Home > PR > An “Interview” with ChatGPT: What is Public Relations? How has PR Changed? Will Artificial Intelligence Replace Comms Pros?

An “Interview” with ChatGPT: What is Public Relations? How has PR Changed? Will Artificial Intelligence Replace Comms Pros?

We interviewed ChatGPT about public relations and while it does well with high-level questions, it becomes repetitive when those questions were more nuanced; the system says it is “unlikely” that it “or any other AI system will fully replace public relations (PR) professionals”

Over the holidays, I read an “interview” that Marty Weintraub of AimClear conducted with ChatGPT. It struck me as brilliant, and I decided to replicate his experiment with public relations.

Some notes to keep in mind as you read:

First, ChatGPT has a feature called “regenerate response” – which essentially asks the machine to answer the same question a different way. I used this feature liberally, but in every instance, the second answer was nearly identical to the first one.

Second, any links in the text were added by me and not ChatGPT. I’ve added them where I think they might be useful for readers.

Third, all ChatCPT answers are in quotes and are verbatim. I offer a bit of color commentary after some answers and distinguish my commentary using italics.

Finally, the header image was created using DALLE-2.

What is public relations?

“Public relations is the practice of building and maintaining relationships between an organization and its stakeholders. This can include the media, customers, employees, and the general public. Public relations professionals create and maintain a positive image for their organization, often through the use of marketing, branding, and communication strategies. They may also work to manage and respond to negative situations or issues that may arise.”

It’s not a bad take.

How is public relations defined?

“Public relations is defined as the practice of intentionally managing the spread of information between an individual or organization and the public. The goal of PR is to influence how the public perceives an organization or individual, and to manage their reputation. PR practitioners work to create and maintain relationships with media outlets, and use those relationships to get their client’s message out to the public. PR can also involve managing events, speaking at conferences, and developing social media campaigns.

PR is a broad field that encompasses many different tactics and strategies for managing communication between an organization and the public. PR practitioners use a variety of methods to get their message out, including press releases, media relations, social media, and more. The goal of PR is to present an organization or individual in the best possible light, and to build and maintain a positive reputation.”

What are some examples of public relations?

Media relations: This involves building relationships with journalists and getting media coverage for an organization or individual. This could include sending press releases, organizing press conferences, or arranging interviews.

Social media: PR practitioners may manage an organization’s social media accounts and use them to communicate with the public and promote the organization.

Event planning: PR practitioners may plan events such as product launches, conferences, or charity events to get media attention and generate positive publicity.

Crisis management: When an organization faces a crisis, PR practitioners may work to minimize the damage to the organization’s reputation by managing the flow of information and communicating with the public.

Internal communications: PR practitioners may also be responsible for communicating with employees and stakeholders within an organization.

Influencer relations: PR practitioners may work to build relationships with influencers and get them to promote an organization or its products.

Public affairs: This involves working with government officials and agencies to shape public policy and advocate on behalf of an organization.”

This is reflective of a traditional view of public relations. There are other functions that could be added to the list, but it seems to me, ChatGPT hits many of the typical duties.

How is public relations different from marketing?

“Public relations (PR) and marketing are related, but they are not the same thing. Both PR and marketing are concerned with promoting an organization or individual, but they go about it in different ways.

Marketing is focused on promoting a product or service in order to sell it. Marketing efforts often involve paid advertising, and the goal is to reach as many people as possible in order to increase sales. Marketing can also involve market research, product development, and branding.

PR, on the other hand, is focused on building and maintaining a positive reputation. PR practitioners work to get their client’s message out to the public, but they do so in a more subtle way. PR practitioners use a variety of tactics, including press releases, media relations, and social media, to get their message out. The goal of PR is not necessarily to sell a product or service, but rather to shape the public’s perception of an organization or individual.

In short, marketing is focused on promoting a product or service, while PR is focused on building and maintaining a positive reputation.”

There’s no mention of trust or credibility, which I think are key points of differentiation. However, I do subscribe to overall sentiment here: that PR is a distinct approach to communication.

