Is it time for 10x PR?

Knowledge work is facing an existential crisis as generative AI has made many organizations question the true productivity potential of employees. The software development world has long mythologized the “10x developer” – the super producer every business wants to stack their engineering team with. Has generative AI created a moment where the 10x PR professional could be a reality? The answer: we have not reached 10x, but are easily at 2-4x depending on the role and function of the PR pro. 

Speed vs. Quality 
What is “10x” supposed to mean, anyway? There are both speed and quality components. Time is money in the world of consulting and professional services, including PR and marketing. Inherently, if we can increase speed, there are some outcomes that can improve for both an agency and its clients. While some agencies (not us) do charge for a group of hours on a retainer basis vs. actual outcomes, the truth is that more of the right work can increase results for clients. 

That said, increasing work quality presents an even more compelling opportunity. What generative AI tools open to PR and marketing pros is the ability to research and understand new ideas and sectors and allow you to test their potential outcomes much faster. The depth of understanding you can get from talking to your clients’ customers is not 100% replaceable with AI, but it can give you a running start and increase your ability to craft storylines that resonate much better than when relying on more traditional research methods. 

Redefining Value 
As more agency and in-house professionals leverage AI tools, the real question becomes – what value do we expect those workers to add? What tasks are we assuming AI tools will be used for, and what parts do we expect them to apply their expertise to? We’re early in this cycle, but some of our clients in the generative AI space encourage us to use these tools and also expect us to do more with our resources as a result. In other cases, companies are much more cautious for reasons of data privacy, IP protection, etc. This is where we expect private LLMs to play an important role. The job market will remain murky until some level of parity is reached about what AI skills are expected of PR and marketing pros. Until then, those workers allowed to exercise these skills will likely outperform their counterparts. Enjoy the advantage while you can! 

Disrupting Business Models
Generative AI is going to upend the traditional pyramid structure of consultancy firms. The “grunt work” assigned to the intern and junior staff hires is all but being eliminated. How then do agencies onboard and train new college graduates? In some cases, we’re hearing that PR and communications departments are not aligned about how they should teach students to use these tools responsibly. I’ve made this case to at least one professor – that not empowering students with these tools and their ethical use is actually harming their job prospects. The new game will be about how quickly new grads can learn agency processes and their clients’ industries to produce compelling pitches, content, and more. 

Still, I’m optimistic. Those of us in agencies are already forced to adapt to change regularly – and those in the tech field face quick iterations of new trends even more. This technology will change our businesses whether we like it or not – it’s best to harness it early and ride the wave to greater client outcomes and revenue. 

This is an adapt-or-die moment for PR and marketing agencies. The great thing is that the barrier to entry for using these platforms at a basic level is low. But the value that scales will come from evaluating every function in the business and adapting those that present opportunities for higher efficiency. Change management is hard. Even the Gen Z and Millennial audiences that pundits point to as most adaptable to new technologies have to learn new approaches – that takes both time and willingness to break old habits. Organizations must lead from the top in the adoption of these tools – relying on the “younger generations” to lead this charge will result in slow uptake at best and a laggard market position at worst. In some cases, we’ve heard stories of AI not being adopted in large organizations on purpose in the effort for some workers to preserve their jobs. Leaning against the “coming wave” as DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman names it, is not likely to be successful.  

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