Humans Needed More Than Ever – new AI in PR report from CIPR

AI is not a threat to the jobs of PR professionals, but it is a threat to the jobs of PR professionals who don’t use AI.

Over the summer I spent some time talking to Professor Emeritus Anne Gregory and Jean Valin about the new CIPR report on AI that they were writing with Dr Swati Virmani. The report entitled Humans Needed More Than Ever has been published today.

The report found that up to 40% of tasks performed by public relations professionals are now assisted by AI tools. The report reveals that, while the adoption of AI tools has accelerated, they are still not widely used even though they make task execution more efficient and effective.

It finds that despite the increase in tool development and offers, there is little evidence that wholesale job replacement is underway. Instead, it reports most public relations tasks are being infused with AI. The report concludes that as adoption accelerates, low-level and entry-level tasks are being displaced, creating an opportunity for a profession-wide strategic shift in focus. Threats to jobs, it argues, are largely due to upskilling being required.

This chimes with what we have been telling clients. AI is not a threat to the jobs of PR professionals, but it is a threat to the jobs of PR professionals who don’t use AI.

The Humans Needed More Than Ever report revisits the 2018 Humans Still Needed report that highlighted the need for public relations professionals to have a strong understanding of technology and data analytics to remain competitive in the communications sector.

To produce the report the CIPR and authors first partnered with my company Purposeful Relations and other professional and trade bodies to be part our global survey to create the Global ComTech Report.

The Global CommTech Report was also supported by ICCO (International Communications Consultants Organisation), AMEC (International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications,) WCFA (World Communications Forum Association), NewsWhip Presspage and PRophet. The research was conducted using Stickybeak between December 2022 and March 2023, and surveyed 329 public relations and communications professionals from Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, North America and South America.

The new report argues practitioners will have a role in advising on governance issues about the ethical use of AI and the regulatory issues that surround it. Currently, only two in five practitioners (39%) claim to understand the ethical implications when using AI.

We asked a similar question in the Purposeful Relations Global ComTech Report – “How do you rate your understanding of the ethics of using AI and communication technology?”. Just 9% of respondents had very high confidence, while 39% had high confidence.

The authors matched AI enabled tasks against the Global Capability Framework which scopes out the range of responsibilities of public relations professionals. It reveals that task-based work such as data analysis and content creation lends itself to AI applications. However, professional capabilities such as ethical decision-making, being a trusted adviser to senior managers where judgement is required, and offering leadership, are not yet as amenable to AI applications.

Professor Anne Gregory said: “We are at a pivotal juncture. With the emergence of tools like Chat GPT, the public relations profession has started to evolve in the age of AI, albeit with low adoption and some justifiable caution. There is a very real need to not only harness AI tools effectively but to use this opportunity to assume a more strategic role. This involves advising on governance issues, particularly the ethical use of AI and the complex regulatory and reputational landscape we are about to encounter. When it comes to the use of AI, we rapidly need to understand the implications for our own profession. Education and training at pace and scale is urgently needed”

Jean Valin said: “Our 2018 research found that as technology reshapes our profession, the enduring value of human skills such as creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence were still in demand. Today’s report cements that thinking. Five years ago, we warned the profession needs to widely adapt to the ever-increasing world of AI through the adoption of tools and the ethical and governance implications of their use. This report suggests that this has not happened quickly enough. The landscape has changed but the message stays the same; adapt and thrive or refuse to evolve and watch the doomsday predictions of job losses becomes real.”

At Purposeful Relations we support in-house communications teams and PR agencies to modernise and adapt to AI and other communications technology. Let us know if you want a no obligations chat about how me might be able to help you and your team.