'Humans still needed' - research project reveals impact of artificial intelligence on public relations

The CIPR's Artificial Intelligence (AI) panel has published new research revealing the impact of technology, and specifically AI, on public relations practice. It predicts the impact on skills in the profession in the next five years.

The pioneering research (PDF) - led by Jean Valin Hon FCIPR - is the first comprehensive assessment of the impact of AI on public relations skills. Conversation around this topic is typically polarised between denial and techno-panic.

Benchmarking against Global Alliance Global Body of Knowledge (GBOK) framework
The discussion paper uses a simplified version of the GBOK framework, which describes more than 50 capabilities in public relations, to visually represent the skills that AI is most likely to replace. Tools were benchmarked against the GBOK framework by an international group of practitioners.

AI has become a catch all term to describe technology that engages with people or displays human characteristics. It’s unhelpful and is contributing to hype and uncertainty around the topic.

Characterising the impact of tech and AI on PR skills now and in five years
The report found that 12% of a public relations practitioner’s total skills (out of 52 skills) could be complemented or replaced by AI today, with a prediction that this could climb to 38% within five years. Fundamental human traits such as empathy, trust, humour and relationship building can’t be automated.

Technology is impacting practice in other areas of practice including the simplification of tasks; listening and monitoring; and automation. Therefore, another 27% of the practitioner’s skill set benefits from the support of some technology to assist indecision making or deep analysis. 

In five years, there may be more assistance from AI tools which will contribute more directly to the application of skills in this category but on balance human intervention is dominant.

The CIPR is grateful to Catherine Arrow Found.Chart.PR, FCIPR for allowing the use and adaptation of this graphic which is her design.

Jean Valin Hon FCIPR, Principal of Valin Strategic Communications
AI is about to massively change our lives. The public relations profession needs to keep up. We need more experience with these tools and more critical reviews to learn how best to use them and their limitations. Regardless of the tasks and skills that can be automated or benefit from AI, human intervention, editing, sensitivity, emotional intelligence, applying good judgement and ethics will always be needed.

That is one of the lessons of this exercise: We need to emphasise education, experiential learning and continuous development of these very human traits that are valued in our profession.
Jean Valin Hon FCIPR, Principal of Valin Strategic Communications
Stephen Waddington Chart.PR, Hon FCIPR, Chief Engagement Officer at Ketchum, Visiting Professor at Newcastle University, CIPR Artificial Intelligence Panel Chair
My thanks to Jean Valin and the team of practitioners who have contributed to this project. It’s the first time that a robust attempt has been made to quantify the potential impact of AI and technology on public relations.

The CIPR is publishing the paper with intention of starting a debate on the issue. We’d welcome comments and challenges to the analysis. We’d also welcome approaches from any other organisations around the world that are working this area.
Stephen Waddington Chart.PR, Hon FCIPR, Chief Engagement Officer at Ketchum, Visiting Professor at Newcastle University, CIPR Artificial Intelligence Panel Chair

Join the conversation
You can join the conversation about AI in PR via the #AIinPR hashtag on Twitter; reach Jean Valin at @JeanValin1, and Stephen Waddington at @wadds.


Notes to editors

Notes to editors

About the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)Founded in 1948, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the Royal Chartered professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK and overseas. The CIPR is the largest membership organisation for PR practitioners outside of North America. By size of turnover and number of individually registered members, we are the leading representative body for the PR profession and industry in Europe.

The CIPR advances professionalism in public relations by making its members accountable to their employers and the public through a code of conduct and searchable public register, setting standards through training, qualifications, awards and the production of best practice and skills guidance, facilitating Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and awarding Chartered Public Relations Practitioner status (Chart.PR).