What is the value of public relations?

“Public relations (PR) can provide value to an organization in a number of ways:

Building and maintaining a positive reputation: PR can help an organization build and maintain a positive reputation by getting the organization’s message out to the public and shaping the public’s perception of the organization.

Increasing brand awareness: PR can help increase brand awareness by getting the organization’s name and message out to the public through various channels, such as the media, social media, and events.

Influencing public opinion: PR can help shape public opinion about an organization or issue by presenting information in a way that is favorable to the organization.

Managing crises: PR can be an important tool for managing crises and mitigating damage to an organization’s reputation. PR practitioners can use various tactics, such as issuing statements and holding press conferences, to provide accurate information and respond to negative events.

Improving relationships with stakeholders: PR can help improve relationships with stakeholders, such as employees, customers, and investors, by providing transparent and accurate information and addressing their concerns.

Overall, PR can help an organization build and maintain a positive reputation, increase brand awareness, and improve relationships with stakeholders.”

How much does public relations cost?

“The cost of public relations (PR) can vary widely depending on the scope and goals of the campaign, the size of the organization, and the tactics that are used. Some PR firms charge an hourly rate for their services, while others charge a flat fee or a percentage of the overall budget.

In general, PR campaigns can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to several hundred thousand dollars. Smaller organizations or startups may be able to work with a PR firm on a retainer basis, where they pay a set fee each month for a certain number of hours of PR work. Larger organizations may work with a PR firm on a project basis, where they pay a flat fee for a specific campaign.

It’s worth noting that PR can be an ongoing process, rather than a one-time expenditure. Many organizations work with PR firms on an ongoing basis in order to maintain a positive reputation and keep their message in the public eye.”

In other words, “it depends.”

How is public relations measured?

“Public relations (PR) practitioners use a variety of methods to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns. Some common ways to measure PR include:

Media coverage: PR practitioners often track the number of media placements that their campaigns generate, as well as the reach and impact of those placements. This can include the number of times an article is shared on social media, or the number of people who see a television segment.

Website traffic: PR practitioners may track the number of visitors to the organization’s website, as well as the pages that are most popular. This can help them understand how effective their PR efforts have been at driving traffic to the website.

Social media metrics: PR practitioners may track social media metrics such as the number of followers, likes, and shares on social media platforms. This can help them understand how well their message is resonating with the public.

Brand sentiment: PR practitioners may use tools to track the overall sentiment around the organization or brand. This can involve tracking mentions of the organization on social media and other online platforms, and analyzing the sentiment of those mentions (positive, negative, or neutral).

Sales data: In some cases, PR practitioners may track sales data to see if there is a correlation between PR efforts and increased sales.

Overall, there are many ways to measure the effectiveness of PR campaigns, and the best approach will depend on the goals of the campaign and the organization.”

This is largely a reflection of what PR professionals say they measure, according to The JOTW Strategic Communications Survey for 2022. You can find the survey answers from 483 communicators here: PR measurement. The 10 Most Common Ways Comms Pros are Measuring PR.

What are the top challenges in public relations?

“Public relations (PR) practitioners face a number of challenges in their work, including:

Managing a crisis: In the event of a crisis, PR practitioners must work quickly to minimize the damage to an organization’s reputation and to restore trust with the public. This can be challenging, as crises often unfold quickly and can be difficult to control.

Building and maintaining relationships with the media: PR practitioners rely on relationships with journalists and media outlets in order to get their client’s message out to the public. Building and maintaining these relationships can be a challenge, as journalists are often busy and may not always be interested in the stories that PR practitioners are promoting.

Managing social media: Social media has become an important platform for PR, but it can also be a challenge to manage. PR practitioners must be mindful of their online presence and carefully monitor what is being said about their organization on social media.

Staying current: PR is a rapidly evolving field, and PR practitioners must stay up-to-date on the latest trends and techniques in order to be effective. This can be a challenge, as PR practitioners must juggle many different tasks and may not have time to stay abreast of the latest developments.

