African PR and communications professionals share their opinions on the impact that AI tools have on the industry and what role they will play in the sector in the coming years.
According to the 2022–2023 Africa PR and Communications report, the majority of professionals in the industry regard artificial intelligence (AI) as the technology that will revolutionise the industry over the next decade.
Furthermore, the report states that AI is already making its presence felt in the industry and being employed for a variety of tasks, including media monitoring, analysis and reporting of negative brand sentiments and fake news.
On the back of the report’s findings, TechCabal reached out to numerous PR professionals on the continent to get their opinions on how the technology is impacting their work and what they think the future holds.
David Idagu (Africa regional consultant, Allison+Partners)
According to David, AI tools like ChatGPT already have an impact on the work he does at Allison+Partners, which includes media relations, crisis management, and business communications development.
“I see it as a way to help increase my productivity and allow me to automate some tasks that I would have spent time doing manually. This allows me more time to focus on more high-level strategic inputs for respective clients, which is really what the clients pay for,” Idagu told TechCabal.
On the concerns that AI tools pose a threat to professions in the industry, Idagu believes that despite the convenience they come with, there is still a significant amount of human input needed when using the tools.
“These tools just help to ease your work and not necessarily do the work for you. No matter what you get from these tools as output, you still need to make your own input, make your own edits and tweak it in a way that suits your narrative or suits the objectives of what you’re trying to achieve. So there is still a lot of human input needed even when using the tools,” he added.
Victoria Crandall (founder, NoFilterPR)
Victoria, who is also CEO of Lagos-based NoFilterPR, shares that in the beginning, she was sceptical of the significant impact that tools like ChatGPT could have in her line of work. She felt that the hype of ChatGPT was exactly just that, hype.
“I felt like it was overhyped. My thinking was that this can’t really help me much in my day-to-day tasks and workflows. I will admit that I pretty much took a black-and-white point of view when it came to the relevance of AI tools in PR and communications,” she said.
But as she learnt more about them, her views gradually changed to that of appreciation of the efficiency that can come with using the likes of ChatGPT in her processes.
“I’ve started to backpedal on the idea that AI is just hype. This has mainly been because I’ve been working with other publicists in a really fantastic PR training group that’s based in the US. Through the group, I have been able to identify ways to employ the tools to make my work much more efficient and effective,” she told TechCabal.
On the future of AI in PR, she adds that although she now appreciates the technology, it is her opinion that it is still at a point where its hype exceeds its true capabilities. She believes that because most of the important elements of PR are based on human relations, there is still a long way to go before AI can pose a significant threat in completely replacing humans in the industry.
“If you look at what media relations is, it’s basically mastering your client’s business and industry inside and out. Reading what journalists write, and knowing the type of stories that each publication would consider. It’s also about building relationships with industry players and I don’t see how a computer programme can do that uniquely human skill,” she concluded.
Autumn Marie (founder & CEO, KGL FWD)
KGL FWD is a Rwanda-based creative, communications, lifestyle, and tourism agency. As its founder, Autumn Marie states that some of the tools they have used are Chat GPT, TLDR, Grammarly and Brandwatch as well as Canva’s new AI tools. They are also exploring tools such as Propel, Muck Rack, and Cision for pitching and media list building.
Marie thinks that the way for the industry to efficiently leverage AI is to provide awareness of its impact on the industry and train both current and future PR professionals on the technology.
“[We need to] build ecosystems for young people who want to enter the field to receive adequate professional development and mentorship, and for us already in the field to be daring and not fearful of emerging technology, and most importantly for us to begin to build our own AI tools that speak to the most urgent needs of Africa,” she said to TechCabal.
In the future, she believes that AI will contribute towards making PR professionals more well-informed and more efficient as well as creating more PR tech career opportunities.
I think we will see a future where AI tools are used to help all but especially entry-level and mid-level staff become better writers and improve their professional skills by providing them with more points of reference. As we build more of our own tools and provide more culturally relevant data, we will be able to use AI to accurately translate material into a much larger range of African languages and this will be powerful and necessary for pan-African PR campaigns as well as hyper-localised ones,” she added.
Mary Gearing (Deputy managing director, Magna Carta)
At Magna Carta, a Johannesburg-based reputation management consultancy firm, Mary Gearing and her team utilise AI tools for media monitoring and analytics, media and influencer database management and crisis simulation. They are also stress-testing text-based tools for writing and monitoring the “virtual influencer” movement.
“Although AI is predicted to emerge as a disruptive force, for PR professionals it has the potential to not only streamline PR processes but empower professionals to work smarter by automating repetitive tasks, allowing more time and effort to be dedicated to strategic decision-making, creative solves, and hyper-targeted communications and implementation,” she told TechCabal.
On the future of AI in PR and communications in Africa, she adds that the sector has traditionally revolved around human interaction and emotional intelligence to build and grow relationships, create credibility, and establish brand trust. Therefore, she does not reckon that AI tools will get to a point where they completely replace the human labour force.
She believes rather that by harnessing AI-powered tools, fresh perspectives can be gained by industry professionals and creativity can be ignited, which in the future will yield more captivating, purpose-led and impactful PR campaigns that will shape our industry.
“I think the future of AI in Africa is its use as an excellent springboard for creative ideas, paving the way for human creativity, critical thinking, and relationship building, which remain central to the realms of PR and communications,” she concluded.
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