AI can be a PR and marketing superpower instead of a weapon of mass destruction

AI - generated image by DALL-E

ChatGPT has conjured up feelings of dread and excitement, depending who one speaks to, precisely because it has brought home just how far machine learning and artificial intelligence has come. Despite very real risks, AI presents exciting opportunities for marketing communications professionals.

In looking for the source of the quote to follow, ChatGPT revealed that “A Brief History of Time”, by Stephen Hawking “was first published on April Fool’s Day in 1998”. In that book he wrote: “The rise of powerful AI will either be the best or worst thing ever to happen to humanity. We do not yet know which.”

The profundity of that quote lies perhaps in the truth that AI, and platforms such as ChatGPT, do not present an objective truth. Rather, they are dependent on the datasets and algorithms that power them. These datasets are infused with our biases, and so, as it currently stands, AI in many ways holds up a mirror of the society we are continually shaping.

Were we, as a society, ethically committed to undoing institutional inequalities and privileges, and driving fair and equitable access to technology, we would be on the road to building powerful AI that represents the best of us, and not the worst, which perhaps would allay the fear of an eventual Skynet scenario.

In the original Terminator, Sarah Connor says: “Skynet. It’s a computer program, developed by Cyberdyne Systems, that was designed to control our military defences. But it became self-aware, and started a nuclear war.”

All this being said, here we are, with access to the latest version of ChatGPT that has a dataset that ends in 2021. It is a test model and it is learning at lightning speed. It is still limited and not yet mature. However, in no time, either paid or free, platforms with live data – either public or in private, protected clouds – will be easily accessible.

Just imagine the possibilities of having wholly-owned ChatGPT-like islands, where you could give it access to company data and ask it questions such as: “How could I report better to my introverted client versus a data-driven client?” That future’s not far off and presents an opportunity where insights are not generic, or aggregations, but highly relevant and insightful.

When one considers this future (and present), in the context of the broader marketing and communications industry, it raises a few questions and certainly waves some red flags, but it also presents exciting opportunities to supercharge value to customers and protect professionals’ careers.

ChatGPT, the writer and Plagiarism in PR

Plagiarism is always a concern. The tool doesn’t matter, an unethical person will use what’s at their disposal to steal. It has always been important, perhaps now even more important, to actively and continually drive a culture of good ethics in the communications industry. Consider gene therapy – it can be used to save lives and it can be used to develop athletes who cheat. Each one of us, who loves the industry and values our clients, should nurture and mentor ethical young people to drive communications into the future.


Can AI replace a writer? Perhaps, for a simple announcement, but consider this question we asked ChatGPT: Describe the moment a parent sees their child for the first time? “The moment a parent sees their child for the first time is often described as a mix of emotions, including joy, love, awe and overwhelming feelings of responsibility.”

We’d write: “Laying one’s eyes onto a miraculous creation, that so perfectly combines millennia of diverse genetic heritage into a single, unique and beautiful being, is profound because no other first meeting elicits the full spectrum of human emotion, at once.”

If we cast our eyes back to opinion pieces over the past decade we will land on a recurring theme, that AI will allow machines to “do the heavy lifting’, while humans focus on adding more value, thinking strategically, being creative, adding colour and reading the context. A platform such as ChatGPT offers communication and marketing professionals this superpower.

It’s like having an editor, seasoned account director and data analyst on your team, 24/7 at no extra cost. Does it replace humans? Absolutely not. The human can ask for competitor and audience analysis, data to gauge the relevance of publications or platforms, and whether activities support strategic and commercial goals. It would be a super-fast research tool allowing the marketing and PR professional to spend their hours adding the type of value often watered down by the burden of long hours of administration and heavy lifting.

The truth is that no AI platform will ever replace industry expertise, because relevance, context, and where appropriate, newsworthiness, are uniquely understood and evaluated by people who see things differently. In other words, businesses will still invest in that nous, that creativity of the industry professional. Seen this way, AI tools become another, very powerful, addition, to grow, enhance and support careers in the industry.

New technology will always be greeted with a mixture of awe and fear. One can hardly imagine people jumping onto crafts with wheels, or queuing to take to the sky when these technologies were first introduced. Popular culture and nostalgia for how things were will always generate some resistance to change.

However, if the marketing and PR industries approach this new paradigm with an opportunity mindset, we would go a long way towards protecting our careers and making our work more effective. This is why we wake up every morning, to drive value and positively affect the bottom lines of the businesses we serve. Imagine what’s possible with this new superpower.

By Judith Middleton and Devlin Brown

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