Managing budgets: PR practitioners must often work within tight budgets, which can be a challenge when it comes to planning and executing effective campaigns.

Overall, PR practitioners face a number of challenges in their work, including managing crises, building relationships with the media, and staying current on the latest trends and techniques.”

At this point in the “interview” I believe we are starting to see the limits of the system. The answers are starting to feel repetitive and formulaic. ChatGPT seems to miss emerging themes if there isn’t a wide body of writing already on a topic.

For example, none of the very top challenges facing communicators surfaced by the most recent JOTW comms survey are mentioned: 1) cutting through the noise (35%); 2) too many priorities (31%); and 3) lack of employee experience (25%).

Indeed, “staying current” may be one of the weak spots in an AI system due to the inability to distinguish new and emerging themes from mis, mal or disinformation.  

Has public relations become harder or easier over the last few years?

“Public relations (PR) has changed significantly over the last few years, with the rise of social media and the proliferation of online news sources. Some people believe that these changes have made PR easier, as they have provided new channels for PR practitioners to get their message out to the public. Others believe that these changes have made PR more challenging, as they have added new complexities to the field.

One of the main ways that social media has changed PR is by giving organizations the ability to communicate directly with their audiences. This has made it easier for PR practitioners to reach their target audience and get their message out to the public. However, social media has also made it easier for negative information to spread quickly, which can be a challenge for PR practitioners to manage.

The proliferation of online news sources has also made it easier for PR practitioners to reach a wider audience. However, it has also made it more challenging to stand out in a crowded media landscape.

Overall, it’s difficult to say whether PR has become harder or easier over the last few years. While social media and the proliferation of online news sources have provided new opportunities for PR practitioners, they have also added new challenges to the field.”

This is a pretty solid answer. ChatGPT does a fair job of describing both sides of the argument and adding a specific example.

Should brands take a public stand on political issues?

“Whether or not a brand should take a public stand on political issues is a complex and controversial question. On one hand, taking a public stand on political issues can help a brand differentiate itself and show that it is socially responsible. It can also be a way for a brand to demonstrate its values and align itself with certain causes or issues.

On the other hand, taking a public stand on political issues can also be risky for a brand. It can alienate some customers and stakeholders who disagree with the brand’s position, and it can also lead to negative backlash and boycotts. Brands that take a public stand on political issues must be prepared to handle the potential consequences of their actions.

Ultimately, whether or not a brand should take a public stand on political issues depends on a variety of factors, including the brand’s values, its target audience, and the potential risks and rewards of doing so. Brands should carefully consider all of these factors before taking a public stand on a political issue.”

This is another “it depends” answer. I’ve done two surveys of my own on this question of the general public and of professional communicators. In both cases, more, but not most, think brands should generally abstain from politics unless the issue is clearly tied to the business.

Should brands take a public stand on social issues?

“Whether or not a brand should take a public stand on social issues is a complex and controversial question. On one hand, taking a public stand on social issues can help a brand differentiate itself and show that it is socially responsible. It can also be a way for a brand to demonstrate its values and align itself with certain causes or issues.

On the other hand, taking a public stand on social issues can also be risky for a brand. It can alienate some customers and stakeholders who disagree with the brand’s position, and it can also lead to negative backlash and boycotts. Brands that take a public stand on social issues must be prepared to handle the potential consequences of their actions.

Ultimately, whether or not a brand should take a public stand on social issues depends on a variety of factors, including the brand’s values, its target audience, and the potential risks and rewards of doing so. Brands should carefully consider all of these factors before taking a public stand on a social issue.”

This is virtually the same answer as the one given above – only the word “social” has been substituted for “political.” It demonstrates, again, ChatGPT may not be as useful when the questions are nuanced. Especially on a complicated question like this, because not every social issue is inherently political, but any issue can be politicized.

Do public relations people tell the truth?

“Public relations (PR) practitioners are expected to be honest and transparent in their communications with the public. PR practitioners are responsible for representing their clients accurately and honestly, and for presenting information in a way that is fair and balanced.

