Notes from the near future of PR work

It’s 8:45am on Friday. A WFH day in the near future.

Woman looking at laptop screen

Sally grabs her tea, moves to her desk and settles in. Her laptop lights up. “Hey Sally. Sleep well? I’ve got your morning brief ready.”

Sally’s digital work double (a virtual AI assistant she’s nicknamed 'DeeDee') has been busy while she sleeps – accepting messages from multiple work and private channels, and auto responding where it’s able. On the left of her screen is a brief summary of what DeeDee has actioned overnight and what it needs assistance interpreting.

A media scanner has picked up six new client mentions. Five positive and one negative. DeeDee has already prepped a summary, including sentiment and risk analysis, and added to Sally’s weekly report which is due this afternoon.

DeeDee has also generated a list of potential news jack stories based on trending news analysis, and prepared initial media briefs for Sally to review. She scans, rejects those she knows the client isn’t looking for, and approves the more engaging stories – tweaking some of the copy to make it a little more personal.

“OK, these pitches are good to go,” says Sally. DeeDee messages the journalists’ virtual assistants asking if there’s an opportunity for their humans to jump on a quick call. Two accept. Their assistants set up holo-calls for later that morning and drop details into their calendars.

Holographic calls, or “Holos”, have killed off Zoom and Team meetings, moving instead to holographic faces neatly stacked above work monitors. They hover in the air in translucent 3D, with a person's virtual assistant sitting to the far left. Assistants take meeting notes, transcribe to text, and assemble to do items mentioned in the meeting. Once trained they’re also able to assign, and in some cases wholly complete, tasks for their humans.

Time sheets, WIPs, basic media releases, and reporting is now pretty much handled by an AI – giving Sally more head space to work on strategy and creative problem solving for nuanced projects.

One of Holo’s killer features is ‘Direct gaze’, a toggle that auto-corrects a caller’s eyes to look straight into the camera through realtime eye position manipulation. While it may sound minor it’s actually helped address some of the fatigue issues triggered during the recent Pandemic, and general weirdness that came with talking to people who never look you in the eye. 3D holograms also feel more present and relatable than a grid of 2D faces.

Sally glances at DeeDee, who raises its eye brows and slightly tilts its head in a questioning look. “Need something?” it asks.

Sally's assistant looks like the antagonist from the latest South Korean cult film. The young actor has made more selling their face rights than the movie contract paid – with thousands of assistants using their look alike.

“I’d like to produce a 60 second video post for publishing on the company TikTok account please,” asks Sally.

A copy input interface appears on her laptop, with fields for Title, Copy and Style. Sally begins writing a brief for the videos. She describes two front facing actors sitting on a couch in a modern office setting. Natural lighting. A glass table with coffees and two work pads. And an orange office cat sitting next to some green office plants.

Sally types out the conversational narrative and selects language tone via the presets. She ticks “Casual”, “Light upbeat” plus “Persuade”. The tool presents word and grammar suggestions to meet Sally’s tone requests, which she accepts.

She hits ‘Produce’. 30 seconds later a preview appears of her directed clip. Everything rendered in the scene, including lifelike animated characters and their voices (called ‘synths’), has been generated by the AI. Sally uses the edit function to make subtle modifications to talking speed and pause time between lines. It feels more natural on the 2nd take, which she OKs for export and publishing by DeeDee.

With a three week vacation starting Monday, Sally moves to briefing DeeDee with her project status reports and handover notes. It will take most of the day as she’s guided through a series of prompts, forked responses and suggestions. When Sally is on leave DeeDee will be ready to answer questions from her teammates, continue supplying basic project inputs, and negotiating future meeting requests.

If it’s urgent, DeeDee will message her, but Sally is ready for a break so some extra training should make her virtual assistant primed and ready to assist the team while she’s offline.

Sally spends the afternoon dealing with fallout from a synth that tricked a company’s CFO into transferring funds to a bitcoin wallet. Scammers generated a synth – a photorealistic holo of the CEO – and used it to trick the CFO into sending currency. They even synthesised voice and facial mannerisms by skimming public videos of the CEO presenting at a conference. It’s impossible to pick the real CEO from the fake one, so the Board is upset but understanding.

This type of crisis work is tricky. Internal comms and change management, legal repercussions, fraud reporting, and reputation management are all part of the playbook. They also need some creative spin to control public narrative and regain trust.

Sally and her team take on this challenge personally, only using their virtual assistants for meeting notes. There’s some serious creative problem solving that only humans can manage for now.

It’s the end of the day. Sally reviews DeeDee’s completed weekly media report, makes some minor adjustments and approves for release to the client.

With DeeDee flipped to ‘Fully autonomous mode’, Sally closes her laptop and heads into the night for send off drinks with her teammates.

– – –

While this post is fiction, elements of the technologies involved are already with us.

With the future of work becoming increasingly automated, the future workplace will see a growing collaboration between people and AIs to deliver projects. Understanding how these tools can enhance your work will be critical, as will the use of creative and strategic thinking – a very human process that may never be replaced by machines.

Here’s a list of similar technologies mentioned above. Some are advanced; others are in their infancy.

AI-Writer uses state-of-the-art AI writing models to generate articles from just a headline
https://ai-writer.com/

Create AI-generated training videos – no humans needed
https://www.synthesia.io/

Conversational AI is making customer service smarter
https://venturebeat.com/2022/04/21/beyond-chatbots-how-conversational-ai-makes-customer-service-smarter/

DALL-E composes complex images from written text instructions
https://www.technologyreview.com/2022/04/06/1049061/dalle-openai-gpt3-ai-agi-multimodal-image-generation/

Video conference holograms
https://www.fastcompany.com/90730176/startup-matsuko-zoom-meetings-holograms
https://www.wired.com/story/google-project-starline/

How deepfakes are being used to change the course of war
https://edition.cnn.com/2022/03/25/tech/deepfakes-disinformation-war/index.html

And for some light, albeit frightening entertainment, here’s a collection of deepfake Tom Cruise videos
https://www.tiktok.com/@deeptomcruise?lang=en