Maxim Behar On "Focus" Radio: PR Experts Need To Know How To Use The Advantages Of AI, But Also Not Forget About The Risks.
Host (Jivko Krustev): AI is already a part of our professional daily life. We put a lot of hopes in it, and many of them are justified. The Bulgarian Association of PR Agencies accepted principles for the use of artificial intelligence in PR. Given the fast development in this field, AI has the potential to optimize processes and assist in addressing ethical dilemmas in agencies and companies. I'm very pleased to have Maxim Behar in our studio, a leading PR expert with huge experience and a strong presence worldwide. He is also a person with exceptionally broad cultural knowledge.
Maxim Behar: Good morning to Radio Focus!
Host: Welcome! I'm very happy to have you here today to discuss artificial intelligence. From this perspective, how will it influence, it's already influencing, PR agencies?
Maxim: I would compare what's been happening in the last year with AI to the appearance of social media 20-22 years ago. Back then, many people were afraid and concerned. How will we distinguish real news from fake news? How can we have so many friends? Do we have copyright for all this? Aren't people peeking into our personal lives? How disturbing, how risky is that. But here we are, in 2024, we are all in social media, sharing pictures all day and night. Similarly, artificial intelligence is entering our lives and makes them easier. Of course, it has its risks and concerns, I would say, not disadvantages, with which we need to get used to. What we did in our Association of PR Agencies (BAPRA) was actively participate in the congress of the World PR Organization in Warsaw. I am a former president, but still part of the executive committee, we are seven. At the World Organization, we accepted these principles for ethical behavior in using AI. BAPRA, the Bulgarian Association, was the first to translate and adopt them, and we were congratulated by many other organizations worldwide. Congratulations to our board, congratulations to the association. More importantly, in the PR business, we need to be able to distinguish where AI can truly be useful, where it can benefit our clients, and how we can protect ourselves from slipping into the vast sea or ocean of information we receive.
Host: What's the question? How are we going to adapt?
Maxim: Well, there are a few ways. First, always keep in mind that when you write something and you want an AI application or assistant to tell you about it, it may turn out that 80% of the information is not accurate. I wouldn't say that someone intentionally wants to mislead us, but the algorithms of different software sometimes take information that has been published over time, and it may not have been correct, or it doesn't take it from the right sources. That's why, in my opinion, the most important thing is always to approach with consideration. Then check the information 2 or 3 times. Do your research. I do this every day when using AI. And only when we are sure, first, that the information is correct, and second, that what artificial intelligence offers us is copyrighted because that is also a big question mark. How do we use the copyrights of the texts it provides us? AI can take text from a scientific publication or an article by someone who holds the copyrights, and suddenly we write it as our own. Completely innocently, and I would say even unintentionally and without realizing it. That's why we need to carefully check whether this quote or fact or position, opinion, vision, has not been literally copy-pasted from somewhere, to be on the safe side in terms of copyright.
Host: These are really important questions. We are used to things being legally regulated. Everything related to copyrights that we touch is supposed to be regulated. However, it turns out that it's not that simple. The rapid development of the past year has contributed to this imbalance.
Maxim: It is currently legally regulated, as it has always been, of course. Each country has its laws, there are international laws. However, the use of AI provides more opportunities for someone to misuse or slip, unintentionally, without knowing, to take material that belongs to someone else and try to use it or present it as their own. This has happened before, but now we can easily wash our hands with artificial intelligence and say, "I wrote something, and this thing popped up, and I decided to use it." But let me tell you, if I put on the scales what has been happening in the past year with AI, maybe 10% has a risk, maybe there are opportunities for misuse or receiving incorrect information. 90% are undeniable advantages. The fact that it gives us quick information gathered in one place, the ability to create graphic designs, change photos, make advertisements. Sometimes, in the evening at my when I don't feel like sleeping, I pour myself a glass of wine, and start playing with artificial intelligence using various software. It can create ads as good as a graphic designer, for example. The possibilities of AI are just beginning to develop, and we need to get used to it and absorb it. Just like back in the day, 120 years ago, when Henry Ford introduced the first car, called the gasoline cart, and everyone said, "No, this cannot exist because where will we get gasoline, what if the engine breaks, what if the tire bursts, what if we hit someone? This monster kills people. No, it can't be." But today, we have traffic rules. We all drive cars, have traffic lights that we follow. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't. Eventually, they gave us the freedom and the opportunity to move faster. The same will happen with AI. Everything will fit into limits; we will create traffic lights for it, rules for its use. I am very happy that technologies are developing in this way, building upon what started with social media 20 years ago. I wrote the book "The Global PR Revolution" in 2019, which was first published in America and then in Bulgaria. I truly believe that social media brought the great revolution in communication and in relationships between people. Who could have imagined 10-15 years ago that we would have 5,000 friends and could contact them, share who we're going out with, share our problems, failures, successes, and achievements, potentially with 4 billion people worldwide who use social media and can take your information, translate it, praise you, hate you, and everything that is human nature. That's why I think artificial intelligence is currently building on what we got from social media. First, instant communication with anyone in the world and, second, which is also very important, this communication can be measured. You can see how many people liked your photo, how many saw it, how many shared it, who wrote something you don't like, or someone who acknowledged you. Everything is measurable, and for the first time, this is happening in media worldwide. Not to mention the other huge advantage that they are interactive. Just 20 years ago, if I had said something on Radio Focus, there would be no one to react to it. To agree or disagree. But now, anyone can write on Facebook, Instagram, Tik-Tok, Linkedin, Twitter, wherever they want, an opinion on my opinion. They can argue, object, and then I will step in and defend my position or apologize. This is great, and it reflects sharply on communication between people, not just in business. I leave the business aspect aside; it strongly influences relationships between people and makes them better despite all the hate, all the complaining all day and night, and dissatisfaction that exists. This is 10, 15, 20%. The other, however, is joy, sharing, and really makes relationships between people and people themselves better.
