ChatGPT is getting much of the headlines recently, but PR might be surprised to learn it has been using it – and other subsets of AI – for a while now
ChatGPT ignited a fire in the PR community and there are opinions all over the map. For some generative AI is a threat, while for others it’s a tool that can help them do their jobs better.
While generative AI is enjoying all the limelight recently there many different varieties of AI in use in PR software already. I reached out to a dozen or so PR software solution providers by email to ask for their perspective – and details some their of answers below.
As always, nothing I say here should be considered an endorsement, grade or order of merit of any of the products or companies mentioned.
1. Generative AI in PR software
Agility PR Solutions, which is owned by parent Innodata (NASDAQ:INOD), launched a generative AI feature “to help write press releases and media outreach emails” according to the company.
The feature is called “PR Copilot” was “built in-house and integrated directly into our platform by our engineering team but leverages the GPT API as a foundation,” said Agility PR Solutions CEO Martin Lyster and Diane Vuignier who is vice president of Product Development for the Agility business unit, in response to an email sent with questions.
Agility and Burrelles are partners “for our media delivery platform and media relations tools,” said Tressa Robbins, vice president of Client Onboarding with Burrelles. As such PR Copilot is available to Burrelles customers. She believes generative AI “will act as a shortcut, making press release writing more about customization than long-form writing.”
The positioning from both companies is very clearly aimed at alleviating concerns AI will take a PR person’s place. CoPilot will “help write” and is “a shortcut” but not a replacement. Even the name suggests it’s the proverbial first officer on the PR flight deck – not the captain.
Agility and Burrelles are not the only software providers in PR using generative AI. For example, Intelligent Relations said in a PR pitch emailed last month that it had an “auto-gen pitch writing for users” in market. “Basically, we’re trying to make winning media coverage as easy as setting up and running a digital ads campaign,” according to a PR representative.
One of the key differences is that Intelligent Relations very openly pitches itself as a replacement for PR people. It sees itself as an “AI-powered PR assistant that works while you sleep.”
“Get rid of the [PR] middleman,” the company says in a promotional video. “Your marketing team will own the PR activities.”
The pitches I’ve received are all highly automated. They overlook previous interactions I’ve had with them. In my observation, it’s taking the “relations” out of public relations.
2. Other explorations of generative AI in PR software
Many of the PR software providers that answered my query indicated they were using generative AI tools in other ways. For example, using it to analyze of results of media monitoring their tool was performing:
- Onclusive CEO Dan Beltramo: “We use some generative AI, particularly for summarization, though we are exploring other use cases.”
- PRophet founder and CEO Aaron Kwittken: We have been working to integrate GAI [generative AI] into the platform and our MVP [minimally viable product] will be market ready by the end of Q1 2023.”
- Meltwater Global VP of Partnerships Johnny Vance: “…we are looking into generative AI for content marketing purposes, particularly around social media posts and conversations.” Interestingly, he also said Meltwater has “No specific plans around PR pitches as yet.”
- TVEyes, which is best known for its broadcast monitoring is doing something similar with audio and video monitoring. “TVEyes recently started using Generative AIs for information-extraction work, such as topic identification and summarization,” said Dave Seltzer, who is the company’s CTO. Since the company is a white-label partner for other vendors on the broadcast side, it’s possible you’ve been using generative AI and weren’t even aware of it.
Cision wasn’t the first provider to market with generative AI, but the company’s CMO Putney Cloos said in an email the company is actively working on it. “We have generative AI in development now, however, we want to make sure that what we release for clients provides the best possible results in all use cases.”
She believes her company is the “market leader” and so has a “commitment to the highest quality for all of our clients around the world.” She didn’t pull any punches either: “We may be less willing, than other players in the industry, to quickly release ‘experiments’.”
Apple and Microsoft Windows. Napster and iTunes. Time will certainly tell. But my expectations have been raised.
3. Media pitching gets an assist from AI
Two new startups in the space are doing new and interesting things around a feature set I would loosely classify as “pitch analytics.”
