Dorothy Crenshaw January 11, 2023 | 10:35:14

For PR, Is ChatGPT An Asset Or Threat?

Everyone’s talking about ChatGPT, including most of us who work in public relations. Opinions and experiences vary, but ChatGPT will likely be a game-changer when it comes to how PR teams work. AI has been promoted as a tool to automate repetitive tasks, freeing us to engage in the strategy and creative work involved in a typical PR engagement. But the latest iteration promises much more. It’s different from previous generations of chatbots.

Can ChatGPT make our job easier?

So, what is ChatGPT? In simple terms, it’s a language-processing tool powered by artificial intelligence. It was trained on a huge dataset and uses a predictive model to generate content in real time in a fluent, conversational style. To date, bots just haven’t been able to mimic that natural fluency. ChatGPT content, on the other hand, mostly reads like an actual person wrote it.

ChatGPT has real limitations

I’ve played around with ChatGPT; in fact, I asked it to write this blog post to see how useful it is for first-draft content. The results were underwhelming. It spat out 350 words of a perfectly coherent post, but it was light on substance, and there were claims I thought were blatantly wrong, like that ChatGPT can do media monitoring. The tone was neutral to the point of being pedestrian. It was about as sophisticated as a junior-high-school history essay. You can judge for yourself here.

ChatGPT has many strengths as a research tool, but there are also limitations, at least for now. It can’t access information beyond the end of 2021. That’s a big deal when your work includes generating content based on up-to-the-minute trends as it does in B2B tech PR. That’s why I was surprised that its post claimed to be a tool for media monitoring. In its current iteration, it can monitor trends, but it’s not up-to-date on current events, because, contrary to what many people think, ChatGPT isn’t connected to the web. It’s also prone to factual mistakes. This piece in Fast Company about its lack of reliability is positively scary.

But ChatGPT is amazing for other tasks. It’s useful for analyzing data, like consumer behavior, demographic trends, or media consumption patterns, all of which can support PR program research and key audience targeting. And the speed with which it generates readable content, even when mediocre, is breathtaking.

Banish the blank screen

Some PR professionals claim they use Chat GPT to draft press releases, speeches, and written content. I’ve run into many of the same limitations I found with that experimental blog post with that kind of content. But, in fairness to my AI companion, I fed it very little information. It learns as it goes, so the more time you invest, the better your result. And let’s face it, a first draft offers an instant starting point when it comes to creating content. Any writer knows that it’s generally easier to edit from a rough draft than write something from scratch. Editing ChatGPT’s work probably beats staring at a blank screen in most cases, and we can even feel smug and superior in the process.

My colleague Chris Harihar is a big ChatGPT booster. He’s used it for quick generation of agendas, reports, captions, titles, and even executive quotes and rough content. He says ChatGPT is a decent copyeditor and swears by it for creation of tables and charts to include in proposals.

I could go on with my criticisms of ChatGPT, but here’s the thing – it was released only a month ago, and it’s a prototype. It may be limited as a tool now, but 2023 will bring new iterations, and it will only get better. There’s no dismissing it as a fatally flawed tool or passing fad.

In fact, I’ll close with a paragraph straight from ChatGPT. In response to my query about how PRs can use AI, it produced a fairly generic post about AI as a PR tool. The draft ended with this caveat:

However, it is important to remember that AI is a tool, rather than a replacement for human PR professionals. The critical thinking, creativity, and judgement that PR professionals bring to their work cannot be replicated by AI. Therefore, it’s important for PR professionals to embrace the new technologies and find ways to incorporate them into their work, rather than viewing them as a threat to their jobs.

It’s probably just trying to massage my ego, but ChatGPT is getting smarter every day. It’s here to stay.

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