That being said, PR practitioners are also responsible for promoting their clients and presenting them in the best possible light. This can involve highlighting the positive aspects of their clients and downplaying the negative aspects. PR practitioners are not expected to present a completely unbiased view of their clients, but they are expected to be honest and transparent in their communications.

Overall, PR practitioners are expected to be truthful in their communications, but they are also expected to promote their clients in a positive way.”

Two years ago, the JOTW comms survey put this question to communicators. The survey found 95% of communicators believe they present accurate and truthful information “often” or “sometimes.” But just 2% said “always.”

What skills do you need to be successful in public relations?

“Here are a few skills that can help you be successful in public relations:

Strong writing skills: PR practitioners must be able to write clearly and effectively in order to craft press releases, pitch stories to journalists, and develop social media content.

Communication skills: PR practitioners must be able to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences, including the media, clients, and the public. This requires strong verbal and interpersonal skills.

Organizational skills: PR practitioners must be able to manage multiple tasks and projects at once, and must be highly organized in order to stay on top of their workload.

Strategic thinking: PR practitioners must be able to think strategically and develop effective plans and campaigns to achieve their clients’ goals.

Adaptability: PR is a rapidly evolving field, and PR practitioners must be able to adapt to new trends and technologies in order to be successful.

Creativity: PR practitioners must be able to think creatively and come up with new and innovative ideas for campaigns and projects.

Media relations skills: PR practitioners must be able to build and maintain relationships with journalists and media outlets in order to get their clients’ messages out to the public.

Overall, being successful in PR requires a variety of skills, including strong writing and communication skills, organizational skills, strategic thinking, adaptability, creativity, and media relations skills.”

Some may see some irony in an AI system that writes reasonably well suggesting writing is a top skill for humans. I believe an AI tool that writes with some satisfaction will make creative writing more important. This is because when everyone has the same tools the playing field is level. This has already happened in B2B marketing with the proliferation of marketing automation. It’s a “sea of sameness.” Technology is an advantage to first movers, but that advantage has a time limit. 

How is technology being used in public relations?

“Technology is being used in a variety of ways in public relations (PR). Here are a few examples:

Social media: PR practitioners use social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to get their message out to the public. This can involve creating and sharing content, interacting with followers, and using hashtags to reach a wider audience.

Press release distribution: Many PR firms use online press release distribution services to get their clients’ news out to the media. These services allow PR practitioners to easily send press releases to journalists and media outlets around the world.

Media monitoring: PR practitioners use a variety of tools to monitor the media for mentions of their clients. These tools can track mentions of a client on social media, online news sources, and traditional media outlets.

Analytics: PR practitioners use a variety of analytics tools to track the effectiveness of their campaigns. These tools can help PR practitioners understand how well their message is resonating with the public and how their campaigns are performing.

Overall, technology is being used in a variety of ways to support PR efforts, including social media, press release distribution, media monitoring, and analytics.”

The answer isn’t wrong, but I am disappointed that social media is listed as a “technology” for PR. That’s like saying the telephone is PR technology.  And it seems ChatGPT missed an opportunity to discuss the role of AI in public relations technology.  Again, this is new and emerging information.

What are some examples of technology vendors developing public relations software?

“Here are a few examples of technology vendors that have developed public relations (PR) software:

Cision: Cision is a PR software vendor that offers a range of tools for media relations, including media database management, media monitoring, and press release distribution.

Meltwater: Meltwater is a PR software vendor that offers media monitoring and analytics tools for PR professionals.

Mention: Mention is a PR software vendor that offers media monitoring and analytics tools, as well as tools for managing social media accounts.

Synthesio: Synthesio is a PR software vendor that offers media monitoring and analytics tools, as well as tools for managing social media accounts.

Agorapulse: Agorapulse is a PR software vendor that offers tools for managing social media accounts, as well as tools for tracking the performance of social media campaigns.

