Our clients are demanding we talk about AI as it applies to PR and Comms.

I’ll keep this page updated with tips, tricks and resources.

Let’s be clear: I’m a sceptic. Perhaps it’s the former journalist in me, or perhaps I just tire quickly of hype.

If you’re looking for positive, cutting edge, expert voices on AI I’d strongly recommend my good friend Gary Ennis and another trusted expert I know well, Andrew Bruce Smith.

Aside from their work, the truth is, for all the chatter, I hardly ever encounter a PR or comms professional (who doesn’t have an existing interest in AI) who can clearly articulate how they are using tools such as Chat-GPT, Midjourney and Dall-E and what they actually achieve with it.

It’s certainly technologically impressive that I can freely access a tool that can take an image of ‘The Joker’ and put it at the top of Goatfell on the Isle of Arran but it’ll be 2035 before the tourist board could use that image in a campaign because all images of ‘The Joker’ are protected by copyright until that date. Look around and you’ll see scores of similar examples: impressive looking (albeit obviously fake) images with no practical use case for various reasons.

I often hear this notion of ‘I use AI writing tools as a starting point’. Or ‘it can give me ideas quicker than I’d ever come up with on my own.’ There’s no doubt the tools appear to deliver this but it’s important to remember AI isn’t actually ‘coming up’ with anything. It’s simply regurgitating. What it regurgitates and where it gets it from, well, like poor quality sausages, you probably wouldn’t want to know.

I like this recent quote from musician and songwriter Kamille who is currently enjoying huge success with the track ‘Tension’ which she co-wrote for Kylie Minogue. Regarding the use of AI in songwriting she says, ‘I just feel like I want to just lean on my own brain and make sure I’m not losing that craft I have and becoming too dependent on it.’

AI won’t give you The Beatles but it could certainly speed things up for Jive Bunny.

I think there’s a very real risk, just as the prolonged use of the drug Ecstasy has been shown to damage Seratonin receptors in the brain, that creative professionals relying on AI to generate ideas will end up with diminished creative muscles themselves. Sure, you’ll get the job done to a mediocre degree, but will you get the same buzz? Where’s the spark?

The CIPR often discusses the ethical consideration of AI in PR and comms. One point I’d add is what’s the point of an ethical supply chain, or signing up to becoming a Living Wage provider, if you use AI and don’t require as many staff, or create more junior, lower paid roles at the expense of more experienced professionals?

Simon Baugh at the Government Communication Service shared some excellent insight into how his department is using AI tools. This is well worth a read.

Things like this stagger me. In the midst of a global cost of living crisis, shortly after a devastating pandemic, where is the money coming from for this and how can it be justified? The size of the investment is attracting headlines and leading many others to scramble around trying to make similar moves of their own, but why? To what end? And can EY provide some specific detail as to how this huge amount of money is actually being spent? What have they stopped spending money on in order to embark on this? Until I see the detail, I won’t believe it.

I’m all for people in their personal time experimenting and playing with AI tools. Much like I did with Geocities websites back in 1996. It’s useful to get some insight and understanding into how it works and to keep an eye on where it’s going. What worries me is organisations making rash decisions and throwing themselves into a panic based on hype. Rather than getting carried away with what the tools are capable of, I think it’s better to start with a task orientated approach: ‘What do I need help with, and is there an AI tool that can assist me?’

For example, recently I was editing a podcast for a client and one of the guest speakers had used the wrong word. They’d said ‘legislation’ when it was in fact, only ‘guidance’. Could AI find any instance where they’d used ‘guidance’ elsewhere in the podcast and substitute it in? Or could it clone my speaker’s voice and make them say the word I wanted? In both instances the answer is ‘yes’ but in practice, it sounded horrible. It was obviously fake because the inflection was wrong. It sounded like it had been pasted in. Even using music production pitch shifting software didn’t lead to a satisfactory outcome. Trying all this took hours and I still ended up getting the guest back onto a video conference call and having them say the entire sentence again, with the correct word this time.

Another example – I saw some excited chatter recently about how an AI video creation tool could essentially create a ‘clone’ and produce a reasonably lifelike video of me speaking. Complete with hand gestures, eyebrow raises and other mannerisms. Give it some text, a photo of yourself and a sample of your voice and it’ll quickly do the rest. Except the output looks and sounds obviously fake and while you could get better results using a more expensive tool (you’ll have seen celebrity AI fakes made this way) those costs make the technology considerably less attractive to public sector organisations and small businesses.

I wondered if AI could create a video of me speaking but using British Sign Language at the same time. From what I can gather, it can’t do this, although it could do it and have me speak French, Spanish or myriad other languages. But not BSL. There are some well documented inclusion and accessibility concerns around AI.

There’s no doubt it is good at interpreting reports, picking out what it considers to be the most important or relevant sections of books and speeches etc and it could easily be used to replicate much of what could be achieved using macros and hot keys in software programmes. So noise reduction in Adobe Audition, applying filters in Photoshop. All of that – which can be done already if you know what menus to access and the values to include – can now be done in a text based, more intuitive manner and will soon be done simply using your voice.

I’ll keep this page up to date as I hear of more improvements and advances when it comes to the use of AI in PR and comms. My focus is on practical, relevant use of the tools rather than hype.

I also find it very interesting that across the PR industry, for all the excitement, I’ve yet to hear anyone say that they expect AI to make public relations cheaper. If it’s that good – why aren’t you lowering your fees?

Categories: AIAI