If you’re working in the creative industries and wondering whether artificial intelligence is going to affect your world – even take your job – you could do worse than talk to Chris Chong. He’s one of that feted breed, the serial entrepreneur and that of course means failure as well as success. “The creativity of entrepreneurship is always trying to stand on the edge of madness and innovation,” he told Spikes Asia 2017. That meant “trying to see where the world will be in two to three years, and trying to position a company so that it takes advantage of those emerging trends.”
Chong’s latest project is SumoStory, built upon the emerging trend of AI capabilities, plus the frustrations that he has personally encountered as an entrepreneur. “There are a lot of pain points that entrepreneurs suffer on a day to day basis, and one of them, that they can never seem to solve, is PR.”
The problem, as he sees it, is that a full-blown PR agency is too expensive for most start-ups, but “the days when an entrepreneur could write to a journalist and beg them to write about them are gone.” The existing PR set-up is not one that works for entrepreneurs.
Time to turn to AI…
What SumoStory tries to do is to use data science to jump in and provide start-ups with an AI-backed PR service at a price they can afford.
First, it looks at the journalists, using a data ‘scraper’ to trawl the internet pulling out “an accurate profile of what they write about and what they like to write about”. It also builds up a picture of the clients – what they do and who is behind it – and uses that to write a press release that programmatically matches it to the journalistic database.
The press release is 80% computer-written using Natural Language Processing, which is still very much a technology in development. “It still needs an experienced PR practitioner who can dress it up and ensure it’s polished enough to pitch to journalists”. In effect, says Chong, this cuts down the PR professional’s input from 4-5 hours to an hour or so.
So what does this mean for the PR industry, and specifically for the jobs of those who work in it?
“Automation gets a really bad rap in the press”, says Chong, citing the talk about driverless cars taking away millions of jobs. But he sees it as something that can be targeted at particular tasks, thereby making working life more effective. “I think that automation needs to be seen as something that can aid our jobs. It takes away the mundane and helps us enhance what we’re good at, which is strategy, decision making.”
In effect, this will keep the creative industries high-skilled, while taking away the mundane and repetitive jobs such as media monitoring and basic drafting that, he says, are often done by “an army of interns”. More specialised tasks, such as polishing press releases, dealing with clients, thinking through strategies, crisis comms, or training staff to be spokespeople, are far, far harder to do – even if they will end up aided by some form of AI.
Chong’s overall message is that AI is a good and positive thing for the creative industries – but for that army of interns, not so much.
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