ChatGPT and PR Professionals: The Black Death or the Renaissance?

So much consternation about ChatGPT since it exploded onto the scene. Fear, hope, excitement, dread. We haven’t seen mixed emotions like this in the PR world since the OJ trial. Bloody footprint or ill-fitting glove?

Is this the birth of a new era of prominence for the PR profession or one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (in this case, the death one)? Like most things these days, it depends on who you ask.

Since it is virtually impossible to come to a consensus, I’ll just tell you what I think.

While News Direct provides services to the PR community, we are not PR people ourselves. So it doesn’t feel like ChatGPT presents any direct threat to either our business model or any individual’s current employment. Whether it offers us and our peers an opportunity remains to be seen, IMHO.

But for PR professionals, it certainly appears to be an existential question. Will we be or not be?

I believe the answer is in the mind of the consternator. Logic dictates that those most threatened by it would be the youngest practitioners and the oldest. The former because they are more easily replaceable and thus have little leverage. The latter because they are more likely to be technology-challenged and deeply skeptical the AI can displace their years of nuanced experience. But neither is locked into that mold if they choose not to be.

The great middle is most likely to have a more rational and pragmatic attitude about the whole thing. Their careers have straddled the transition between the analog age and the digital age. They have seen potential technological threats come and, more often than not, just be ultimately seamlessly absorbed into the PR workflow and culture.

I’ve been in the newswire space for almost four decades and have witnessed similar seemingly game-changing technological advancements that had the potential to be industry-killers. One such event is when “broadcast faxing” became a reality and PR insiders began postulating that it would eliminate demand for wire distribution. Instead, it significantly augmented, rather than replaced, the purpose of the newswire. It actually became quite the profit center as well. Until it wasn’t because, inevitably, a newer technology came along to push it aside - mass emailing.

Again, was this to be the death knell for newswires? It was certainly much more efficient than faxing and far more “simultaneous” (loosely defined), not to mention substantially less costly than a newswire. It was also trackable and ideal for “spraying and praying’ while still allowing for easy individual follow up. But still, the newswire persevered.

I digress to make the point that the wire services at the time used the technology to expand and enhance their services rather than allow it to force them into obsolescence. The same must, and most probably will, occur within the PR community.

Rather than ushering in the End of Days, ChatGPT will provide the truly smart, innovative PR folks and firms a means to co-opt the functionality in a way that adds value, while also maximizing efficiencies. Thus, if used properly, it will increase productivity and creativity, decrease costs and upgrade the product and client experience.

Of course, those that do not embrace the change will be engulfed by it and be responsible for their own Doomsday.

The broader question of whether AI in general will move mankind forward or hasten its demise is a bit above my paygrade. But ChatGPT, the first product of artificial intelligence that directly impacts the PR space, need not be the Grim Reaper of jobs that is being theorized.

Instead, if it’s applied by the brightest thinkers in the space to better the profession and provide greater quality and value to the client, it can turn out to be a significant benefit to the industry.

Or possibly just the Y2K of this generation.