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Pitching to Robots: How to Navigate Artificial Intelligence in PR

Posted on July 18th, 2019. Posted by

Pitching to Robots: Navigating AI

I remember when reporters answered their phones because they were always at their desks, and only the very wealthy had cell phones. I remember sending materials via overnight mail, because that was the way reporters in Washington, D.C. wanted to be pitched. Then came dial-up internet and the common chime: “You’ve got mail.”

So much has changed, both in the newsroom and in the way news is consumed. In New York City, you rarely see someone holding a New York Times or Wall Street Journal; these broadsheets are readily available on your phone; no need to stain your fingers with newsprint. Muck Rack reports the number of full-time reporters continues to decline, and there are now six PR professionals for every reporter.

And with the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI), that evolution is continuing. While still a fairly new phenomenon, AI is capable of revolutionizing a range of industries. How will it affect journalism and public relations?

At a recent seminar, the speaker discussed how the Associated Press, Quartz and the Wall Street Journal adopted “automated journalism” as a part of their new newsroom models. That means that in the newsroom, AI and its algorithms attend to minor tasks, such as churning through massive datasets, tracking fast moving stock prices, and following changes in the market — which frees journalists to engage in more complex, qualitative reporting. Conceptually, it makes sense. As newsrooms face downsizing, reporters are forced to wear many hats. With this solution, AI can track and identify newsworthy content and generate reports, giving journalists more bandwidth to cover important, impactful news.

Navigating AI as a PR professional

The role of AI will only continue to expand, and soon, public relations professionals may be pitching ideas to computers, rather than reporters. How you pitch stories and write press releases becomes even more important when a computer is the gatekeeper. PR professionals must adapt to get more pickup on their company’s news. Here are a few tips to remember when you announce news:

  • Words matter: Word choice in the header is key to passing the first AI test. AI is programmed to scan news and pick up highlights. Keep that in mind when you’re announcing news, whether it’s financing, new data, a partnership, or groundbreaking research. You can increase your chances of getting picked up by including things like trending social media topics and hashtags, as well as quantitative data.
  • Focus on takeaway messages: What are the key takeaways from your announcement? Previously, you could put most of your message in the first two paragraphs. Now, however, it’s important to make it easier for AI to pick up the key data at the very beginning — before you even begin your first paragraph of the release. We recommend including bullet points in your email for a quick, easy-to-read snapshot of the full press release.
  • Make your quote count: Your first quote needs to wrap up your point of view and underscore the news. To appeal to AI, include statistics and metrics in the quote. In addition, make sure it’s impactful. Often, the quote will reappear in different news sources, so make it stand out. This is the last AI hurdle before the announcement gets the nod to a desk or the trash.

It is my hope that computers never replace journalists. However, with AI, you need to be ready to recognize what the algorithm is looking for and arm yourself with the best practices for getting your story into the newsroom.

If your company needs help developing a public relations strategy, Westwicke, an ICR company, can assist with everything from media relations to IPO PR support. Please get in touch.

Sean Leous

Sean Leous is a Senior Vice President on Westwicke's public relations team. He has extensive experience in media relations within the healthcare sector, including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, hospitals, and healthcare systems. He has a BA in art history and French from State University of New York College at Potsdam.

View full bio   |   Other posts by Sean Leous

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