Artificial intelligence is a term tossed around a lot and as a public relations/marketing professional, I honestly ignored it for a while unless I was writing an article for a client in another industry. But the more I read, the more I see how AI is already important for public relations and the large impact it will have in the future. This is true for businesses doing PR in house with large teams, agencies, freelancers and small business owners who handle it for themselves.

Let’s start with one of the biggest challenges of public relations and marketing—data. AI allows marketers to collect massive amounts of data. This data is analyzed to give reports in several areas.

Return on Investment

Return on investment (ROI) is that challenging question most public relations and marketing professionals face. Some business owners see it simply. They say, “I spent $2,000 on this campaign and I expect to see $2,000 or more in sales right away.” Sometimes that happens but many times it doesn’t. We all know the old saying from our marketing classes— “Someone needs to see an ad or other marketing tools seven times before they decide to act.” Again, because public relations is not an exact science, that is not always exactly true. Some people do act when they first see an announcement but some may not act until months later after seeing the add 20 times or more. ROI is not always measured in dollars and cents but also in brand recognition and “buzz.”

AI can provide a lot of data that would be too difficult to get any other way. This includes demographics, the number of times the press release or ad was viewed and even how the viewers felt about the ad.  So, let’s say the ad didn’t bring in the results you wanted. You can analyze the data to determine what you need to do to so that you increase your ROI based on your goals.

Media contacts

Do you use PR software to generate your distribution list for your PR contacts? Then you are already using artificial intelligence. I am old enough to remember the “old days” of distributing press releases. Before the Internet, you would often get media books in the mail from the state news associations. That was a good starting point but often the information was outdated. After you sent out the news release, you followed up on the phone where sometimes you would learn that the person listed in the media guide had left, sometimes years ago. At one of my news manager jobs, I would constantly get calls and emails for a news director who had not been there in five years. Unless the information was of significant community interest, I usually threw them away (or deleted the emails).

Now, you can purchase SaaS that allows you to determine the best media outlets for you based on your industry and goals. Large agencies create their own systems for doing the same tasks. You can also use a website like pr.com to post and distribute your press release online.

AI has already transformed how we send emails to our clients and the media. Most everyone uses an automated provider to send out newsletters, invitations, and other materials. I remember when I worked for a nonprofit that had fundraising meetings. I had to make sure I had an accurate list for invitations, create an invite, send it to the printer, then run address labels. And that wasn’t even the worst part. I then had to stuff the envelopes, seal them and apply the labels and stamps before I sorted them for bulk mailing and took them to the post office. I am happy to use an email service now!

Other AI tasks

Unless you work for a big firm, you are probably doing more than just writing and distributing press releases. You may write blogs or articles for placement in publications. A favorite AI tool is the voice to text feature that allows you to say the words and they will magically appear on the page. (well, not magic, but technology). Unless you type accurately at a super speed this saves a lot of time.

Budgeting is also a breeze with many AI tools that can help you determine where you spend your money. And if you are a self-employed PR whiz, you can use QuickBooks or other bookkeeping apps to help you track your income and expenses.

Should you fear the future?

Many industries, not just marketing and public relations, are afraid that AI will mean fewer jobs for real people. Some of that has already happened. Office assistants who used to handle basic clerical tasks are not needed as much now. Fewer people are needed at large agencies since so many tasks are automated.

But remember this—public relations is always about the public and that means people. Computers and software will never replace the emotion and understanding that you sometimes need in PR, especially in a crisis. Be thankful that AI saves you so much time that you can use to work on ‘’human skills.”

Kim Jarrett is a native of Georgia with more than 25 years of experience in journalism, content writing, and social media management. She has won awards from the Georgia Press Association and won Gabby awards from the Georgia Association of Broadcasting in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 in several categories including best use of digital media and best newscast. A native of Georgia, she received her B.A. in communications from Shorter University.