There’s nothing artificial about original PR writing

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With the continuing discussions about the opportunities and threats of Artificial Intelligence (AI), I make no apologies for coming back to the topic for this blog. Indeed, with AI constantly in the headlines, it’s easy to forget that it has been part of lives for some time already – think Google, Alexa and the godsend to all PR writers (if we are honest!) spell and grammar check.

Recently the latter came up with a new correction for me – ‘inclusiveness’ – because I had written about a ‘reduction in manpower’ in a case study article. I did of course agree that ‘labour’ was a more acceptable alternative, while at the same time admiring the prescience of the Spice Girls (and to be fair US punk band Bikini Kill who apparently originally came up with the slogan) in keeping their ‘Girl Power’ mantra as two words.


Finding the Right Words

My former colleague (and now man of leisure) Richard wrote very wittily about changes in language last year. I have also written before about the importance of being able to tailor both the message and the language of any piece of PR writing to the target audience. Part of that includes embracing the new (when appropriate) and being mindful of the unsuitability of certain words and phrases that we would have happily bandied about years ago.

This is where AI shows its usefulness as that extra pair of eyes when checking copy. The sub-editor has always been a vital part of any news outlet or magazine and for any author. AI adds another layer of support. And we tap into an online thesaurus to find a different word where previously we would have taken Roget’s Thesaurus down from the shelf.


Original Thought

But checking and writing copy are two very different things. There is a human element that informs good writing, and for PR that means in particular the ability to understand your audience and personalise your text accordingly.  AI can only take its words and phrases from existing content, and this means a lack of originality, credibility and readability.

Of course, it’s not easy for humans to be totally original all the time – we may well have some favourite words or phrases that we use frequently, and we will sometimes borrow ideas from previous pieces of work. But those of us who write for a living also have the ability and creativity to reshape content to give it a fresh look or a new perspective.


Make no Mistake

Let’s also remember that AI is not infallible. Spell check will highlight a word that is spelt incorrectly but if your misspelling creates another correct word, the spell check will happily pass it by*. And it’s not always right – for example, from a recent piece I wrote, it’s clear that AI doesn’t understand the difference between ‘complimentary’ and ‘complementary’ (mind you, that’s true of many people too!).

(*As if to prove this point, when I reread this sentence, I saw that I had written ‘world’ instead of word – proof that humans still have a role to play!)

The world of communications has changed significantly since I started out. But while technology has proved a real boon in many different areas, asking it to write new PR copy is, for me, a giant step too far. The personal touch will always be an essential part of good PR writing. And the best copy will generate comment and reaction – anything from starting a debate to attracting a busy editor’s attention and ensuring your press release makes it onto the news pages.


The Write Way

So I salute my freelance contact Lynda Searby for taking a stand on this recently and sticking up for her own talents against those of Grammarly. PR and communications specialists have worked hard to master their trade – having a computer does not make someone a PR writer, just as owning a Smartphone doesn’t make one a professional photographer.


Technology has achieved some amazing things over the years and transformed life inside and outside work. But when it comes to writing, AI should remain the support act and not become the main headliner. Otherwise, it will be another example the Tail Wagging the Dog (if I can still say that – let me run that spell and grammar check again!).

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