A few weeks ago, I attended a breakfast briefing on Artificial Intelligence (AI), specifically looking at how it would change the world of journalism – a potentially controversial subject in this brave new world! However, as one panellist pointed out, AI is already prevalent today. Take, for example, Google’s introduction of predictive text and phrases for Gmail, smart technology that learns your routines to adjust the heating in your home, or how my phone uses AI to learn my commute and adjusts it accordingly to give me the best way to get to and from work each day.
One way that AI has helped communication is in the journalism itself. The Press Association has launched RADAR (Reporters and Data and Robots), an automated news service set up in partnership with Urbs Media, that allows the PA to efficiently write local news stories, each led by local data that would take humans far longer to process. Led by a team of data-focused journalists, the technology enables the team to create a tailored story across several locations. Their target is to produce 30,000 stories a month – an impossibly costly affair in human terms.
This might signal the end of journalism as we know it – while that sounds dramatic, it certainly signals a change in the tide. It’s no secret that editorial teams have shrunk and are faced with the pressures of shorter deadlines and a constant race to publish content online first. Technology such as RADAR enables journalists to increase efficiencies and free up their time to chase leads, subsequently writing meaningful content that machines (at least for the time being!) simply cannot replicate.
So will the relationship between journalists and PR change? At the briefing I attended, a journalist on the panel joked that they hoped they could use AI to screen those pesky ‘have you read my press release?’ calls from PRs. A joke at the time but Google actually recently launched a feature that does something similar with its Pixel 3 model. But what if, as one eager audience member queried, PRs started using AI to pitch ideas to journalists who too used AI to answer calls? Will we have an industry run entirely by AI where complex algorithms write perfectly crafted news stories and features, constantly adapting to industry and language trends?
The simple answer is no – and herein lies the true potential AI brings to communications. At JPES we always stress the importance of being ‘client-centric’ – that is to say, putting clients at the heart of everything a business says and does. Harnessing the power of AI offers the opportunity to gather, sort and use data available to you to personalise communications, whether it’s to your customers or the media.
Therein lies the reason that journalism and PR will never die. After all, personalisation makes us feel that we’re hearing from another person, with whom the recipient has built a relationship. And while computers and algorithms have the power to process information in a way that humans can only dream of, they are only as capable as humans design them to be. At the end of the day, despite the efficacies that technology offers, what people – customers, clients, journalists alike – really prefer is the human touch.