Chat GPT has taken over the news cycle, often described as a tool taking human jobs or leading people to laziness. The platform’s writing capabilities have been compared to human capabilities when writing blog articles, university papers and press releases. Whether you are an avid user, ambivalent, or afraid of it, Chat GPT is not a threat to public relations professionals if used correctly.
First, we must remember that Chat GPT is technology, not a human. It is an artificial intelligence chatbot model developed by OpenAI that interacts conversationally to answer questions, create copy, and even claims to follow some standards of ethics, avoiding inappropriate and incorrect statements. But it is prone to errors itself, as it gathers its information from the internet. It has not been found to accurately report facts consistently, making it flawed for students who may use it to summon essays out of thin air. It can easily become confused with complicated questions, including grammatical tests.
Storytelling and the recognition of empathy are critical considerations in public relations that would be irresponsible to put into the hands of a platform like Chat GPT.
The lack of these two elements, sourced from the foundation of public relations itself, can result in a damaged reputation. If used, Chat GPT can be a risk for a person or organization. A notable instance of backlash for the use of this platform occurred in February of 2023 following the news of a deadly shooting at Michigan State University. The email from Vanderbilt’s Peabody College Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion loosely addressed the situation, did not mention any of Vanderbilt resources and instead described steps to “ensure that we are doing our best to create a safe and inclusive environment for all.” The kicker was that the bottom of the email revealed that it was written by using Chat GPT, detected by the university’s official student newspaper, The Vanderbilt Hustler. Once publicized, the administration responded that using the AI was “poor judgment.” As public relations students, especially those in PRSSA/PRSA, we know that relationship building is one of the core tenants of the field and part of its definition. Sensitive situations leave an organization more vulnerable than usual, increasing the importance of acting with compassion, care and caution toward stakeholders and publics.
Despite its limitations, Chat GPT can be a tool that public relations professionals can take advantage of for strategic purposes. In fact, when I had a writer’s block for this blog post, I asked the AI model to write me an outline for a blog article about “Why public relations professionals don’t have to be worried about Chat GPT.” It has been helpful as a loose guide, objectively noting its own faults in emotional intelligence, limited contextual understanding and dependence on a data set and training data. It provided me with section headings on the limitations of Chat GPT, information that human communication cannot be replaced and the advantages of integrating Chat GPT in public relations strategy. Its suggestions gave me new inspiration to push me forward to complete this article. This technology could be used for similar outline purposes, or a barrage of others. It can provide topic ideas, write headlines and much more.
Chat GPT is an emerging technology, and it is doubtful that it will return to the shadows with its immense success. Public relations professionals can learn to adapt to it by recognizing its flaws in empathy and accuracy and considering its benefits in creativity and productivity. Despite its original fear factor, Chat GPT is not a threat to the careers of public relations professionals.
Melina O’Neal currently serves as the vice president of career services for PRSSA National. She is a fourth-year student at West Chester University of Pennsylvania pursuing her Master’s degree in communication studies after graduating in 2023 with her Bachelor’s degree in media & culture. Previously, she has served as a district ambassador and National Publications Committee member for PRSSA National alongside her responsibilities as vice president and treasurer for her collegiate Chapter. You can connect with Melina via LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter.