Legal industry public relations professionals work with newsrooms every day, reliant on their reporters and editors to publish law firm news and attorney interviews often and as accurately as possible. Generative artificial intelligence (genAI) is reshaping the journalism landscape, and it’s critically important for publicists to pay attention.
Much has happened in the world of AI in the last five or so years, including how news organizations are using the technology, according to a recent JournalismAI global survey of newsrooms worldwide. JournalismAI is a global initiative that empowers news organizations to use AI responsibly, and its report emphasizes the importance of understanding and engaging with technologies that are reshaping journalism.
The report found that about 73% of surveyed respondents believe genAI (such as ChatGPT and Google’s Bard) presents new opportunities for journalism, and about 85% of respondents have experimented with genAI for tasks such as writing summaries, generating images and writing code (just a few examples).
Some of those surveyed said genAI helps free up time for more time-intensive work such as transcribing interviews and checking facts.
Despite these opportunities, respondents recognized the need for any AI-generated content to be checked by humans to mitigate potential harms, such as bias and inaccuracy. More than 60% of respondents were concerned about ethical implications of AI — especially relating to accuracy, fairness and transparency of reporting/content.
Separate from this survey’s findings, other generative AI industry followers note that many newsrooms have already published statements and guidelines about how they are using or intend to use genAI news coverage and products. This is welcome news. And while routine, full-on integration of genAI is not yet a mainstay in newsrooms, many outlets have begun publishing some articles written by ChatGPT. The truth is, we don’t really know how pervasive it is quite yet because it’s not obvious and there aren’t always disclaimers associated with published content generated by AI.
Of particular interest and relevance to PR practitioners is how genAI is being used in news production and distribution. For production, these include fact checking, summarizing content, writing headlines and code, assessing sources, and video storytelling. For distributing news, genAI applications include optimizing content, matching content to targeted audiences at scale, providing social media sentiment analysis and predicting trends for content creation.
The bottom line is many, if not most, reporters and editors who have even just dabbled in using ChatGPT on the job have commented that this technology, in one form or another, will eventually become a regular component of a journalist’s tool kit, just as computers did decades ago, and then the internet. But what does all this mean for PR pros working for lawyers and law firms? How should they work with these new age journalists?
In a world where newsrooms are becoming less human, the way to stand out and cut through the artificial noise is to be more human.
This harkens back to PR 101, but it holds especially true in the AI environment. The most effective PR is built around relationships. It’s still best to try to get to know the reporters and editors we work with regularly. Be considerate, respectful and appreciative in your asks and all communications. Remember that a reporter may be on a tight deadline or dealing with unrelated personal challenges. Approaching each reporter or editor with an empathetic, human mindset will help you get what you need or want.
If you thought newsrooms couldn’t get any smaller, “shrink” again.
It’s no news to anyone that traditional newsrooms have been losing and constricting staff for many years, due to dying and evolving publications, the proliferation of news on the internet, and a plethora of other financial and industry stresses and realities. The proliferation of genAI is likely to exasperate that shrinkage. It also stands to reason that newsrooms using genAI to create articles, news summaries, blog posts and other content could eliminate jobs for humans to perform these tasks. All this automation may transform the art of PR, which is convincing humans to cover a story or interview a particular source. For PR professionals, that means looking for new and innovative ways to garner publicity for attorneys and law firms beyond traditional media outlets that may be increasingly taking humans out of the equation.
Accuracy of information in press releases and other communications with media is more important than ever.
If humans are not on the front lines of checking facts and context (although ideally still overseeing the final product), you can be sure there will be some erosion of accuracy. This means we must be even more diligent about getting the facts, including spellings of names, correct in press releases, pitches, emails, social media postings and other published content. Ideally, we’re all doing this with maximum effort already. But with genAI pulling more weight, you can count even less on an eagle-eyed editor catching a key misspelling or omission.
Equally important, it will be prudent to keep press releases and announcements as factual and objective as possible, to keep from confusing the bots and potentially spurring error-ridden content. After all, AI does not (yet, anyway) possess human judgment or grasp the nuance that is necessary to analyze, interpret or offer commentary on subject matter. It simply gathers what is already out there, correct or not.
Cater to the chatbots.
Since more chatbots are writing the news articles from the press releases and announcements we provide to the media, the onus is increasingly on PR pros to be more cognizant of these non-human gatekeepers. That also means purposely optimizing content for genAI. Of course, this can be done by humans, but AI programs also are available to publicists and marketers for correcting spelling and grammar errors, ranking and organizing content based on specific keywords, and even making content more personalized and engaging. Chatbots helping other chatbots is the future, and PR pros on the cutting edge are already embracing the technology for more effective and efficient PR execution.
If you need help to better understand and address the challenges of working with media organizations in the age of genAI, reach out to me, Randy Labuzinski, at firstname.lastname@example.org.