Kathleen Reynolds
Vice President, Client Services

Originally published on CooperKatz December 6, 2017

I know why AI is a “buzzword.” If you’re in public relations and you drank every time you heard a client or colleague say “AI,” you’d be more than buzzed. Before 10:00 a.m.

We participated in PR Council’s AI webinar, “AI: Friend or Foe.” Call it whatever you want but know this: AI is here and it’s a macrotrend as big as the dawn of the Internet or electricity, according to Scott Varland, SVP of Marketing Innovation at M Booth and his colleagues in the discussion.

At CooperKatz, it’s affecting almost every one of the industries our clients are in and it also has major implications for the way we do our jobs as PR pros. I’ve sat in countless meetings to learn about AI services for clients and thought, “Wow, that’s going to make the field so much more efficient and allow the practitioners to focus on more strategic work.” But inevitably, as I think about my own profession and my own value as a person, there’s some cognitive dissonance and, honestly, a little “Blade Runner” angst. As humans and professionals, we are full of proprietary, emotional, unique, irreplaceable, creative, “intelligent” insights. So I can’t help but think (mostly in jest): Robots and software, keep your virtual digits off our damn lunch.

We should take comfort in the fact that dystopian fears are a step on this journey. Garry Kasparov, who knows a thing or two about the man vs. machine dynamic (or better put, the man and machine relationship), acknowledges that fear is part of the evolution for any field grappling with how machine learning and humans interact. I have some fears about my boss being an AI or a machine. Or my children befriending them. But both are predicted to become realities. So instead of living in fear, let’s unleash what we do best in PR – our innate and, for now, uniquely human abilities to be creative and strategic with new business realities. That starts with some questions, many of them raised on the PR Council’s discussion.

  • How are we and our clients even defining AI? If you’re conducting media training, you may be surprised at how many clients struggle to answer this one.
  • How can we best use AI for analytics and client (or internal) insights?
  • How can we use it as we create and deploy content, and what types of content can AI create? (for the record,maybe not recipes).
  • Which parts of our jobs can AI do differently? Check out the work of McCann’s AI creative director, and see if you can spot which work was created by a human – and which you prefer.
  • Which workflows in our daily life are most fraught or inefficient and how can AI help us eliminate them or make them less manual? I’m looking at you, press coverage reporting.
  • Which of our current vendors are using AI already? Which should be? And which types of tech can we embrace internally?
  • What types of human hires should we be making to maximize our capabilities in this area, to help our clients down the path (and our own people)? And how can we use AI to improve our hiring process?
  • What types of predictive technologies can / should we employ with AI, to help clients test-drive concepts / products and messaging before they see the light of day, and on an ongoing basis?
  • As we’re “teaching” AI / Machine Learning models, what inherent or unintentional biases might we be creating?
  • How can we tap AI to give us quantitative intel on “soft metrics” like emotional response through biometrics and other sensors / tools? And which areas (for now, at least) are strictly human territory?
  • And perhaps more importantly – what can we do to keeping learning more about this field and how it’s affecting PR and our clients? If you’re a position of leadership and not considering this last one, it’s high time you do. One easy way is to monitor news out of NIPS 2017, which is happening this week and focused on major AI developments.

Adapting the words from one of my favorite musicals, “I dreamed a dream of times AI.” Some of you may still see it as a foggy one, or even a nightmare. But if I could conjure an AI dream into a reality (and not the “Blade Runner” variety) it would be a world in which we’re using and partnering and yes, even relying on AI to focus us and raise our PR game. For the record, I want us to be gainfully employed, too. But I truly believe this technology will make us all smarter, more creative, more efficient and more focused on serving our clients. At CooperKatz, we aim to be inspired, clear and thoughtful and we’ll embrace any technologies that help us do that better. This one’s a biggie, my friends. It’s natural to fear it at first, but we must then learn about it, embrace it, deploy it, etc. What we can’t do, is ignore it.

Stay tuned for a follow-up post on how to help clients launch AI news intelligently.


A recap of PR Council’s AI webinar can be found here.