Overall, there are many technology vendors that have developed PR software to help PR professionals manage their media relations, monitor the media, and track the performance of their campaigns.”

I write monthly about PR technology, so I wasn’t impressed with this list at all. Here’s a much better look at The PR Technology Landscape 2022. And that even needs to be updated now.

Who are some people that are thought leaders in public relations?

“There are many people who are thought leaders in public relations (PR). Here are a few examples:

Edward Bernays: Edward Bernays is often referred to as the ‘father of public relations.’ He is credited with developing many of the principles and techniques that are still used in PR today, and his book ‘Propaganda’ is considered a classic in the field.

Rachel Miller: Rachel Miller is a well-known PR practitioner and blogger who writes about PR and social media. She is the co-founder of Mooloop, a social media agency, and is a frequent speaker on PR and social media topics.

Gini Dietrich: Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a PR and content marketing firm. She is a thought leader in the field of PR and is the author of several books on PR and content marketing.

Deirdre Breakenridge: Deirdre Breakenridge is a PR practitioner and author who has written several books on PR and digital marketing. She is a frequent speaker on PR and digital marketing topics and is the co-founder of the PR agency Pure Performance Communications.

Brian Solis: Brian Solis is a digital analyst, speaker, and author who writes about the impact of technology on business and society. He is a thought leader in the field of PR and is the author of several books on PR and digital marketing.

Overall, there are many people who are thought leaders in PR, and the field is constantly evolving as new practitioners and technologies emerge.”

It wouldn’t have occurred to me to mention Edward Bernays as a “thought leader” but what is thought leadership without history? Rachel, I do not know and did some digging, but could not find anyone associated with a consultancy called “Mooloop.” There is a Rachel Miller associated with “Moolah” but I’m not certain this is the person to which ChatGPT is referring. Gini and Deirdre are long-time advocates in PR. Brian too, but he’s jokingly referred to himself as a recovering PR person for 15 or more years now. Maybe more. 

Is the PESO model applicable in public relations?

“The PESO model is a framework for integrating paid, earned, shared, and owned media in a communications strategy. It was developed by Gini Dietrich, the CEO of Arment Dietrich, a PR and content marketing firm.

The PESO model is often used in public relations (PR) as a way to create a more holistic and integrated approach to communications. By using all four types of media – paid, earned, shared, and owned – PR practitioners can create a more comprehensive and effective PR strategy.

Paid media refers to any type of media that is paid for, such as advertising. Earned media refers to media coverage that is not paid for, such as when a journalist writes about an organization in a newspaper or magazine. Shared media refers to content that is shared on social media or other platforms, such as when a user shares a blog post on their social media account. Owned media refers to content that is owned by the organization, such as a company blog or website.

Overall, the PESO model can be a useful tool for PR practitioners looking to create a more integrated and effective PR strategy.”

This is very old – like circa 2010 old. Gini doesn’t even list Arment Dietrich on her LinkedIn profile anymore. You know this…then you are one of her original “crazies.” Perhaps repositioning or rebranding strategies that are recognized by ChatGPT will be a future service in the public relations profession.

Should companies hire public relations people internally?

“There are pros and cons to hiring public relations (PR) professionals internally. Here are a few points to consider:

Pros:

      • Hiring PR professionals internally can give companies more control over their PR efforts. This can be particularly important if the company wants to maintain a consistent message and brand identity.
      • Internal PR professionals may have a deeper understanding of the company’s culture, products, and goals, which can make them more effective at promoting the company.
      • Internal PR professionals may be more closely aligned with the company’s goals and objectives, which can make them more effective at promoting the company.

Cons:

      • Hiring PR professionals internally can be more expensive than outsourcing PR efforts to an outside firm.
      • Internal PR professionals may not have the same level of expertise or resources as an outside PR firm.
      • Internal PR professionals may be too closely tied to the company’s internal politics, which can make it difficult for them to be objective in their PR efforts.

