Sam also explains what he thinks a typical PR agency will look like in five years’ time, and how AI will free up resources for more creative tasks that can add real value to clients.
Jordan Greenaway (J): Welcome to the latest episode of The Fix, from Profile. I'm joined today by our Client Director, Sam Patchett.
Sam Patchett (S): Good to be here, Jordan.
J: And today, it's a quite unique episode actually, because we're discussing something that we as an agency have just published on the website, which is an AI disclaimer. So, Sam, what have we just published? What is an AI disclaimer?
S: So, to summarise, Jordan, today what we published is an overview of how and why we use AI within Profile.
It outlines how we use AI. We list tasks such as strategic positioning, media monitoring, press releases, blog posts, op-eds, SEO articles. But it also, and more importantly, it lays out some core principles for using artificial intelligence. We state that it should only play a supporting role in the work we do, not a leading one.
And it also states that we should be incremental in the way that we roll it out at Profile. Just to ensure that we can measure its impact on the team and on the agency, and so we can fully evaluate it as we go.
J: And why is it important, in the first place, to be transparent about this type of activity? I'm sure at the moment there are lots of agencies across the industry who are starting to grapple with the use of AI. We've decided to try to grapple with it in quite a public way. Why do you think that's the best approach?
S: Well, first and foremost, what I will say, Jordan, is that the growing prominence and the ongoing development of AI is a force for good in PR. We believe that it can greatly strengthen agencies offering, it can strengthen the service they provide to clients, it can be a force for good within the team, within the agency.
It can assist with more of the mundane tasks and mundane jobs within PR. That being said, we do feel that agencies should always make it crystal clear when they use AI, how they're using AI.
Otherwise, we feel it does run the risk of agencies short-changing clients, which is the last thing we want because that could be very, very damaging for trust within the agency, within the industry rather.
J: And it's very early doors or very early days when it comes to the impact of AI on the industry and on us as an agency.
And I'm sure that this is going to be a moving process as we start to learn about what does work and what doesn't work. But do you have an instinct, Sam, on where humans or PR professionals can always add value above AI and AI tools?
S: So, my answer to that question, Jordan, would be, ultimately: I don't think AI is going to replace jobs in the sector. If anything, it enables agencies to designate more time, more investment, more human resource to more value-add endeavours. Things like creativity, collaboration on projects, those kind of more big thinking, strategic pieces of work and projects. That's really what's going to add the value to clients in the long run.
J: And just from your own personal perspective, this has happened quite quickly in the industry. I think ChatGPT launched two months ago, and it's been dominating the agenda in the industry, not only in PR but in the wider business ecosystem, for the last two months or so.
I wondered whether when you first heard the words AI, was that something that you were sceptical of or positive about, and has that changed over the last two months? And how might other people be thinking in the industry now?
S: The upswell and publicity, and media coverage, and public discussion about AI in the last month alone has been something I've never seen before. AI has been around for a long time. I mean, I can't even remember the first time I heard about it. But even just day-to-day tasks, whether it's a smart speaker or smart device, it's been part of our lives for a long time now. But it wasn't until this new version of ChatGPT launched where everyone has immediately seemingly become a lot more sceptical about its possible uses.
We're seeing quite dramatic commentary coming from tech experts and researchers. I read one headline the other day about a researcher warning that it's going to end all of humanity, which seems a bit extreme. But in the context of PR, as long as it's measured and rolled out incrementally, in a way that's measured and evaluated very closely, I think it can only be a force for good in the sector. But that's only me speaking with my PR lens on.
J: And one of the principles that we've outlined in our disclaimer, and something that we've leaned heavily into when we've started to talk about this publicly on our website, is the importance of being transparent and open with clients about where and when we use AI, and when we don't.
And actually, we've gone a little bit further than that, and we've said that other companies in this sector should also be transparent and also disclose how they use AI. I just wondered why you thought that was important.
S: It's mainly important because it's a trust question. I think in this day and age you need to be crystal clear, you need to be fully transparent, you need to give full visibility to your clients – how and when you are using this technology. Otherwise, they might be under the impression that a lot of the content you produce, a lot of the projects you're working on, a lot of the work you send to them, has been done by a human, when in actual fact it might not have been.
And in the long run, that could be damaging to public trust within the PR industry. But more importantly, not just clients, it's also important for the team as well. And ensuring that the team is fully comfortable, fully aware, exactly how and when they might need to use AI, not just for current team members, but also for people that you're hiring into the company as well.
Because it's going to have an impact on how agencies operate, how they're structured, the kind of work and content they do. It's going to have an impact on everything.
J: And a final question from me, Sam, and it's quite a big picture one, and I'm putting you on the spot here. Project five years into the future – imagine that you walked into a big PR agency. Do you think it just looks the same or do you think it looks radically different?
S: I think there'll be a lot more resource put towards creative content. And I think that's where the future of the industry lies well and truly. Whereas traditionally, you might walk into a PR agency and people will be sitting behind a computer, monitoring the news or writing media interview briefs for clients.
I think in five years’ time there will be a lot more multimedia content, a lot more people working on video projects, a lot more people working on much more creative content for clients, because that's where they can really add value and that's where that human level of creativity can't be replaced by AI, at this moment.
J: And I agree completely, Sam. I don't believe we are going to walk into an office in five years and there's going to be hundreds of robots writing press releases. But thank you for joining me for the discussion today. You've listened to an episode of The Fix, the podcast from Profile, where we digest some of the topical trends and issues from the industry.
And to find out more about Profile and its work, go to www.welcometoprofile.com.
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