Propel has what it calls PitchBooster that “uses AI to analyze millions of real PR pitches and journalist engagement to automatically schedule pitches to go out at the time and day a journalist is most likely to engage with a pitch,” according to Zach Cutler, the company’s co-founder, chairman and CEO.
He says the company use of AI in this respect serves three functions:
- “To determine the best time of day to pitch a journalist to get them to respond to a pitch,”
- “To determine the best day of the week to pitch a journalist to get them to respond to a pitch,” and
- “To determine the pitch topics a journalist is most likely to respond to.”
PRophet aims to move the analysis further upstream and tell you the chances a PR person has of landing a placement with a given pitch.
How? It helps “match pitches/releases against what journos have written in the past to predict future interest and sentiment,” said Aaron, the company’s CEO.
4. AI helps in tagging and organizing PR data
Natural language processing is perhaps the original gangster of AI in PR software. “Natural language processing (NLP) is a subfield of artificial intelligence (AI), just like image recognition, machine learning (ML) or deep learning,” Dr. Tim Furche of Meltwater previously said.
Yet the PR software community has been taking this to new levels. For example, some are using AI to tag and organized data automatically. That could be categorizing media mentions in a desired way, or keeping track of reporters as they change beats, focus or publication.
This categorization can be used to suggest other reporters you might consider for outreach – or recommend new search terms to monitor.
Here are some of the things executives that responded noted:
- Showcase value. “Muck Rack uses the latest advances in AI and machine learning to power our media monitoring and database. This technology allows our platform to source and share relevant information from across the web, social media, TV, and radio, directly with PR pros in real-time so they can showcase the value of their work,” said Muck Rack CEO Greg Galant.
- Suggesting related search terms. “Agility leverages entity extraction in media monitoring to suggest other related concepts or themes that clients can add to their search terms to find other conversations relevant to them,” said Martin and Diane from Agility PR Solutions.
- Assisting content discovery. “Adding metadata and other enrichments to article feeds and inbound press releases (including classifying against predefined content taxonomies, sentiment, and customized named-entity types), which increases efficiencies and also supports content discovery and accessibility,” said Putney from Cision.
- Media alert annotations. “There is AI being used for our alerts and report annotations already today,” according to Johnny from Meltwater.
- Predictive traffic analysis. “We are using AI for sentiment analysis, entity extraction, topic categorization, predictive traffic analysis, summarization, as well as speech-to-text models,” said Dan from Onclusive.
- Filtering out noise. “AI is integrated into our product, providing sentiment analysis, language detection, article categorization, and data enrichment. This way Prowly gives PR pros a chance to track media mentions without all the irrelevant noise,” said Marta Adaśko, a brand manager with Prowly, which is owned by the SEO vendor Semrush (NYSE: SEMR).
One thing I’d really like to see out of the PR vendor community is software that learns preferences. For example, you should be able to look at a list of monitoring results and say, “more like this, and less like this” with a click. You are going to need it because inevitably, some of the suggestions and recommendations are going to be erroneous. Without that instant feedback loop, users are going to be dismissive — like hate prompting with ChatGPT.
5. Other interesting uses of AI in PR software
Some of the solution providers in comms tech wrote some of the unique uses of AI in their software. For example, executives speaking to capabilities in the Agility PR software pointed to image and logo identification:
“Image processing allows us to provide an image search option in our media monitoring tools which can identify objects or logos within an article’s image and use metadata to determine the image’s content. This means that Agility can return media mentions based on the image content alone.”
Cision too pointed to some different use cases including, “the identification of emotions, fake news or expressions of racism,” said according to Putney the company’s CMO. “This allows us to identify trends in the data faster than a human could and allow our customers to focus their time on developing insights and determining the right next action.”
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Many thanks to all the leaders that answer this query. I may do another piece with the comments received. The views shared are valuable for the larger PR community to know.
For the last four years, I’ve summed up the news from the PR technology community (nearly) once a month in the PR Tech Sum. Here’s the most recent version as of this writing: Dealmaking Sizzles Again Among PR Software Providers and Here Comes Another Side Dish of Generative AI for Comms [PR Tech Sum]
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Image credit: DALLE-2: “A reporter and a robot holding hands and walking off into the sunset in the style of Van Gogh”