The world of public relations (PR) has undergone a significant transformation over the past decade, and technology has played a key role in this evolution. One of the most talked-about technological advancements in recent times is a now rather well-known AI large language model created by OpenAI…otherwise known as ChatGPT.
Dominating headlines, its introduction represents a significant advance in the field of natural language processing and has numerous potential applications, including Chatbots, virtual assistants, automated customer service, and, of course, content generation.
For the PR professional, it’s the latter of these applications that’s been busy creating waves in the industry, raising questions about the future of PR professionals. Based on the GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) architecture, it uses a combination of deep learning techniques and natural language processing algorithms to generate human-like responses to a wide range of prompts and questions.
Put simply, it can write anything from poems, stories or blogs, to feature length articles, press releases, and social media posts in a matter of seconds, making its potential impact on the communications industry nothing short of colossal.
The result has left some worried that AI will eventually make PR roles obsolete, while others have embraced the platform, seeing clear opportunity.
So just what is the potential impact of ChatGPT on an industry known for its human touch, creative storytelling, and strategic communication? And what are the opportunities and limitations it offers?
Opportunities of ChatGPT
- Time-saver: As well as generating content, which can serve as a useful springboard for editors, ChatGPT can also save time associated with some of those long winded administrative tasks PRs are often faced with. For example, reading up on a new subject, client, report or white paper can take hours. ChatGPT can summarise long, complicated text into digestible formats and can also write an easy-to-understand explanation of something as complex as dark matter in a few seconds. Freeing up time allows PR professionals to focus on higher-value tasks such as strategic communication and creative storytelling, offering major benefits for the brand or client they’re working for.
- Research assistance: By inputting a specific question or topic, ChatGPT can assist PRs with researching, providing information to help them draft anything from thought leaderships to blogs. It can also suggest relevant hashtags or keywords when drafting social media content or SEO-driven content.
- Help with creative block: Although no substitute for human creativity, ChatGPT can offer writing prompts and generate ideas and inspiration based on specific parameters or topics provided. For example, you’ve written your article or press release, but you’re struggling with a headline or synopsis. Though the results may not be perfectly punchy, they can form a good foundation and often help inspire creative thinking and overcome writer’s block.
- Copyediting and proofreading By analysing text for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and punctuation errors, ChatGPT can act as an initial proofreader. It can also suggest alternative words or phrases to improve the clarity and coherence of your text, and can use machine learning algorithms to identify common errors and provide suggestions for corrections. However, remember, it may not catch all errors, so it’s always a good idea to have a human editor review the text as well.
Limitations of ChatGPT
- Limited understanding of the nuances of language and context: Firstly, being an AI language model that generates text based on the data it has been trained on, ChatGPT may not always capture the nuances of a brand’s tone and voice, resulting in content that feels disconnected from the brand’s identity. It may also struggle with understanding cultural references and colloquialisms; nuances are often critical to successful communication that could be missed.
- Lack of creative flair: ChatGPT cannot replace human creativity and intuition needed to create engaging and memorable campaigns. Try asking ChatGPT to draft an article promoting a new product launch, for example. What’s generated will perhaps be informative and well-structured, but it will likely lack the creative spark that would make it stand out from other articles on the same topic. It’ll need a PR professional to add flair, inject the brand’s style, and create a narrative that will both resonate with the target audience and be suitable for UK media.
- Data privacy: Since ChatGPT was opened up to the public, the ongoing debate around data privacy has only intensified. The advance of regenerative AI has even led to calls from some tech heavyweights for the world to take stock. In fact, in March this year, more than 1,000 artificial intelligence experts, researchers and backers, including the likes of Elon Musk, Emad Mostaque and Steve Wozniak, signed an open letter calling for an immediate pause on the creation of “giant” AIs for at least six months. One of their biggest concerns was data privacy. ChatGPT processes and stores vast amounts of data, including personal information and confidential details. Ensuring the privacy and security of this data is critical, and traditional encryption methods have been used to protect it. However, these have limitations. At the moment, industries simply cannot confidently and securely process sensitive data while maintaining privacy and trust.
- Potential for errors: ChatGPT has been trained on a massive corpus of text data from a diverse range of sources – including the internet, books, articles, and other written materials – using unsupervised learning techniques. And, because AI-based tools are only as good as the data they are trained on, the complexity of the questions asked, and the specific context of the conversation, this means that, much like any other machine learning model, it has the potential to create errors – a PR professional’s worst nightmare. Consider the accuracy of the internet for a moment. One of ChatGPT’s data sources, it’s rife with errors, fake news and inaccuracies. With such an overwhelmingly huge amount of information available on the internet, it can be challenging at the best of times to discern the accuracy and reliability of content. Moreover, the ease with which information can be shared and distributed online has made it easier for false information to spread quickly. As such, it’s crucial to approach both online content and any ChatGPT-created content with a critical eye and verify information through reputable sources to avoid risking the PR professional’s, brand’s or PR agency’s reputation.
- Up-to-date responses limited: Alongside the platform’s potential for error, it’s important to remember that currently the training data only goes up until 2021, meaning it is incapable of accessing the latest information, events or even trends that have emerged since then. This limits the model’s ability to generate responses that are up-to-date and relevant to current events. Additionally, the model may not have learned to address certain topics or language styles that have emerged in recent years. As a result, responses could well be outdated, inaccurate, or not applicable to their current needs. From a PR perspective, staying up to date with current affairs is essential. The media landscape is constantly changing, and keeping abreast of breaking news, trending topics, and industry developments is crucial for developing timely and effective PR strategies. PR professionals also often identify opportunities for their clients to comment on current events or offer expert opinions – otherwise known as newsjacking – which can help to increase their visibility and establish them as thought leaders in their field. Staying abreast of the news also allows PR professionals to anticipate potential crises and proactively respond to them.
As the PR industry continues to rapidly evolve, it’s clear that ChatGPT is a tool not to be ignored.
So, rather than scolding it for its limitations, perhaps it’s time to embrace the technology and work collaboratively alongside it; let it help us streamline our administrative tasks. Work with it to refine and improve the quality of the content generated by the model. Provide additional context, correct errors, and ensure that the content meets the specific needs of the audience and the organisation. Inject that all important flair and human touch.