AI, Data Analytics and the transformative world of new-age Public Relations

In today’s hyper connected and information-driven world, almost every field has undergone a remarkable transformation. As per The McKinsey Global Institute, AI is being applied to resolve world business problems across nearly every sector of the economy. The two industries most likely to feel it the most are marketing and sales.

The Public Relations industry. Too. Has not remained immune to the new technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics, which are revolutionising the way PR professionals operate. Long gone are the days of traditional PR methods relying solely on press releases, media relations, and brand image management.

From advanced analytics platforms to social media monitoring tools, PR professionals now have the ability to gather valuable insights, track performance metrics, take data driven decisions and so much more.

Deepshikha Dharmaraj, Chief Executive Officer, BCW India, “When we talk of AI these days, it’s usually in the context of generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Dall-E, etc. But the world of AI, and its uses for PR, go much beyond that. AI tools can analyse data from various sources to identify trends and patterns that can be used to develop PR strategies. For instance, AI-powered tools can help us monitor social media conversations to understand public sentiment about a particular brand or topic. We can use AI-powered tools to monitor traditional media as well and identify potential media coverage opportunities as well as measure the effectiveness of our communication programmes. CRM tools can help identify the most relevant media channels, the optimal time to engage with the audience and the most effective messaging. This can lead to more targeted and personalized communication and improved PR outcomes.”

Malvika Sinha, Senior Vice President – Technology Practice, Ruder Finn India, noted, “Traditionally, analysing data manually resulted in missing out on key insights that were crucial for the success of PR campaigns. This resulted in a loss of opportunities for brands to reach out to their clients effectively. But with digital tools such as AI and data analytics becoming affordable and accessible, times are changing.”

Today, PR consultancies have adopted AI to streamline operations, be more resource efficient and find innovative methods to enhance a brand's engagement with its stakeholders. This has been possible because of making these tools accessible and affordable at the same time. The adoption of AI has enormously reduced the time taken to analyze vast amounts of data in real-time and identify patterns and valuable insights that are critical for the success of PR strategies.

Sinha added, “Another emerging technology that has been lapped up by the industry is machine learning. Public Relations practitioners have been increasingly using machine learning to identify the right target groups for clients, analyze sentiment for the brand, media monitoring, and create relevant content for their clients. Data analytics as a digital tool too has been extensively used to better understand clients' needs and design public relations strategies accordingly.”

Benefits and the potential risks

According to Ameer Ismail, President, Lintas Live, "There is a massive benefit to any business by incorporating digital data and analytics into business strategy. Whether you're a brand or company or are a part of the agency ecosystem, digital transformation and adoption is business critical. You can maximize benefits of the insights and sharp learnings that you get by adopting data and analytics into your business processes.
There is AI, ML the Metaverse and ChatGPT, all are here to stay and will grow and evolve to touch everything that we do - from social listening, which can give you an idea on sentiment or a heads up on crisis paving way for how we engage with brands. AI has predictive capabilities and data to forecast trends and then we have technology and platforms that make sure that relevant content is targeted at right audiences. This sharp targeting and message curation has many applications in the entire chain that is already being used and is very relevant to PR and Communications agencies.”

Highlighting some of the primary concerns, including copyrights issue and job displacement, Karan Bhandari, MD, Integrated Media Strategy, Weber Shandwick India, noted, “As AI opens up a new pool of opportunities, our position is to ensure that we protect confidential information that is sensitive and proprietary to our clients; avoid infringement of third-party IP (for example, copyrights and trademarks); and be transparent withour clients about how and when we are using these tools on their behalf.”

He added, “Despite concerns about job displacement, this is potentially a creative revolution with yet untapped potential. AI will not take away our jobs; rather, it will eliminate tedious and repetitive tasks, freeing us to focus on more critical aspects of our work.”

On the other hand, Malvika Sinha stated, “As PR practitioners, the most important lesson for us to remember is that technology is an enabler and absolutely nothing can replace the human touch. If this is not adhered to, we may find ourselves at the other end of the stick. To explain further, technology isn’t free of biases. It has been proven time and again that AI algorithms can be biased, which results in skewed analysis and interpretation of data, eventually hurting the brand.

 Another concern around the rampant use of technology is data security and privacy. As PR professionals, we must ensure that the data collected and analysed is protected and ethically handled. A breach of privacy and security can lead to a crisis of a colossal scale that can be damaging for the clients and can raise serious credibility issues for PR consultancies.”

AI, data analytics & understanding the TG

There has been a paradigm shift in the way the PR industry functions today, all thanks to technology. Tools such as media monitoring software, analytics, workflow applications, and the likes have streamlined processes for PR firms and enabled them to process data faster and more accurately, thus strengthening their relationships with their customers. Malvika Sinha noted, “We need to understand that automation in the PR industry has cut the clutter for PR professionals and streamlined processes that has led to cost efficiency. This has enabled them to have a more data-driven approach that results in accurate reporting to clients, especially during crisis management.  Additionally, tech-driven PR strategies result in personalized outreach that builds trust between brands and their customers.”

Ameer Ismail noted, “Under normal circumstances, agencies in the past used to carpet bomb the same message to every journalist. But with AI assisted tools , you can actually get help in crafting a pitch or message to a journalist that has better chances of getting you earned media coverage.”


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