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The Ethical Implications of AI in Public Relations

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I recently went to a PRCA leaders’ lunch which focused on artificial intelligence (AI) in PR. Key take outs were discussion around the potential it offers, which have been well publicised, but more thought provoking was a focus around the ethics of using AI in PR. Not to mention the possible legal ramifications of getting it wrong.

As AI becomes increasingly integrated into every day public relations activity PR professionals must navigate these challenges to ensure responsible and effective use of AI.

Here are a few things to consider:

1.        Bias and Fairness:

AI algorithms are well known to inherit biases present by humans training data and inbuilt bias inherent in the way systems have been set up. Brand communicators must be vigilant and proactive in identifying and rectifying bias to avoid perpetuating discriminatory practices. This is not often easy so a large dose of caution is well advised.

Companies must strive for fairness in all marketing and PR content and communication by ensuring that AI systems do not target or favour certain groups or viewpoints.

2.        Transparency:

Transparency is crucial. PR campaigns using AI should disclose when automated systems are involved. It’s no just the written word that is being machine generated AI image creation is easily and freely accessible and video AI technology is frighteningly high quality.

We must be transparent about our sources, AI generated content, data collection sources and methods and processing, and decision-making. Without transparency we risk eroding trust with stakeholders.

3.        Privacy and Data Protection:

AI can process vast amounts of personal data at the click of a button. While time saved is a compelling rationale for using AI tools as PR professionals we must adhere to privacy regulations (e.g., GDPR) and protect individuals’ rights. Copyright transgressions have already occurred landing some AI platforms in court, for example, the Getty case.

4.        Accountability and Responsibility:

PR teams both agency and in house should take responsibility for AI-driven decisions. Invest in training and time to really understand how AI models arrive at conclusions and be prepared to justify them. AI is not going anywhere so make sure common sense and values are not sidelined.

5.        Job Displacement:

There has been much discussion in the industry about how AI has the potential to automate certain PR tasks therefore potentially displacing jobs.

This may well be true to some extent – particularly, at entry level and for content generation jobs. We should consider the impact on employees and provide reskilling opportunities and work hard to demonstrate value in services provided beyond simple content provision.

6.        The age of misinformation:

As communicators we must not fall foul of perpetuating the spread of misinformation and the damage it can wreak. AI-generated content can blur the line between human and machine. Ensure authenticity and avoid deceptive practices. Being human still has value (thank goodness) so taking stock, reflecting, checking facts and employing common sense is vital.

7.        Security and Robustness:

AI systems are vulnerable to attacks (e.g., adversarial attacks). PR professionals must safeguard against malicious manipulation and be mindful of nefarious use of technology. We must be vigilant like never before and ensure robust assessment protocols are in place for reviewing AI models for vulnerabilities and maintaining updated security protocols.

8.        Social Consequences:

Consider broader societal implications. AI-driven campaigns can inadvertently amplify harmful narratives or create unintended consequences. PR practitioners should weigh potential harm against benefits with every decision to use emerging technologies. Time saved could equal increased risk and negative social impact.

9.        Decision-Making Frameworks:

Develop ethical guidelines specific to AI in PR. Establish decision-making frameworks that align with organisational values. Involve diverse stakeholders in shaping AI policies.

As The field of AI evolves rapidly, PR, marketing and communications professionals must commit to staying informed about AI developments and adapt their practices accordingly. Embrace ongoing learning and ethical discussions within the industry, with colleagues, clients, customers and suppliers.

To ensure PR practice remains ethical – AI in PR requires vigilance, transparency, and a commitment to responsible practices by everyone.

Note: This article has been produced with the help of AI but not without human input, reflection and adaptation by me, the human author 😉.

References/sources and further reading:

Ethics Guide to Artificial Intelligence in PR

The Ethical Implications of Using Artificial Intelligence in Public Relations

Artificial Intelligence in Marketing and PR: What Are the Ethical Implications of AI?

Neon Sign Saying Code of Ethics in Behaviour

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