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.

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