Skip to content

New research finds PR practitioners not ready for AI


A new research report on how public relations professionals view artificial intelligence has found that while practitioners are aware of its potential, the knowledge and skills are limited.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR’s) AI and Big Data Readiness Report provides pointers around how the profession can equip itself and draws up recommendations to guide more comprehensive training for the industry.

AI in PR image

Economist Dr Swati Virmani of De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is a panel member of the CIPR’s AIinPR panel and has co-authored the report.

She said: “This research has been a thorough examination of practitioners’ capabilities, roles, training and AI readiness.

“With only a small proportion of PR professionals being well advanced and a majority operating only at a competitive level, it is therefore important to understand ‘where to start’ so that lack of knowledge, challenges and concerns amongst PR practitioners can be overcome and the profession can progress with confidence for an AI future.”

The report found that a significant number of PR practitioners (43.2%) feel less confident and have limited knowledge  in using AI, compared with only a small number (13.9%) who feel very comfortable. However, practitioners are optimistic and have an eagerness to learn. The crucial challenge is, however, they do not know what they need to know and they don’t know where to start. 

Other findings suggest –

  • 41.5% of respondents claim to understand what AI as a technology means but do not consider themselves technical
  • Over one in three (38.9%) PR practitioners feel ‘excited’ about AI compared to just 3.9% who feel ‘overwhelmed’
  • 30% of practitioners are familiar with AI technology but don’t feel confident to apply their knowledge to their role
  • One in five practitioners (20.7%) feel very comfortable using data and analytics in their role compared to just 8.2% of those who feel the same about AI
  • Around one in five practitioners are familiar with the relevance of both AI and Big Data on the communication profession

The report comes up with five key recommendations to improve training as well as incentivise and prioritise learning about AI, big data and how it can impact the role of PR. “These recommendations emphasise steps to move forward to overcome the danger of PR professionals being left behind or get absorbed into related disciplines such as management consultancy.” Dr Virmani said.

Andrew Bruce Smith, chair of the CIPR’s AIinPR panel said: “There is clearly a willingness to learn and adapt – but knowing where to start and a lack of time, training and skills seems to be putting a brake on progress. However, doing nothing is not an option either. AI is already impacting every aspect of PR from strategic planning to writing content. Anyone who wants to have a valued and meaningful career in PR in the coming years should pay great attention to the implications and recommendations from this report.”

The report comes two years after a study found that PR was “lagging behind” other professions in its ability to understand and utilise AI.

Professor Anne Gregory, co-author of the report, said: “We need to get a strategic grip and determine for ourselves what our enhanced role and contribution can be in the organisations we serve. Otherwise others will make the decision for us and it won’t be in our favour. This report serves as the wake-up call.”

The CIPR surveyed 280 practitioners in June and July 2021. The survey was made available globally with the help of the Page Society, Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA), International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), Public Relations Institute of South Africa (PRISA) and Public Relations Society of Kenya (PRSK). The survey was followed by an invitation to provide responses, either recorded or written, to open ended questions around state of skills development, approaches to learning and impact of AI on profession.

Visit the CIPR website to download the report and find out more about the AIinPR Panel's work.

Posted on Wednesday 15th December 2021

  Search news archive