Watch for additional Senior Pro Roundtable sessions this fall.
This year’s Senior Pros roundtable series continued on May 1 with a lively face-to-face discussion about the way Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology might transform, advance – or undermine – the public relations industry in the near future.
New Jersey PR professionals from 18 agencies, corporations, consultancies, and non-profit groups were hosted for this latest session by David and Allison Hernandez at their Eatontown-based firm Lotus823.
PRSA NJ Board members Ken Jacobs (Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching) and Jon Goldberg (Reputation Architects) set the stage for the morning’s conversation by asking every participant if traditional approaches to public relations can stay relevant in the face of fast-moving changes in AI, social media, and data analytics.
Moderator Jon Goldberg (Reputation Architects) welcomes the Senior Pros attendees as Jeff Graubard (The Other Agency) and communications specialist Amal Morcos listen in.
The group’s responses were mixed. While many pros admitted to real anxiety and incomplete knowledge about the latest digital tools, others suggested that a nightmare scenario of machine learning wiping out a creative human workforce could be overblown.
Throughout the discussion, several themes emerged:
- The AI Challenge is Real
PR and other industries must recognize that AI and other technologies represent an authentic “sea-change” for employees, workplace culture, and ways of doing business. They are not a figment of the imagination that will eventually disappear.
- We Have Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself
Although PR professionals and their clients have real reason for concern, giving in to anxiety and panic are not the solution. Managers and staff, particularly those in the creative economy sectors, need to understand the new digital tools and platforms — and gain a working knowledge of both their advantages and limitations. Be realistic, but willing to recognize the new business opportunities that are emerging from advances in data collection and analysis.
- Back to Basics
Many people are seeking “AI 101” guidelines which clearly explain how to navigate and take advantage of the new technology. Perhaps PR pros and their professional association should consider producing user-friendly information and resources of that kind.
- Don’t Overlook the Human Element
To date, even advanced technology is unable to replicate common sense or master the nuances of communication that most humans understand instinctively. For example, a program rapidly processing financial data or a machine trying to mimic human communication risks unforced errors that alienate customers, violate individual privacy and undermine a company’s reputation.
Balancing the opportunities and risks of Artificial Intelligence has the attention of Ken Jacobs (Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching), PRSA NJ President Ilana Zalika (Resound Marketing), Chuck Bins (HAP Marketing Services), host David Hernandez (Lotus823), consultant Lisa Ellen, Eric Wright (D S Simon Media), and Jeff Graubard (The Other Agency).
In the end, many of the participants seemed to agree that PR professionals and clients must strike a balance between their Artificial Intelligence and Human Intelligence resources. Rather than fear and resist new technologies and platforms, they must view them as useful tools for data collection and analysis. At the same time, they should realize that the innate human instinct for storytelling and messaging can enhance the impact of data — and still resonates powerfully with target audiences.
Networking is always a valuable part of every Senior Pros gathering. From top left: moderator Jon Goldberg (Reputation Architects), David Hernandez (Lotus 823), Carey Pilato (Sanofi), Amy Stern (3E Public Relations), Allison Hernandez (Lotus823) and Eric Wright (D S Simon Media).