Ultimately, whether or not to hire PR professionals internally is a decision that each company must make based on its own needs and resources. Some companies may find that hiring PR professionals internally is the best approach, while others may prefer to work with an outside PR firm.”

Not a bad breakdown.

When should a company hire a public relations agency?

“There are several situations when a company might consider hiring a public relations (PR) agency:

When the company lacks in-house PR resources: If a company does not have an in-house PR team or does not have the resources to devote to PR, it may be beneficial to hire a PR agency. PR agencies have the expertise and resources to handle PR campaigns and can help companies get the most out of their PR efforts.

When the company needs specialized expertise: PR agencies often have specialized expertise in certain areas, such as crisis management or social media. If a company needs help with a specific aspect of its PR efforts, it may be beneficial to hire a PR agency that has expertise in that area.

When the company wants to launch a new product or service: Launching a new product or service can be a major undertaking, and PR can play a key role in helping to promote the launch. Hiring a PR agency can help a company get the word out about its new offering and generate buzz.

When the company is facing a crisis: In the event of a crisis, a PR agency can help a company manage its reputation and communicate effectively with the public. PR agencies have the expertise and resources to help companies navigate crises and minimize the damage to their reputation.

Overall, there are many situations when a company might consider hiring a PR agency, including when it lacks in-house resources, needs specialized expertise, is launching a new product or service, or is facing a crisis.”

A recent survey of comms pros finds the top three reasons clients hire outside help – agencies, consultants and freelancers – are an extra pair of hands, outside objectivity and advice and expertise in a niche.

What is in store for the future of public relations?

“The field of public relations (PR) is constantly evolving, and it is difficult to predict exactly what the future will hold. However, here are a few trends that are likely to shape the future of PR:

Increased use of technology: Technology is already playing a major role in PR, and it is likely that technology will continue to shape the field in the future. This could include the use of artificial intelligence to analyze data, the use of virtual and augmented reality in PR campaigns, and the use of new social media platforms.

Greater focus on content marketing: PR is increasingly being seen as a way to create and distribute engaging and valuable content, rather than just promoting products or services. PR practitioners will likely continue to focus on creating and distributing high-quality content that resonates with their target audience.

Greater emphasis on measurement and analytics: PR practitioners are increasingly being asked to demonstrate the effectiveness of their campaigns. As a result, it is likely that PR will place a greater emphasis on measuring the impact of PR efforts and using data and analytics to inform strategy.

Continued evolution of social media: Social media has already had a major impact on PR, and it is likely that social media will continue to evolve in the future. This could include the rise of new social media platforms and the increasing use of social media for customer service and engagement.

Overall, the future of PR is likely to involve the continued use of technology, a greater focus on content marketing and measurement, and the continued evolution of social media.”

I’m glad to see the term content marketing come up in this discussion. Survey research shows 90% of communicators report the type of work they do has changed at least some in the last year or so – while 50% say it’s changed significantly. How? Owned media – content marketing – is the top area of emphasis, according to the findings. Respondents said their organization is placing more or much more emphasis on owned media (60%), like blogs, newsletters and websites.

Will ChatGPT replace public relations professionals?

“It is unlikely that ChatGPT or any other artificial intelligence (AI) system will fully replace public relations (PR) professionals. While AI can certainly be used to assist PR professionals in tasks such as data analysis and content creation, it is unlikely to be able to fully replace the creativity, strategic thinking, and interpersonal skills that are essential to PR work.

PR professionals bring a unique combination of skills and expertise to their work, and it is unlikely that these skills will be fully replaced by technology anytime in the near future. That being said, it is possible that AI could eventually be used to automate some tasks and make the work of PR professionals more efficient. However, it is unlikely that AI will fully replace the human element of PR work.”

That seems like a fair answer. Indeed, while ChatCPT wrote most of this 5,000-word blog post, it was still a heavy lift to produce. It required supervision, attention to detail, research and critical thinking. Of course, I had to think about asking the right questions which is crucial to obtaining the right answers.

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Image credit: DALLE-2, “a robot painting a picture of a human by Vincent van Gogh

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