Anne Gregory

Professor of Corporate Communications

Professor Anne Gregory leads the project group for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations into the impact that Artificial Intelligence will have on the Public Relations industry… but good and bad!

A PROFESSOR at the University of Huddersfield is heading an investigation into the impact that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making on professions and on wider society.

The project will result in a database charting the development of a technology that could see huge numbers of jobs axed as well as new jobs being created and which raises a wide range of ethical issues, such as ways that big data could be used for purposes of manipulation.

Anne Gregory is Professor of Corporate Communications at the University and a former president of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).  She now leads its project group that is conducting a global review into the effect that AI is having on public relations and other professions.

“AI can be used for malevolent as well as beneficial purposes,” she said.  “This project aims to raise awareness of all the issues, good and bad.”

The CIPR project headed by Professor Gregory has invited submissions to a review of the research that has been conducted into the impact of AI.  It is hoped that this will be completed by the close of 2018 and that the resultant, publically accessible database summarising the findings will be available in the first quarter of 2019.

“Generating a searchable repository of this kind will help us understand the potential impact of AI on the PR profession so that we can start a conversation about what its future shape could and should be,” said Professor Gregory, who adds that the findings will also have wider relevance.

“Big changes are ahead.  What is happening goes to the very heart of what it means to be a profession, especially when knowledge and the ability to guide decisions via evidence much more quickly and accurately than human professionals can become the preserve of machines.”

people holding microphones

Artificial Intelligence advancements

Professor Gregory has given presentations – including a recent lecture in Melbourne, Australia – that have analysed the potential impact of AI on the jobs market.  There have been predictions that as much as 50 per cent all paid work could be vulnerable to the technology, and that there is 17.5 per cent likelihood of PR jobs being taken through automation.

The generation of much written content can be carried out by AI, and the management of PR campaigns and research, although some areas of the profession, which entail life experience, are less susceptible, said Professor Gregory.

“Wisdom and judgment are acquired through the ‘school of hard knocks’ and it’s difficult for machines to learn the subtleties of the different choices that can be made.  The right thing to do is not always the logical thing to do. All this raises big questions about what are we going to teach.  How are students going to get this worldly wisdom and develop judgment?”

Ethical issues and the importance of raising awareness are a major motivation for the research conducted by Professor Gregory for the CIPR.

“For example, using big data combined with psychological profiling to understand what motivates huge proportions of the population can affect the way that organisations and governments communicate with us and we are not even aware of this.  The potential for manipulation is huge.”