Why the PR industry needs to step up and make AI feel welcome (Part 2)

Sarah Lee
0 minutes

I’ve worked in comms and PR for the best part of 25 years.  My first job was editing a 24 page full colour internal newsletter for what is now Scottish Water.  After spending years working in admin I loved my new job - being paid to write and be creative.

It was a dream come true.  I’ve always loved writing - I was good at it and now I was a professional writer.  Honestly I did seriously consider putting writer on my passport. 

But I quickly realised that there were a lot of rules to PR writing.  I had to unlearn everything school and university had taught me and reign in my inner Hunter S Thompson.  Rather than writing like an intellectual the standard seemed to be to write for a six year old.

Writing articles for my newsletter was fine but press release writing I really found challenging.  I was baffled and I struggled to learn the style and to repeat the same pattern again and again. I felt I was losing my creativity - that I had to write like a robot.  And I hated it.

Once I moved into agency - I found I was not the only one to hate it.  Clients hated it too.  They would re-write my painstakingly constructed press release turning it into an impenetrable tangle of jargon, big words and rambling detail.

My storytelling was too simple.  It did not sound grand enough.  It did not sound difficult.

And I very quickly lost confidence in my writing and lost my love of the craft.  It was work, I had to distance myself from my writing and not take it personally when it was red-penned.

Is AI creative? Can you automate creativity?  Yes.  The camera automated oil paint.  Where does the human stand

AI will replace the average writer - both PR and journalist.  Harsh but true - we all have to up our game.  The basic platform announcements, the filler content will be done by AI and that is fine.  The great writers will survive because of the quality and the nuance of what they write and how they articulate their thoughts.

Consider how AI can be used as a tool to level the playing field and make writing accessible to all, regardless of one's education or background. It can empower individuals who may struggle with writing, such as those with learning difficulties, to unlock their creativity and effectively communicate their ideas.

When it comes to AI and writing, it's important to understand the role of the creator. The creator can be both the person inputting information into the software, as well as the machine itself. While the machine is responsible for processing and analysing the data, the creator ultimately drives the direction and purpose of the AI tool. 

By understanding the capabilities of the tool and clearly defining the task and objectives, the creator can use AI to elevate and enhance their writing. The key is to be the driver, using AI as a tool to support and augment our own abilities, rather than relying solely on it to create content.

Did I use AI to write this?  Yes.  I got stuck and couldn’t find the right words. I knew the message I wanted to get across but it was late, I was on a train.  And I was becoming frustrated as my thoughts danced around and would not flow through my fingertips and onto the keyboard.  And so the last three paragraphs were AI generated.  Based on information I fed in. Was that lazy?  Was that cheating?  Or was that the equivalent of using a calculator to do a difficult sum?

What is the role of the human in the writing process, what do we bring, what are our strengths?  A young colleague said to me today - that AI made her feel stupid.  That she should be able to produce work without AI.  I don’t think it is stupid to use a dictionary or a thesaurus.  I don’t think it is stupid to research and read.  And I definitely don’t think it is stupid to use a computer to write. Is AI any different from a dictionary?

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