AI will disrupt PR, but will it help or hinder?


On one hand, AI is an efficiency tool that will make products better, faster and cheaper. On the other, it’s terrifying to contemplate how many jobs might be lost, says Dan Perry.

(Photo credit: Getty Images).

Almost all knowledge industries are undergoing a painful and fevered debate about whether and how to incorporate artificial intelligence, sparked by the past months’ realization — invigorating to some, dispiriting to others — that the discussion can be put off no longer. 

The public relations industry is no different from many, including its stepsister, journalism, in that a fundamental tension presents itself: on one hand, AI is a clear efficiency tool that should help make the product better, faster and cheaper; on the other, it’s terrifying to contemplate how many jobs might be lost.

The debate itself, in various forms, is not new, tracing back to the Luddite movement from early 19th century England, where textile workers feared mills and other machinery would put them out of business. In the two centuries since, each time new technologies threatened disruption, “Luddites” have been ignored and even mocked for not appreciating that the “invisible hand” of free markets would ensure workers are retrained and the greater good is served.

The anti-Luddites were generally proven correct. Adjustments happened quickly enough to prevent mayhem, and wonderful goods and services entered the market. Few of us want to depend on horse-drawn carriages to carry us down the interstate; we have adjusted, though not all farriers survived. 

But to be able to adjust, the disruption must be kept to a certain speed and scale. It cannot handle the overnight obliteration of all jobs, or of most jobs, or even of simply too many jobs. The challenge of AI attaches to the gnawing and widespread sense that it just might do this — that while adding efficiency in spades, it will also create so much unrest that the greater good is harmed.

That’s why we hear calls, including from some tech titans, for a moratorium on AI research, while we figure something out. They are not likely to be heeded, because there is no central authority that all countries can agree on. Moreover, the dogma that holds that technology cannot be impeded is, while perhaps unwise, probably too strong. Only the experience of a shock might dislodge it. 

Meanwhile, the genie unleashed by ChatGPT et al cannot be put back into the bottle: the AI abilities that are already accessible are here to stay, barring some unlikely future consensus that their use is unethical.

We are talking not only about calculations at speed and scale but also about generative AI, meaning algorithms that not only learn and improve at tasks like playing chess, but also create content. And PR, like journalism, is at least in part about just that. 

Can it be truly creative? That is a major question. At Thunder11, we have had AI clients like ArtAI that produced amazing images, who make the case that the answer is yes. 

Either way, as we map out the scale of the opportunity and the challenge, here’s a quick survey of PR tasks that AI can do quite well, indeed better than some highly paid professionals:

Content creation

If provided with the basic outlines and parameters of a value proposition, AI can automate the creation of written content such as press releases — here’s the first press release written by AI — media pitches and other written content.  


AI can analyze audience data and engagement metrics to optimize the distribution of content. By identifying the platforms and times that generate the most engagement, PR professionals can target their content more effectively.


AI can produce text as well as multimedia content such as videos and infographics that are tailored to specific audiences and platforms. By analyzing data on audience preferences and behaviors, AI can generate content that is more likely to be shared and engaged with.


Automated translation tools powered by AI can help PR professionals reach a global audience in real-time. We are approaching professional-translation level; we are not quite there yet, but can the reader be found who’ll bet against AI on this one?

Media analysis

Real-time monitoring of news and social media platforms to identify relevant trends and influencers can be automated using AI. Automated sentiment analysis of media coverage can provide more accurate and consistent analysis than manual methods. These are tasks that teams of interns and junior staffers once performed.

Influencer marketing

AI can automate the identification of relevant influencers based on data analysis of social media activity and assist with the development of targeted influencer outreach campaigns that align with brand messaging and values. 


AI can assist with the development of targeted messaging and campaigns that align with brand values and resonate with target audiences. By analyzing data on audience behavior and preferences, AI can help PR professionals tailor their messaging for maximum impact.

Crisis management

AI can provide real-time analysis of social media and news platforms to identify potential crises, identify risks and develop crisis response plans that are more effective than manual methods. AI can also provide real-time monitoring of brand mentions and public sentiment online, identifying reputation risks. 

Communication with stakeholders

Automated communication with stakeholders and media outlets during a crisis can save time and ensure that messaging is consistent and accurate.

The common factor in all these tasks is that it will be impossible for humans to compete with AI’s ability to analyze vast amounts of data and generate personalized and targeted messages at scale. Moreover, AI can pull together basic data and analysis with addictive efficiency. As a case in point, the above bullet-point list is a heavy edit of a list produced by ChatGPT.

Yes. The inevitable conclusion, then, is that jobs that have to do with data collection and calculation will be culled. There’s no way around it. 

The upside, for some, is that those positions and those agencies whose value proposition is creativity and spark will not only be spared, but will probably thrive. This will be no consolation to those who lose their jobs, but it should absolutely drive a consolidation from which the industry will emerge, as others will, able to more effectively and efficiently provide a quality service. 

AI will put those PR professionals who are up to the task in a position to be freed of routine tasks and far more quickly deploy that which is their actual USP. It is the special sauce that is the analogue of wisdom versus data, inspiration versus information and, indeed, humanity versus machinery.

Dan Perry is managing partner of New York-based communications firm Thunder11 and the former Cairo-based Middle East editor and London-based Europe and Africa editor of the Associated Press. He served as the chairman of the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem. 

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