The advent of generative AI will lead to a tectonic shift in how startups do PR over the next few years. In July, the Associated Press became the first major news company to sign a deal with OpenAI, while media job cuts have reached record highs.
Gutted newsrooms could stymie one of the greatest engines of startup growth. While generative AI will enhance the capabilities of many publications, they’re also creeping onto news sites in ways we can’t foresee while journalists are laid off. Inevitably, some startups will choose to use AI to churn out thought leadership and PR content.
The problem with that is, if anyone and everyone can do something, then it becomes devoid of value. If any founder can ask ChatGPT to create a listicle on “5 reasons e-commerce will grow in 2023,” then the internet will become even more saturated with that kind of content. And that content is professional-sounding, yes, but impersonal, starved of real-life narratives, and flair-less.
Startups that want to be seen amid the flurry as AI enters the media will need to remember that what most people really want is a human story.
The good news is, this will actually push startup PR to evolve. In-house PR teams will want to elevate their content above the tedious noise. PR agencies will strive to show startups why they shouldn’t be using ChatGPT to do their job. Editors will scream out for original articles over rehashed content. PR and human-written thought leadership will have to sharply differentiate itself from the unoriginal content of overused AI.
Seeing a strong voice of reason or controversy, a provocative response to current events and rapidly unfolding topics — that’s something people are always hungry for. It’s alive, shaped by the world around us, and helps us make sense of it.
Ironically, AI could make PR more responsive, human, relevant. So, where do AI’s limits lie — and where will successful PR strategies shine in the age of ChatGPT?
Embed yourself in current (and future events)
AI does not exist in the present. It’s trained on past datasets, but it can’t follow today’s news, much less if that news hasn’t been published online.
I know from my PR work that journalists take a heightened interest in a business leader when they can speak knowledgeably (and quickly) on unfolding events. As do readers: 62% of professionals want to see thought leadership on current trends.
But how will generative AI change this scenario? It’s likely that the role of journalists will move away from what’s generally achievable by AI — generic advice articles, listicles, etc. — and they’ll have more time to write articles on current events and hard-hitting trends, imbued with relevant commentary.
So, that’s what they’ll want to see more of from founders — commentary on the Senate just passing a new immigration bill and how that will affect tech talent; a thought piece on how startups can leverage a new TikTok trend for growth.
An effective PR strategy will involve a shift in behavior:
- Monitoring daily media for current events.
- Inserting yourself and your company into breaking news.
- Being a founder who can provide punchy opinions on select themes.
- Assessing which topics you can speak to beyond your niche: for example, a fintech founder can seek to become an expert in emerging regulation.
- Linking this kind of outreach back to your core mission and messaging.
Other than being timely, the difference between you and ChatGPT is that you have friends. You have your finger on the pulse of specific “offline” circles in a way that’s not possible for an AI bot. Journalists will value you being able to bring insights on the word on the street — what the sentiment is over X news story among your peers, the conversations you have with colleagues over the state of the industry.
Finally, you can also peer into the future. A true industry expert can read what’s happening on the ground — not just online — ask for peers’ opinion on a matter of interest, and offer predictions on where a trend is going. Be careful only to do so when your margin of error is small.