top of page
  • JCI Blog

A Transformative Trio: How Artificial Intelligence, the Metaverse, and Blockchain Technology Impact the Future of Marketing and PR




By Jack Brockman


The marketing and public relations (PR) professions have always been among the first to embrace cutting-edge technology. Now, as game-changing tech is introduced to markets seemingly every year, practitioners are being constantly forced to adapt.


In the last few years, three significant technological developments have changed the landscape of marketing and PR as we know it. It all began when blockchains – popularized by the cryptocurrency craze during the global pandemic – hit the financial scene in the latter half of 2021. Months later, Facebook popularized the metaverse by investing heavily in the digital realm – even changing Facebook’s parent company name to “Meta” in 2022. Most recently, Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools such as ChatGPT and DALL-E gained traction in 2023, granting users the ability to autonomously generate intricate content in an instant, and with unprecedented creativity. It’s only a matter before these technologies bring about significant change in the marketing and PR business. 


Artificial Intelligence (AI)


The ruthlessness of T-800 from The Terminator, the savviness of J.A.R.V.I.S. from Iron Man, and the emotional intelligence of Samantha from Her: what do they all have in common? They are all manifestations of humanity’s grappling with AI. Hollywood's many portrayals of Artificial Intelligence over the years are varied, ranging from world-dominating death bots to complicated love interests. Beyond the cinematic drama, however, one undeniable truth stands: AI is on the brink of transforming the world.


Professionals and students alike have already begun experimenting with new generative AI tools to improve efficiency and reduce costs in their respective work environments by automating certain tasks. Many of the day-to-day deliverables of many marketing and PR practitioners – creating media lists, conducting research, drafting pitches, copy, and content, among other things – can now be completed instantly by AI. Additionally, many of these tools are capable of powerful data interpretation, providing PR practitioners with previously inaccessible insights to inform their campaigns. By harnessing the capabilities of AI, professionals can gather and analyze massive sets of data to inform their strategies and decision-making processes. By leveraging AI, PR practitioners can streamline their tasks, increase efficiency, and, most importantly, save money.


All of this sounds great until you realize what it might mean for your job. Do companies really need interns or entry-level employees if AI can accomplish all of these tasks for them? It’s complicated.


Many detractors of the use of generative AI in marketing and public relations cite the inevitable job displacement on the horizon. However, what they fail to see is that internships and entry-level positions themselves won’t disappear, but the roles and responsibilities of these positions, as we know them, will. Whereas previously a candidate’s writing and media acumen were differentiators during the hiring process, the most coveted skills going forward will become prompt generation and critical thinking.


This shift will also bring with it an opportunity to focus on the more strategic aspects of the work, creating a new, more effective generation that masters both the creative, and analytic aspects of the profession. Universities and other educational institutions should begin pivoting their curriculum from a focus on fundamental skills of PR and marketing to high-brow concepts such as data science, machine learning, digital tools, consumer behavior, and psychology in response to these developments. Additionally, firms, agencies, and any business needing communicators should create professional development opportunities for their employees in these areas to get ahead of the curve. Investments in these areas will allow the new generations to optimize campaign performance, and increase ROI like never before in a world powered by AI.


Granted, there is no way of knowing for sure what the emergence of AI means for the future of these professions. In truth, it could take over the world Sky-Net style or end up fading into irrelevance after a few years of hype. In the meantime, though, marketing and PR practitioners must remain diligent and learn to embrace this technology for its potential. As a wise man once said: “The future has not been written. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.”


That man was John Connor – another Terminator reference.


The Metaverse


Not long before AI became the talk of the town, it was the metaverse that had everyone buzzing. The concept took root in the early 1990s and has since evolved, driven by virtual and augmented reality technology advancements. Today, it represents a groundbreaking digital universe made up of countless interconnected digital spaces where users interact, socialize, and engage in immersive experiences. It’s a sandbox for creativity and, of course, innovative marketing and PR strategies.


"Metaverse isn't a thing a company builds. It's the next chapter of the internet overall,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Co-founder, executive chairman and CEO of Meta Platforms. 


The metaverse’s emergence has several interesting implications for the marketing and public relations professions. First, the technology adds a whole new dimension for interacting with the public. No longer will organizations and companies scramble to be noticed on a saturated social feed or an inbox. The metaverse allows companies to bring new experiences and stories right to the consumer on the digital plane, providing a new frontier for experiential marketing. This avenue of brand storytelling multiplies the reach and effectiveness of company messages tenfold. Creatives and strategists at these companies can now focus on crafting memorable and impactful experiences in the metaverse for potential customers, capitalizing on a brand-new avenue for establishing brand loyalty.


While interacting in a digital realm holds promise, the metaverse hasn’t worked out all of the kinks just yet. Technological limitations, privacy and security concerns, and apprehension from the investment community have led companies to scale back their metaverse initiatives for the time being. 


