One of the hottest debated topics currently facing the PR and marketing sector is the role of artificial intelligence and the impact it has on the way we all communicate. Does AI offer a golden opportunity for SMEs or are we entering a brave new world dominated by fake news?

Artificial intelligence explores the development of computer systems to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence such as learning, reasoning, problem solving and decision making. We all encounter some form of AI technology on a daily basis: from predicting the journey time of our commute to work, the songs that appear on our playlists, to information we see in our social media feeds.

There are more than 10,000 different AI applications used in content creation.

There are more than 10,000 different AI applications currently available, which can be used to generate many different forms of content including video, imagery and automated marketing campaigns, all of which are capable of being produced at the click of a button.

According to research published by industry body the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, 40% of PR practitioners use some form of AI in their daily working lives, and its use is on the rise. If I had a crystal ball, I would predict that within the next few years, the technology will become a tool that is just as important to the communications industry as an internet connection and a mobile phone.

Within the PR industry, the technology is being readily embraced as a time-saving tool, particularly when it comes to reporting and evaluation, but one area that fascinates me is how the technology is being used to assist content creation. After all, the prospect of generating a selection of social media posts, blogs, white papers and even press releases within a matter of seconds sounds, at face value, like the time saving tool of dreams – but without caution it’s one that could easily turn into a nightmare.

If you are thinking of using artificial intelligence as part of your communications strategy, there are ethical questions to consider. Care and judgement are needed to stay on the right side of the law when it comes to addressing issues such as copyright, ownership and plagiarism, but perhaps the greatest challenge concerns retaining brand authenticity and credibility. Perhaps the greatest problem with the technology is whether the prose it churns remains factually correct. It’s also important to remember that there is a strong likelihood the text it has produced for you, has also been used by others.

Effective PR activity is firmly grounded in skills such as creativity, critical thinking and emotional intelligence. It’s these skills that lay at the heart of any effective PR campaign.

Storytelling plays a vital role in every aspect of communications work. In most cases, it’s not just the story itself, but more often how it’s told. For example, journalists receive hundreds of press releases, all vying for their attention. Yes, it can be used to assist with research, provide a source of inspiration, but is it capable of generated true news? Of this I remain fairly sceptical. However, with some of the leading news organisations embarking on their own experiments with artificial intelligence, could there be a scenario whereby the bots take control of the news agenda?

I think this is unlikely for the foreseeable future. It would take a very brave business owner, and indeed newspaper editor to place the reputation of their business in the hands of artificial intelligence, especially during a potential crisis situation.

I feel fairly confident that PR professionals will continue to have the upper hand… for now, but AI is something that can’t be ignored and is likely to change the way we all communicate in the future.