My email made him almost choke on his toffee

This post is inspired by an email I got from a reader – he's referring to a post where I mentioned the prospect of executives thinking that a chatbot knows how to talk to media better than we do:

I always enjoy and learn from your emails, and I appreciate your effort here to boost morale. But I have to admit I almost choked on my chocolate-covered toffee when I read your last bullet point. If any executives have been subscribing to these emails over the past year, their belief in the Miracle of the Chatbot likely could have come from you. And I've wished at times that your enthusiasm for AI were tempered now and then by the risks of plagiarism, hallucination, disregard for proprietary materials and, frankly, the crappy and lowest-common-denominator writing that it's made acceptable.

I will now elaborate on the brief reply I sent to him, which was:

I appreciate your thoughtful reply. Obviously
I need to do better conveying the nuanced view
I have of what AI can and can't do for PR folks.
Thanks for continuing to read anyway!

I’ve thought about it further and will flesh out that point in more detail. Here’s where I agree with that reader:

  • I have been undeniably enthusiastic about AI and its potential for PR, and I probably overestimated how soon AI would become a necessary element of the PR toolkit.
  • Hallucinations persist as a weakness that you definitely need to watch for.
  • Even the best AI tools deliver “lowest-common-denominator writing” in response to the simple prompts most people use.

Where I see things differently than this reader:

  • I thought that I’ve been tempering my enthusiasm with reality. The public webinar I gave on the topic was titled: The Realist’s Guide to AI and PR: What it Can and Can’t Do for Your PR Workflow.
  • When I’ve been encouraging you to adopt AI, I’ve been focused on what I call “commodity content” – the work products that don’t give you an outlet for creativity and excellence.
  • In defense of the particular bullet in my post that triggered the response, I’ve been clear that AI tools aren’t good enough yet for pitching media.

Whew, looking at all those bullets above, my reaction is, “That’s messy!” And that’s what I’m going for here. This is a nuanced issue. AI isn’t good or bad for PR. It simply exists – what you do or don’t do with it is up to you.

Here’s the summary guideline I’ve come up with thanks to this reader’s thoughtful feedback:

Just because AI doesn’t work well for all PR activities, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work well for some. Conversely, just because AI works well for some PR activities, doesn’t mean it works well for all.

I’m passionate about discovering and sharing with you where it DOES work.

What do you think? Have I been too optimistic about AI and PR? Or too cautious?

This article was originally published on May 2, 2024

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