This, in large part, can be attributed to the public failure of Meta’s Reality Labs division – their department exploring AR, VR, and metaverse-related technologies – reporting losses totaling $46.5 billion since 2019 in their October 2023 Q3 earnings report. As a result, Meta has undergone several rounds of job cuts in the past few years, laying off thousands of employees. This failure has drawn skepticism from Wall Street regarding the efficacy of the metaverse going forward, thus lowering the allocation of time and resources spent by many companies toward the digital realm. 


Although the metaverse has taken a backseat as of late, Burghardt Tenderich, Professor of Professional Practice of Journalism, Associate Director of the Center for Public Relations, and Co-Director of the Public Relations and Advertising (MA) program at the University of Southern California (USC), contends that the resurgence of the metaverse is inevitable:


“We’re going to look back at Zoom and laugh at how we used to interact with one another over the pandemic.”


Although the technology hasn’t even scraped the heights seen in Ready Player One just yet, the sheer potential it brings is worth noting.


Blockchains


The pandemic changed everything, including our perception, and appreciation, of social interaction. However, it had an understated, yet equally impactful, effect on transactions through the emergence of blockchain and, in turn, cryptocurrency. Blockchain is the manifestation of the concept of Web 3, which is said to be the next evolution of the Internet. Whereas Web 1 saw users limited to a “read-only” interaction with the internet, and Web 2 brought about the capability to participate in the internet, Web 3 now brings the ability to own (at least part) of the internet.


"Blockchain is the beginning of something great: a shift from an internet of information to an internet of value,” said William Mougayar, Toronto-based investor, researcher, and blogger, in his best-selling book “The Business Blockchain.”


By definition, blockchains are open ledgers that record transactions between two parties in a verifiable and permanent manner. Each transaction is recorded in a “block,” and these blocks are then grouped in chains to provide a record of the entire history of transactions on the ledger. A common way to think of blockchain is like a spreadsheet that everyone can access, but no one can edit. In essence, it’s a method of decentralizing almost every type of transaction – financial and otherwise – and cutting out the middlemen.


One of the most significant applications of AI in PR and marketing will be something seemingly no other tool can accomplish: combating misinformation. In the age of fake news spreading like wildfire on popular social media platforms and news outlets alike, it’s hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t. With blockchains, though, all transactions – in this case, news stories and social media posts – are recorded permanently and publicly. These chains of information are stored publicly for anyone to see, ensuring the immutability of information and making it more difficult for malicious actors to manipulate or spread false information. 


Another interesting application of blockchain within marketing and PR lies in a certain topical digital asset known as non-fungible tokens or “NFTs,” which exist on blockchains. The concept of NFTs is an enigma to many given their inherent subjectivity of value. NFTs challenge traditional notions of worth, deriving their value from factors like scarcity, uniqueness, and cultural significance, and often defined by subjective perceptions; just like art. This subjective valuation, however, opens up a compelling opportunity for companies and organizations to harness their inner Da Vinci or Warhol and explore NFTs as a new frontier for brand extensions.


For many, NFTs represent more than just digital assets: they serve as a bridge between the physical and digital worlds, allowing brands to tokenize their intellectual property. By leveraging NFTs, companies can create new avenues for fan engagement, fostering a deeper connection with their audience. This connection is not merely transactional but can evolve into a shared digital experience where the ownership of a unique token signifies a tangible link to the brand, organization, or community.


Although NFTs are a relatively niche interest, marketing and PR professionals must monitor this interest in digital assets going forward. Obscure marks made into NFTs are selling for thousands, if not millions of dollars each day. After all, you never know when demand for something as crazy as digital toilet paper with flowers will help turn your company a profit.


That’s right, turns out Charmin’s marketing strategies are indeed “Ultra-Strong.”


The Path Forward


Although it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of new technology that presents a new world of opportunities for our profession, there are significant ethical issues to consider. Security, authenticity, and longevity are all common themes surrounding this group of technology. Our use and exploration of AI, the metaverse, and blockchain calls for a delicate balance between embracing the possibilities that these technologies offer and addressing the potential issues they present. 


Renowned futurist Alvin Toffler once said, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." Marketing and PR practitioners must remain vigilant, continuously adapt, and cultivate a nuanced understanding of the evolving relationship between technology of this scale and the human-centric aspects of their disciplines.


After all, failure to embrace these technologies will most certainly leave practitioners at a severe disadvantage in an increasingly competitive landscape.


"Innovation needs to be part of your culture. Consumers are transforming faster than we are, and if we don't catch up, we’re in trouble.”

Ian Schafer, Co-founder/ CEO of Kindred and founder/ former CEO of Deep Focus



Comments


bottom of page