artificial intelligence public relations PRWhile some fear artificial intelligence will steal jobs from public relations professionals and other white-collar workers, some experts predict AI will give PR powerful new capabilities.

“Artificial intelligence will give PR professionals superpowers within a year, predicts Aaron Cohen, founder of Glitch PR. “Every PR person who manages to surf the new AI wave will get instant superpowers, including the ability to predict the future.”

Predicting the severity of a PR crisis – or even noticing an emerging crisis – has proven difficult for companies and their PR teams. AI can overcome that challenge by quickly analyzing billions of social posts. With sufficient warning, PR can stop pre-scheduled social media posts, enter crisis management mode and craft more appropriate posts. After the first two or three days of crisis, AI will accurately predict the severity over the next 30 days.

“What brands or PR agencies fail to understand is how big a crisis is going to be,” Saif Ajani, CEO of Keyhole, a hashtag analytics company, told Cohen for his Venture Beat article. “The #boycottunited crisis started in January, and it’s now September and still happening.”

Although often used interchangeably, AI and machine learning describe slightly different, if overlapping, technologies. AI involves the broader concept of machines capable of acting intelligently. Machine learning is an application of AI that creates computers that can learn and act on their own without explicit programs.

AI Potential Benefits to PR

AI and machine learning can provide other benefits to PR in analyzing big data sets or unstructured content.

  • Because AI can review millions of items in seconds, it can provide insights and recommendations that humans cannot. Data from a social media monitoring service can be combined with data from web analytics, public sources, SEO data and trend data from reputable providers like Google.
  • AI can filter data to remove the bulk of spam and irrelevant comments.
  • With natural language processing and deep learning techniques, firms can “teach” their AI systems to understand text, classify articles, and determine how relevant posts are to the organization.
  • AI can attribute business outcomes to PR by distinguishing earned media from other types of content.
  • AI can help PR understand how people will react to negative news by analyzing previous similar situations. Machine learning can uncover common complaints and issues, enabling PR to plan its response.

“The next wave of PR tech is here, and hunches and experience aren’t going to cut it anymore,” Cohen says.

Some PR Firms will Gain an Advantage

Several multi-national agencies, who asked not to be named, say they do not currently use machine learning. They’ll be at disadvantage.

Shift Communications uses AI and machine learning for predictive analytics, text mining, and advanced attribution. During a recent client crisis, Shift crunched more than 15,000 content-rich blogs for a medical client in 1.5 seconds to identify trends and keywords and find insights. In the process, the PR agency uncovered an entirely different reputation issue that the client can address.

PR professionals can now access advanced predictive, artificially-intelligent algorithms and software thanks to the open source movement and major technology vendors such as Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google and IBM, explains Christopher Penn, vice president, marketing technology, at Shift Communications.

“The power to predict is neat in and of itself, but combined with great PR strategy and tactics, the power to predict makes our PR efforts a force to be reckoned with,” Penn asserts. “Instead of guessing when to conduct our most aggressive PR campaigns, or scrambling to react to internal needs, predictive analytics enables PR professionals to bring real strategy to the table.”

Bottom Line: Artificial intelligence and machine learning open vast new possibilities for PR. The technologies enable PR to quickly analyze enormous amounts of big data from social media monitoring services and other sources to predict public reactions to events, predict the severity of PR crisis, reveal insights for business decision-making and offer meaningful recommendations on counter-measures.