How Artificial Intelligence Can Change the Public Relations Industry


Martin Waxman, CEO of Waxman Communications joins Doug Simon, CEO of D S Simon Media to talk about the changes that artificial intelligence is beginning to have in Public Relations and how in-house and agency communicators can use this technology to their advantage.

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DOUG: Hi I’m Doug Simon from D S Simon media. My special guest today is Martin Waxman. He’s not only the President of Martin Waxman Communications, but he’s really one of the folks on the leading edge of how AI is going to be affecting public relations in the industry and what you need to know about that. Martin thanks so much for joining us.



MARTIN: Thank you Doug, and thanks for that great intro. Hopefully I can live up to that I’ll try.



DOUG: We are raising the bar putting the pressure on you so I for a top line. What’s the key things for PR people to really start to learn and understand about AI. How is it going to affect our industry?


MARTIN: Well I think the first thing that communications people need to know, is the difference between narrow AI or artificial narrow intelligence, and artificial general intelligence. Artificial narrow intelligence is all about predictions. So, using data and analytics to make informed predictions. That’s really what we have now. Google Search is powered by artificial narrow intelligence or narrow AI. Artificial general intelligence that’s Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator. That’s really scary stuff potentially, or Westworld or you know anything out of science fiction. And we’re nowhere near that.

Now how far are we away? I’m not a computer scientist. You know I don’t research that part of artificial intelligence, but from what I’ve read we’re pretty far away from that and because people are confusing the two types of AI it leads to a lot of uncertainty, a lot of fear and I’m not seeing AI isn’t going to bring a lot of changes-some good, some bad but it’s not necessarily going to take over our lives yet.



DOUG: Correct. So now that we know that. But is there a way that can be deployed within the communications realm to be effective? I’m guessing it’s closer to this narrow intelligence and predictability. And so how can that be incorporated, if you’re a corporate communicator or your organization and then maybe an agency? Why don’t we start on the corporate side.


MARTIN: Well if you’re a corporate communicator the first thing you can do is think about-and actually this works for agencies too- any task that can be repeated. That’s that has potential for automation. So some of the research and monitoring tasks that we do, you know, those are repetitive we’re looking for things that doesn’t mean we can look away, but it means we can automate that and hopefully by using the right algorithms provided by some of the third party providers; we can start to pull in greater insights or see issues farther out on the horizon, maybe based on conversations and things in terms of influencers we can find and identify and credential influencers that way. So, the stuff that took us a lot of time and research. Those are some of the things we can automate.


DOUG: Interesting. So, you bring up Influencer Marketing which has gained in popularity, so it sounds like there are some AI applications helping to identify influencers that can maybe support your brand in an appropriate way. How might that work?


MARTIN: I think a platform like Tracker for example, which is an influencer identification platform, and it helps you identify it helps organizations identify influencers by context so the things that they are good at and where they have engagement versus something like Clout which just gave you a score between 1 and 100-


DOUG: Modesty I think we’re in 98 on that.


MARTIN: No no I was way lower. You know Justin Bieber was 99. Absolutely, Tracker though does that I’m assuming because I haven’t seen the back end, but using A.I., and certainly machine learning to find out which influencers have the most connections, are engaging with their audience with their subject matter experts, and then you know on the front end as communicators we can look at that. And that doesn’t mean we have a relationship with them because that’s a thing. You know AI maybe fast, social media maybe fast, but relationships take time and so it still takes time to build those relationships and that’s something that hopefully people will continue to cultivate.


DOUG: Second final thought if you own an agency perhaps, and you’re looking to hire people does AI affect the skill set that you’re looking for? Will this be something done internally eventually or is it always going to be outsourced to the software development types?


MARTIN: I think probably a combination depending on the size of the agency. I know the larger agencies now are the big multinationals do have a data science team, so they have teams of people who have advanced degrees in data science and hopefully an understanding of some of the humanistic parts like how to communicate and all of a sudden you’re able to pull insights from that data and know how to analyze them.


DOUG: And final question for this portion of our discussion. Clearly, you’re not going to be obsolete by AI because you understand, people like me are we going to just be obsolete? Will AI be able to do our jobs?


MARTIN: You mean as a video producer?


DOUG: Anything, heads of agencies. How much time do we have left?


MARTIN: I think we have a lot of time left, but I think what we need to do is adapt. And learn about which parts of our skill sets need to be upgraded, and I think it’s really important to educate ourselves, and for the PR and communication schools to start incorporating data science in the same way that it took a while, but they started to incorporate digital and video production. Because video storytelling is a big part of communications. I know it’s something you’ve done for a long long time, but there was a time where it was it was an ad it was like that plus one or two to a PR program because PR was all about writing. That’s not to say writing isn’t important. It is. But algorithms are writing certain kinds of articles, sports articles, financial reports, you know the quarterly report. So how do all of us maintain our relevance and value? We have to figure out how we can ask really informed questions. We have to learn how to do that.


DOUG: Awesome. Thanks so much for this conversation and the guidance that you’ve provided for so many. Thanks Martin.


MARTIN: Thank you.