Public Becomes Artificial Relations?

Two weeks ago while browsing Twitter I saw several public relations agencies share content discussing chatbots and artificial intelligence, or AI, impact on PR. A chatbot is a conversational interface, usually seen as a messaging application, which is developed through artificial intelligence. They are developed to carry out mundane tasks such as customer inquiry or personal assistant actions on a smartphone (i.e. Siri, Cortana or Alexa).

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Now, this impacts PR because publics have been trending toward messenger apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. As PR practitioners it is our job to communicate with our publics and keeping their attention with engaging content. Therefore, we have to go where they go. However, it is messaging bots, not humans, who excel in this new electronic terrain.

Lucy Allen, head of Bay Area Edelman, goes on to list multiple areas where the bots will excel such as becoming the dominant news source, automating social media tasks and simplify data insights. But it is her last point that is the most prevalent, “experienced media.”

“In my mind, experienced media is any media that offers real-time interactivity that is experienced in a highly personal way,” said Allen. “[Experienced media] deliver[s] a true experience to its audience [where] the audience actively participates in emotionally, physically and intellectually.”

That is the final goal of a PR plan. To create an experience and memories that are memorable and draws the target public closer to the brand or organization.

However, there is a considerable risk that goes with this tactic. It involves the fact that a chatbot is mostly autonomous and drives itself based on AI. It is imperative that it does not go rogue. Microsoft’s Tay is a case where an AI chatbot went “rogue” by tweeting racist and other harmful statements. This happened because AI learns from those it interacts with. Thus, it is up to the PR and Tech departments to monitor and maintain the chatbot so it learns the right information.

It may be a bit too soon to add chatbots to a communication plan, but it is a worthwhile investment to keep tinkering with.

PR Transitions with White House

PR Transitions with White House

By: Donald Smith

On January 20, the inauguration for Donald Trump to assume his presidency was held. However, a controversy followed shortly after the event. The topic of the controversy was the size of attendance at President Trump’s inauguration being substantially smaller than Barack Obama’s from 2009. The comparison was characterized by this photo tweeted out by the National Park Services.

[A composite image showing the presidential inauguration comparison for Obama (left) and Trump (right)] By, Barnes
This comparison created a negative outlook on President Trump’s administration. In order to curb this reaction press secretary Sean Spicer held a non-conventional press conference the following day. In the press conference Spicer scolded the media for purposely engaging in false reporting. Later, during the conference Spicer referenced several statistics that were reported as false afterwards.

Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser to Trump, then proceeded to back up Spicer’s claims in a separate broadcast interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” In this interview she stated that Spicer was not using false information, but “alternative facts.” This statement has created a hashtag on Twitter called #alternativefacts where people post comedic material satirizing the political situation.

Now, both Spicer and Conway are seen as public relations professionals. Therefore, by them making false claims on the inauguration attendance size, they have created a distrust between the public and the profession, as if the public did not trust us already. In an attempt to try and conduct some PR for the profession, Public Relations Society of America has stepped into the fray and made a statement rejecting the new White House staff for breaking the code of ethics held up by those in the organization and profession with the “alternative facts.”

Not only have these events caused distrust, but due to Trump consistently discrediting national mainstream media outlets (i.e. CNN) and criticizing large name corporations (i.e. Boeing) professionals will have to differ in tactics in how they go about interacting with the media. So, they will have to be on their toes for the next several years as trust level and relationships among the White House and the media determine effective ways to reach publics.