While artificial intelligence continues to grow in all industries and applications, it’s important to consider the best uses and practices for the technology in digital PR. We recently spoke to digital PR industry leaders from across the United States and the United Kingdom to learn more about how they’re leveraging AI.
There are countless technologies available when it comes to AI. We wanted to focus on how industry leaders are integrating AI into their workflows. 88% of our panel say they’ve tried to integrate the technology into the production and promotion of campaigns.
“AI is the future of every industry. The laggards that don’t adopt AI will be irrelevant within the next few years as their competitors outpace them with innovation, productivity, and efficiency scales that can’t be experienced without AI’s capabilities. I use ChatGPT and other AI-driven tools daily at this point, and every single day they continue to blow my mind as they become more sophisticated by the minute. These tools make me and my team a powerhouse in campaign ideation, large-scale data analysis, subject line refinement, editing, and so much more.”
Kelsey Libert, Co-Founder, Head of Digital PR, Fractl
“Time = Money. We’ve found (through exhaustive testing) that with the right prompts, AI can help cut down on data analysis, image generation, and aggregate research and ideation and ultimately cut down on total production cost. That being said, you do have to approach AI with a healthy dose of skepticism. It’s not just a machine that has standard inputs and outputs, there are a lot of nuances and changes between users. When dealing with a brand’s image and reputation, it’s imperative to check, check, and triple check any AI-assisted data before publishing it to the world.”
Tricia Miller, Director of Digital PR, Digital Third Coast
“We are using AI for a lot of the research part of our content. We’re finding it makes us extremely efficient, and although we still check everything with a very close eye, it’s very accurate.”
Bethanie Durham, Associate Director, NORTH
“We use ChatGPT for tasks like data sorting and formatting, which saves a lot of time from doing it manually. We’ve also used MidJourney for the creative assets of our stories – for example, showing what certain cities around the world could look like with the effects of climate change. Like any tool, we are open to using it as it might make us more efficient but at the moment there is such a buzz around AI that it can also become the story too. I’m all about embracing it as it’s here to stay so you might as well get used to it and see how it can benefit you and your work!”
Louise Parker, Head Of PR, Propellernet
“As we don’t know the impact written AI will have on keyword rankings in the future, we don’t use AI to create written content, whether that be for our client’s website or for journalists to use from our press releases. However, we have been using AI to add imagery to go with our campaigns. Something that may have originally cost us to hire a designer to create, we can now make ourselves using AI. Although for large campaigns we will still tend to use a professional designer, AI is great for quick visualisation focused Digital PR campaigns.”
Georgia Gadsby March, Co-Founder and Head of PR, Unearth PR
“AI is a great tool for enhancing productivity in Digital PR campaigns. It shouldn’t be relied on as the source of all ideas but it’s a great way to brainstorm angles and find ways to improve pitches.”
Tamara Sykes, Account Director – Stacker Connect, Stacker
While AI can be a great addition to help with campaign production, our team has also found it useful when it comes to campaign promotion. Certain AI tools can be leveraged to help you and your team jumpstart the outreach process.
More than 2 in 3 (71%) of those on the panel believe AI has helped make their production and promotion of campaigns more efficient. But as the technology becomes more prevalent in the industry, it’s important to be conscious and cautious of how you use AI. Here’s the advice members of the panel have on using AI in digital PR.
“I would advise staying away from blindly using AI to write your pitches, build your email lists, or outreach journalists. One to one, bespoke email outreach to journalists is always going to be what sets real, professional DPR practitioners from the masses. Don’t let anyone think you’re a robot. You need to put in time and work to stand out from amongst the rest.”
Domenica D’Ottavio, Associate Director of Digital PR, Journey Further
“Whilst you might think your prompting is generating unique results, be very wary that lots of other people in the industry are doing the same. I think it’s a great time saver for things like categorisation, inspiration for ideation and similar but relying on it for your written content or data is dicey territory.”
Alex Hickson, Head of Digital PR, TrunkBBI
“Don’t become over reliant on AI doing your job for you. While it can be a great source of inspiration to overcome creative blocks, any AI outputs such as copywriting and research analysis still need a high degree of human editing and analysis before being published or used as part of campaigns.”
Matt Seabridge, Digital PR Strategy Manager, dentsu
“AI can definitely help make things more efficient but it’s important not to lose the “human” side of what we do. Many winning pitches have been because of positive client/team relationships and I don’t think that’s ever going to change. If it can help may research and analysis quicker then I think how we should be incorporating it – but let’s leave the creative elements to the creatives!”
