AI has the potential to be particularly disruptive in PR. Why? Because PR has remained largely unchanged for the past twenty years. PR has gamely resisted every attempt at innovation. Most PR professionals still do their jobs the same way: by collecting journalists’ emails that matter in databases and sending them emails. Steve Marcinuk, co-founder and head of operations at Intelligent Relations, looks at how AI and text generation can change the PR game.
People have been optimistically pasting the word “disruptive” on every technology since 1995 when Clayton Christensen and Joseph Bower wrote their seminal paper on the subject in the Harvard Business Review. But not every technology is actually disruptive. Take cars, for example. When they came on the scene in the late 1800s, they didn’t disrupt the horse-drawn carriage market because they were too expensive and fiddly. They didn’t catch on. Revolutionary, yes. Disruptive, no.
Then, in 1905, Henry Ford’s affordable Ford Model T successfully disrupted the industry. Suddenly, everyone could afford a car.
A lot of technology falls into the non-disruptive camp. New tech does cool stuff – it can help you do things better, faster, and more efficiently. But is it actually disrupting any industries? Many new advancements haven’t actually affected any real industry change.
AI text generation is one of those technologies that might actually prove to be disruptive, especially in the PR industry. Right now, innovation in the AI field is happening fast. AI is creating gorgeous works of art – it’s even winning art competitions! More to the point, AI is generating more meaningful, readable copy. AI is holding semi-decent conversations and even persuading some people that AI might someday become sentient.
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Oh, sure, we’ve become more efficient. We use tracking pixels and social media, and automated email sequences. But nothing in the PR industry has been truly disrupted. AI, and specifically AI-powered text generation, could change that.
What Does Disruption Really Mean in PR?
You could argue that any new technology is disruptive – and indeed, many marketers do, albeit hyperbolically. But in my view, the coming disruption in PR is going to make PR more accessible, removing barriers to entry. After all, that’s what tech did for our sister industries, marketing and sales. Anyone can run a Facebook ad using their self-serve platform, no matter how much or how little training they have. Anyone can build a nice-looking website to sell their products. Tech has disrupted these industries by cutting out the middleman.
Today, PR still acts like a black box, commoditizing relationships rather than skills, talent, or experience. Many PR agencies charge through the nose for access to insider email addresses. But soon, clients will be able to do much of their PR for two reasons: first, today’s media landscape is more fragmented and accessible than ever. Second, AI text generation democratizes PR, making it possible for anyone to generate a professional pitch or press release.
Let’s talk about media fragmentation first. Twenty years ago, there were a handful of notable websites and magazines. By comparison, today, there are hundreds of relevant niche publications, hundreds of industry podcasts, and even B2B influencers and thought leaders. These contacts aren’t gatekept – many offer their contact details right on their social media pages. Today, having an editor’s email address at Forbes just isn’t as valuable as it used to be because Forbes is no longer one of the five notable websites to get your company mentioned on.
In the past, PR companies had exclusive access to those email addresses. PR companies alone knew how to write a press release that would score attention. Only PR professionals could write a pitch that would be looked at by a journalist. That’s not the case today. To remain relevant, PR needs to evolve to offer another kind of service – or else clients will leave PR in the dust altogether.
Now let’s address what AI text generation allows non-PR employees to do. AI text generation is making self-serve PR possible through a number of channels. First, multiple AI text-generation tools scrape press releases online and use them to help companies generate their own press releases. Second, there are AI text generation tools that can help anyone create social media outreach messages. Finally, the art of the pitch is no longer a PR exclusive – countless text generation tools now exist to help anyone draft a personalized pitch to send to journalists.
What does this mean for the PR industry landscape? Let’s say you’re a B2B company that sells data science software. You have some awesome news—you’ve just acquired a hot new AI company. You no longer have to contact a PR firm to send out a press release and have it syndicated. You no longer need to hire a PR company to write your press release. You can just email the relevant people by looking for their emails on Twitter or LinkedIn, and you can use AI text gen to generate a pretty persuasive press release.
How Will Text Generation Disrupt PR?
Three factors make for a perfect disruption storm. First, there’s been an influx of cash. For example, Muck Rack, a journalist database PR professionals use to contact journalists, recently raised $180 million in first-round funding. Where there’s money, there’s fuel for innovation.
Second, there’s a noticeable lag. PR tech has remained stagnant. Marketing technology and sales technology have experienced the same sort of accessible transformation I described above. Now it’s PR’s turn.
Third, the tech and data are ripe for use. AI text generation tech is emerging from its infancy. Today, you can access any number of commercial AI text generators to craft press releases, LinkedIn messages, pitches to journalists, and podcast outreaches – all to spec. This technology has been trained on an absolute wealth of publicly available data, making AI text generation more valuable than ever before.
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How Will PR Change with AI Text Generation?
In the near future, anyone will be able to send out a mass email request to journos using a self-serve platform that automatically generates a well-written press release or pitch for you using AI text generation. To stay in business, PR professionals will need to do more than simply hoard a bunch of emails. PR will evolve to become a strategic extension of companies rather than a relationship broker. The role of PR will be to help craft a narrative, plan an outreach campaign, and build an overarching communications strategy.
If not? Then PR companies might find themselves outcompeted by their own clients as AI and text generation help businesses help themselves.
Have you been using AI and text generation? Tell us about your experience with these technologies on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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