While “Generative AI gets much attention” in PR circles, “reductive AI is more interesting and powerful”
Stephen Waddington recently published a new book – #PRstack: AI tools for marketing, media and public relations – on the use of generative AI in public relations. He compiled and edited contributions from “20 practitioners and vendors on the latest AI technologies and tools and their practical application for public relations workflow.”
I’ve written extensively about the vendors in our space and their efforts to bring generative AI to market – so I was keen to ask him about the book.
1. Tell us about your new book and why you decided to write it?
SW: We’re only beginning to understand AI’s impact on public relations practice. The tool market is exploding, but there are limited resources to support practitioners. The book seeks to readdress the balance. Its goal was to describe the practical use of AI tools to help widen understanding and improve ethical adoption.
#PRstack: AI tools for marketing, media, and public relations features insights from 20 practitioners and vendors on the latest AI technologies and tools and their practical application to help public relations practitioners work smarter and more effectively.
Writing a book about a fast-moving area of technology has challenges. Claude [a generative AI vendor] has increased its context window and ChatGPT launched personal GPTs in the two weeks between locking down the manuscript and publication.
There is also an ongoing tension between large language models and third-party developers. We have seen solutions built on top of the AI models such as chatbots, editing, text-generation and summarization tools, be cannibalized by subsequent generations of AI large language models.
2. What are the most common uses of generative AI in PR?
SW: AI helps create the first draft of anything. It helps solve the blank page problem. There are several risk issues. It wants to please and it will make stuff up. Data privacy and security are also a concern.
The book includes examples of large language models such as Claude2, ChatGPT, and productivity tools such as Anyword, Fireflies, Otter and Wordtune, to help with transcription, copywriting and editing. It also explores innovative image generation tools such as DALL-E, MidJourney and Stable Diffusion, changing how visual content is created and producing designs and images from simple text prompts.
3. Is there any use or application of generative AI in PR that has surprised you?
SW: Generative AI gets much attention, but reductive AI is more interesting and powerful. Tools such as Anthropic’s Claude and OpenAI’s ChatGPT are good at making sense of large of data. They are also helpful in exploring different stakeholder perspectives. I’ve used them to extract the key arguments from a research paper, interrogate weaknesses in plans, areas of risk in financial documents and an activist perspective of reports.
4. What are some of the PR software makers doing that’s interesting?
SW: A challenge for software developers building solutions for the public relations market is its relative size compared to the market for other industries such as marketing. Disruptive innovation typically comes from outside the public relations industry and is then adopted by the industry. Examples include editing, transcription and translation technologies.
Media relations tool vendors are focused on building end-to-end solutions, incorporating AI to help develop pitches based on understanding a journalist’s existing body of work.
5. I noticed many of the tools featured in the book are independent startups, BuzzSumo notwithstanding, given its ownership. Are there any incumbent vendors doing things you think are interesting?
SW: Your point is well made. Vendors such as Cision have opted to buy tools such as Brandwatch and Factmata rather than invest in innovation. It’s worth following Antony Cousins, Executive Director of AI Strategy at Cision, who joined the business after the acquisition of Factmata. He has an interesting mix of AI, software development and public relations domain expertise.
6. What advice would you have for PR and comms professionals as AI evolves in our space?
SW: It is often said that AI probably won’t take your job, but someone using AI almost certainly will. I would urge practitioners who haven’t yet looked at AI to embrace it and develop their skills. My new book is obviously a good place to start!
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Image credit: DALLE-2 and Steve Waddington