Lauren Hewitt-Crabb, Digital PR Manager, Blue Array
“My advice would be to embrace it, but manage it. We want our teams to understand it as a tool and to understand how it can aid our work, rather than control it. PR requires a nuanced understanding of customers, businesses and markets, here really lies the value in people and it’s here we excel. As PRs, we can use AI to aid in processes and to create foundations and provide inspiration to build upon, but if we lean into it too much we risk becoming too reliant, where we may see the quality of output soon decline.”
Damian Summers, Head of Digital PR, Impression
“Always add a human element. We’ve been automating aspects of PR for a long time but it’s always important to have a final glance using your own knowledge and experience. Whilst I’ll use AI to come up with inspo for ideas or generate websites for a media list, I’ll always make sure I check everything myself. I’ve also noticed a lot of journalists checking content/copy to ensure it’s not written by AI and I believe this will become more prevalent over the next year.”
Jasmine Granton, Freelance Digital PR Consultant
“This is more or less the first big iteration of AI into the industry and It’s not fully ready yet. The questions you ask it when it comes to data gathering can often be inaccurate. So it’s going to be more important than ever to scrutinise the responses so that you are still using accurate sources for your campaigns. It will and should improve the pace that you can vet ideas before going live with them and that’s going to become a big use of it. There are lots of areas it can’t replace yet and nor should it be used to fully replace areas. It’s going to be a case of working with AI and nailing prompts to be able to get what you want out of it.”
Luke Cope, Co-Founder, Bottled Imagination
More than half of the panel (59%) are not concerned about AI’s impact on digital PR. However, 23% say it’s just too early to tell and 18% are concerned. This begs the question of how transparent digital PRs need to be when utilizing AI. This can include letting a client know how and why you’re using the tech, putting a disclaimer in methodology, or adding a note in pitches and press releases to journalists.
“Personally I think it goes without saying that anyone that uses AI, Digital PR and beyond should be fully transparent when it’s used in order to maintain trust and respect from your audience. It’s a content source after all, why wouldn’t you reference it? It’s not that hard to spot AI content, whether it’s due to images being almost ‘too perfect’ (or with odd imperfections, such as an extra 3 toes on a foot), or from robotic sounding copy (which can also be detected through software). It’s better to be upfront about using it than have someone else call you out on it later down the line.”
Louise Ali, Head of Digital PR, Honcho
“I think you should be as transparent as possible when using AI instead of trying to pass it off as your own content. Methodologies should always be clear, whether or not you’ve used AI, press releases in my opinion should be written by humans and if imagery is created using AI I’d always note this as I would if I’d taken an image from a stock website. I think we’ve lost a lot of trust between journalists and PRs, and by being upfront about where we use AI helps rebuild that trust. If I thought that flagging a part of the campaign for using AI would result in the story getting less pickup from journalists, I wouldn’t have used AI in the first place.”
Iona Townsley, Founder, Heroine
“Ultimately if you’re pitching a completely AI-generated press release for example then yes you should be making that clear, but if you’re using AI to help generate ideas/inspiration, there’s no need to be transparent about that. Perhaps this will change until there are government regulations similar to GDPR that come out which make it law to be transparent about using any type of AI in content.”
Sarah Fleming, Founder, First Create
“As we are starting to see things such as AI survey responses being introduced as an option, it is vital that digital PRs are very transparent about AI within methodology. Anything that can impact the credibility of data or research needs to be outlined in order to protect the brand whose name is on the campaign. As for ideation, checking grammar and spelling and title suggestions, there is no need to divulge this information, as with any tool we have in our arsenal, it is being used to better what we are doing but still requires us to do most of the work to make it successful. For example, media databases give us all the contacts, but we don’t send all, we have to research the most relevant contacts and send what is appropriate.”
Gemma Flinders, Digital PR Lead, Brave Bison
From campaign ideation to data analysis, AI tools like ChatGPT are aiding digital PR professionals to innovate and strategize effectively. While AI can help productivity, it doesn’t replace the human touch. As the technology’s influence continues to grow, upholding trust and transparency with clients and journalists is imperative.
We want to give a big “thank you” to our digital PR peers who participated in our questionnaire and offered thoughtful insights about the role of AI in digital PR.