid changes in how we communicate. And this rapid change has been accelerated further with integration of AI tools in PR. It has the potential of being the biggest and fastest leap our industry has ever seen. It’s revolutionising everything from content creation to data analysis. But here’s the catch: when used within a controlled framework, AI can enhance communications impact, but without proper guidelines, it can potentially harm a brand’s reputation and here’s how:

  • The speed and efficiency of AI in content creation is unmatchable. But without proper oversight, AI can unintentionally spread misinformation. Imagine the PR nightmares that can arise from a piece of AI-generated content that’s not fact-checked!
  • AI tools learn from existing data. If that data has biases (and let’s be honest, most data does), AI can amplify these biases in its outputs. In PR, where fairness, transparency and representation matter, this can be catastrophic for a brand.
  • Communications professionals are trusted advisors. We often handle sensitive information. It is possible that irresponsible use of AI tools may jeopardise the privacy and confidentiality norms of the companies. 
  • AI is impersonal and public relations is all about building connections with consumers and other stakeholder groups. AI generated communication may not be effective and impactful.

Guardrails for Ethical AI Use

  • The first step to using AI responsibly is understanding it. Communications schools, PR consultancies and even corporations must invest into training the PR professionals on how to responsibly use AI tools. The right knowledge of how AI works, its capabilities, and its limitations will be a powerful tool in the hands of communicators.
  • Consultancies and communications departments must set up a decision-making framework in their teams for ethical AI use. This could be a simple checklist or a more comprehensive guide of do’s and don’ts. 
  • No one knows everything about AI. Collaborate with different departments such as legal to ensure there are no copyright issues in the future or the tech teams, to develop AI usage guidelines tailored to the PR needs of your organisation.
  • We all have to remember that AI is just a tool, not a replacement for human insight and creativity. We have to ensure that there’s always a human touch in AI-assisted PR strategies or narratives.
  • Monitor and Adapt: AI is evolving fast. Keep an eye on how AI is impacting your work and be ready to adapt your strategies.

A few weeks back I was at a PR conference in the US. Every panel discussion at the conference was about the use of AI in PR. The mood was upbeat, the stalls were full with showcases of AI tools, and expert speakers were convincingly showing AI as THE disruption in the PR industry. But whenever there were questions raised about risks associated with using AI, there were no clear answers. Not much thinking has gone into setting up frameworks or guidelines to use these tools in our day to day work ethically. This is one thing which is up for discussion when this is precisely the first thing that should be discussed. By setting ethical guardrails, staying informed, and keeping the human element at the forefront, we can ensure that AI becomes a trusted ally in our PR toolkit instead of a risk generator! 

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Payal Raj
Payal has 15 years of global communications and advocacy experience, covering broadcast business news, journalism, media relations, public affairs, and sustainability communications. She's worked across Asia, Europe, and North America. Currently, as Senior Manager of Sustainability Communications at Mars Pet Nutrition, North America, Payal's expertise encompasses strategic communications, crisis management, issues advocacy, and stakeholder engagement. Her blog provides a global perspective on PR trends and challenges, reflecting her diverse industry background.

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