Writing is, historically, something humans do quite well. It’s hard to imagine handing this activity over to robots, or more specifically the technology of artificial intelligence (AI), given the nuance and personal touch required to do it well.
In other words, much of the conversation around integrating AI into the workstream is centered around questions of “will the robot take my job”? This is, it turns out, the wrong question. In the case of writers for examples, while AI may not hold the promise of writing full stop, it can be a powerful tool in sharpening human skill.
So how might that work? In most professions – and communications and journalism aren’t exceptions – talented workers are forced to spend a significant amount of time on “mindless” tasks. For journalists, this may mean digesting and churning out short-form content, or rote coverage that always follows the same model – monthly earnings, for example. For PR folks, this may mean crafting and disseminating hundreds of similar pitches. AI has the potential to streamline many of these types of quotidian time sucks, crunching and synthesizing data and information more quickly. By freeing these folks up to focus on the nuance and art of their work that depends on human intelligence, they can do better, creating more relative, interesting and compelling work.
Whether a strategy document or pitch, or longer-form story, it can be helpful to have a technological resource to help get workers 80% of the way there. In this regard, AI can help jumpstart the writing process – freeing up time to perform more complex, higher-value tasks.
In other words, storytelling. The one thing AI doesn’t have as of yet is a sense of narrative – what can be extrapolated from the data to convey a message that carries a reader or audience along. For the time being at least, this remains a complex, human task. Where AI can add value is collate past stories, assessing what a specific outlet or reporter is likely to find interesting and pursue. That’s why I built PRophet, an AI-driven, SaaS platform designed for and by PR professionals.
Pre-PRophet, PR professionals had to base assessment of whether a reporter would write a story on professional experience, labor-intensive and time-consuming research, and instinct – but no performance-based data. PRophet uses a proprietary combination of natural language processing and machine learning to analyze past reporter behavior and predict a pitch’s potential before it goes to market. With this type of tool, communications professionals can more intelligently develop strategy and back up plans presented to internal stakeholders with concrete data. It’s an important resource for crisis and issues mitigation as well – as the tool’s proprietary technology can also forecast how reporters are like to engage with sensitive news as well.
As The New Yorker’s John Seabrook put it in a recent panel discussion with me, AI will make human skill more valuable, in the way that mass-produced clothing has made haute couture more valuable. “High-end” writing will become an increasingly hot commodity – placing the skilled individuals who craft it in the esteemed place they deserve.