Ragan’s #5 Story of ’23: How will ChatGPT affect the communications profession?

Ragan recently held a webinar on how AI tech will alter the way communicators do their jobs.

If your work requires any kind of writing (which it probably does if you’re in communications and reading this), you’ve probably heard about OpenAI’s ChatGPT software.

The tech, which takes queries from a user and turns them into written prompts, has been taking the comms field by storm, and some believe is has the potential the fundamentally change the communications occupation.

In Ragan’s webinar, “The Promise and Perils of ChatGPT for PR Pros,” a panel of experts weighed on artificial intelligence in comms and where they see this tech going. The discussion, which was hosted by Aaron Kwittken, CEO of PRophet, included expert commentary from Alisa Miller, CEO and co-founder of Pluralytics AI, Advantage Intelligence President Alex Kelleher, and Barb Mosher Zinck, author and founder of BMZ Content Strategies. Together, the four shone a light on how AI can be corralled for good by communicators.

How we got here and understanding the “hype cycle”

Understanding the rise of tech like ChatGPT requires a recognition of the need for change and adjustments in the public relations and communications professions. “There’s a major need for a culture shift in public relations,” Kwittken said. “The field has changed in a big way, and tech like ChatGPT can help PR pros stay ahead of the curve.” He added that AI tools aren’t going to replace public relations and comms pros, but help them do their jobs better and more efficiently.

In addition, Kelleher spoke about the “hype cycle” we’re seeing about ChatGPT these days, commenting on how this particular iteration of AI tech has the potential to drive true change in unexpected ways.

“What’s really important is that it causes a lot of use cases,” said Kelleher. “Take search for example — tech like ChatGPT will play directly into the fact that people can be lazy and don’t always want to use search engines. When ChatGPT comes into play with search and is able to optimize around preferences, it’s going to fundamentally change how search functions.”

The future of AI in PR functions

One of the biggest questions surrounding the rise of ChatGPT centers on just how it’s going to impact writers and communicators in the months and years that lie ahead. With the recent news that Buzzfeed is going to employ Open AI’s tech to “personalize content”, this appears to be a perfectly valid query. According to Alisa Miller, writers should look at the problems that AI can solve rather than looking at it with apprehension.

“We need to look at how PR pros can take advantage of artificial intelligence not to do our jobs, but to help us do them better,” Miller said. “I think about the “blank page problem” as a writer — AI like ChatGPT can help you get started on the right path toward whatever you’re writing. Smart AI can also help you in the iterative part of the writing process and figure out what works and why.”

Barb Mosher Zinck added that while she won’t use ChatGPT or similar tools to help her get her writing process kickstarted, she did see another use for it.

“I think it can be efficiently used as a teaching tool for writing,” she said.

Using AI to make better PR pros

In any line of work, there are going to be tasks that can take a lot of time on the back end in order to help create the right resources for success. In public relations, that might be creating a media list or doing deep research into a particular reporter or publication. Kwittken noted that technology might not just help PR pros be better at their jobs, but it can also help with employee retention.

“In a lot of cases, people will quit their PR jobs because of some of the drudgery that can go along with it,” said Kwittken. “Smart use of AI technology can help with retention by automating some of the more rote tasks of the job and allowing PR pros to lean into their creativity.”

Mosher Zinck added that companies considering replacing writers and content marketers with AI might want to take another look at that decision.

“A lot of organizations think they can replace writers and content marketers with AI or think they can pay less money for writing because of the tech,” she added.” AI can’t replace writers, but some organizations out there are going to find that out down the road. What this means is that writers and PR people need to figure out how to show that their skills can add something to what tech like ChatGPT provides to really shine going forward.”

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night. He will be spending this weekend thinking about little else other than the Philadelphia Eagles and the upcoming Super Bowl. As always, he says, Go Birds.


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