Review: #PRStack: AI tools for marketing, media and public relations

About the author

Richard Bailey Hon FCIPR is editor of PR Academy's PR Place Insights. He teaches and assesses undergraduate, postgraduate and professional students.

Created with the help of Stable Diffusion AI Image Generator
Created with the help of Stable Diffusion AI Image Generator

Review: #PRstack: AI tools for marketing, media and public relations
Edited by Stephen Waddington
FutureProof, 2023, 120 pages

The progress has been so rapid in the twelve months since OpenAI launched ChatGPT that only two books about AI seem possible.

There’s value in a book that takes the long view of technology and asks the big questions about AI while avoiding details about the latest tools. Or there’s the instant ebook by an expert such as Christopher S. Penn whose The Woefully Incomplete Book of Generative AI from July 2023 acknowledged in its title that even an expert writing an instant book is necessarily producing something unfinished.

The latest in the #FutureProof series is a hybrid: it is only available in print or as a Kindle ebook, but was speedily produced by crowdsourced contributions. A mere three months elapsed between the call for contributions and the published book. 

So we have 21 chapters from slightly fewer contributors (Laura Richards and Claire Simpson both wrote two). Sarah Waddington (the inspiration behind #FutureProof) and her life-and business-partner Stephen Waddington (who co-created #PRStack and before that Share This and Share This Too) both contributed short introductions.

The three sections cover large language models (LLMs), AI productivity tools and AI in public relations platforms (ie the view of vendors).

The book’s focus is on tools and there’s no space here for questions about ethics, or copyright, or the impact of AI on PR jobs. We explored some of these broader questions in our briefing on AI published in September.

‘We can already see that November 2022 was an inflection point’, writes Stephen Waddington. ‘The rapid arrival and accessibility of a new generation of generative AI and machine learning tools and services, coupled with the relatively easy ability to integrate these technologies, has since created the potential for significant effects on all aspects of public relations practice.’

A useful table lists the 23 AI tools covered in the book. A brief review can’t cover them all, so I should declare my approach. 

My starting point is more ‘who would I most like to learn from’ than ‘what would I like to learn about’.

Luckily, the two questions are both answered in the first chapter in which Andrew Bruce Smith (the very first person I would turn to in UK public relations for an expert view on AI) reviews Anthropic’s Claude AI.

‘Its key strength lies in its large (75,000 word) context window. In other words, Claude can receive, analyse and return very large amounts of information [from] a wide variety of file formats, such as PDFs, spreadsheets and presentations.’

That makes for a contrast with ChatGPT, reviewed by Ben Lowndes. ‘Practitioners won’t get decent outputs without the right input and refinements based on their professional judgement.’

Laura Richards reviews image generators and their role in content creation. ‘Stable Diffusion is the most flexible AI image generator, allowing users more control over the style of image it generates. It’s also open source, meaning it’s possible to train it using proprietary datasets.’

We’re now ready to move into lesser known tools and Claire Simpson introduces Anyword, ‘an AI writer that helps marketers produce ‘on brand’ content.’ Not only this, but it can audit your existing brand content ‘to understand the content that performs best on your channels and inform future output.’

Philippe Borremans introduces Taskade, ‘a productivity platform tailored for teams and collaborative work. It aims to be an all-in-one solution for task and project management.’

Measurement expert James Crawford reviews OpenAI’s Advanced Data Analysis Plug-In (renamed from Code Interpreter) which ‘allows users to execute Python code in a sandbox environment…. Python code is a set of instructions that tells a computer what to do. It is written in a language that is similar to English but with stricter rules and syntax.’

The ‘no code’ movement was mentioned by two other authors and this is also a reminder that AI is making coding accessible to the rest of us. For what is an AI prompt but a plain English means of instructing a machine (ie programming)?

And finally, the vendors introduce BuzzSumo, PRophet (Aaron Kwittken may have something to sell, but I’ve found that he also has much wisdom to share), Prowly, OnePitch and Propel.

How should you use this book?

View the authors as early adopters; you’re probably not because you have a day job to focus on. But you won’t want to miss out because AI is not a fad; this will affect public relations and you will want its effect to be positive rather than negative on your work.

So you should aim to be in the early majority – avoiding too much time-wasting but able to implement some tools that aid your productivity while becoming better able to advise others on the potential – and the pitfalls – of AI from a position of experience.

So if you’re too busy to roll up your sleeves and have a play with some of these tools (just 23 from the almost 6,000 identified by the CIPR’s AI in PR Panel), then pass on this book to a member of your team and ask them to experiment and report back.

As Aaron Kwittken said somewhat wryly in a webinar about AI, ‘the last big innovation in the PR world was email.’ We already know this is the moment technology takes a great leap forward. And as another of these authors, Philippe Borremans, has shown in his own ebook, AI tools are not only transforming junior tasks but offer the potential to assist with more sophisticated challenges such as crisis communication.

You can’t afford to miss out on this. Never has the #FutureProof name seemed more appropriate.

UPDATE: This article was corrected on 7 December to add in mention of the Kindle version of this book.