Host: A very interesting perspective. In fact, we live in a time where anyone can be an influencer. And due to the growth of social media in the last 10 years, everyone has access to the opportunity to be a public figure, but not everyone knows how to be one. Do Bulgarians understand the PR as a profession?
Maxim: Not everyone can be an influencer. Potentially, of course, they can, also potentially everyone can fly an airplane but not everyone knows how to do that. Yes, everyone has access to media; there are 4 billion media outlets worldwide, 4 billion people who own media, and that's why I often say that our PR profession, the PR specialist, is a weird mix of a publisher, editor, and reporter. This is the big change, actually. Publishers because we own media. We own our media, but we also manage and own the media of our clients. We are editors because when you write something on Facebook or Instagram, you need to think a little about how to write it properly, how to write it so that it has an impact, that others understand it, that you express your thoughts well. And reporters, mainly, because all of us who write something want to make news. And the word reporter etymologically comes from the word report. To bring or invent news or share news. That's why I think everyone potentially can be an influencer, but not everyone is, of course. And the job title- influencer is a topic that can continue for many hours. I have big concerns about all these young, beautiful girls who open some creams, apply them, make sounds, and moan in front of their mobile phones about how nice these creams are and how they tighten their wrinkles, and then they share it. I think people like Georgi Gospodinov (Bulgarian writer), or people like musicians, conductors – Sonia Yoncheva (Bulgarian opera singer), and many others, are more valuable and higher-quality influencers than the girls with the creams or the clothes. But in the end, there is a market for everyone. Everyone can express themselves as they want, and the clients' job is to think about who and how they pay. Yes, the word, the abbreviation PR or public relations, in Bulgaria, is somehow dualistic amongst many people because, on the one hand, the majority understand our profession as people who communicate well with or through the media. Specialists who help our clients sell their goods better, broadcast, send their messages more understandably. On the other hand, there is a slightly negative point of view because when you say, "He is doing PR?" it means someone is lying, someone is manipulating, something is not quite right. In the Bulgarian Association of PR Agencies (BAPRA), we actively explain and organize various events to overcome this somewhat negative or shadowy effect. The truth is that this is a wonderful profession in which we make our clients' messages understandable to their audience. And very often they ask me - What do you do? Well, what I do is saying something to your clients or your followers or the people interested in you in a way that they understand. Of course, the words honesty or truth are very important here because we must work and handle only the truth and tell our clients what their true advantages are. So they can be better communicated to their clients or followers. And that's why our profession is essential because we stand between clients and their clients or their followers or audiences who are interested in them. And we are the ones who, in the most accurate, honest, and truthful way possible, must express their messages. I twisted it quite a bit, I understand it...
Host: But it’s a vast topic...
Maxim: Telling the truth in a way that people understand it, that's our profession – Public Relations.
Host: Is artificial intelligence creating difficulties in expressing the truth?
Maxim: It creates more advantages, making us more knowledgeable and flexible. At the same time, it carries corresponding risks, just like social media did, like newspapers, books, radios, and televisions did in the past. Now everything is online and in real-time, but eventually, we are happy that there is artificial intelligence. We are happy that information can be shared faster and gathered more easily.
Host: Yes. "Ethics and regulations." This event will take place tomorrow. What can our listeners expect from this event?
Maxim: Ethics are very important because we are people who influence public opinion. We are experts, specialists who communicate with our clients, who send messages, and if we, in some way, mislead our clients and our audience that respects us, or reads us, the risk is that we will weaken not only our business but also the one of our clients. Mostly, from a personal point of view, ethics, honesty, integrity, loyalty are extremely important qualities for our business. And this is the absolute foundation. This is the reason to organize this event with the Bulgarian Association of PR Agencies tomorrow at 10:00 AM, specifically dedicated to the ethical risks that AI carries. My friend Christina Forsgard, a PR expert from Finland will speak. We are currently writing a book with Christina. It will be released, I hope, no later than May, and it's called "The Power Of Trust." In this book everything that will be discussed tomorrow will be described in detail, with opinions from about 50 top PR experts from around the world. How they see the impact of AI. What risks they see. What they do in their companies. And I think it will be an extremely interesting and timely book because there are quite a few books on artificial intelligence so far, but no one, at least from what we checked with Christina, has focused on the ethical risks or ethical issues of this business. And I think the event will be very useful for colleagues from PR companies in Bulgaria, who are very often asking these same questions that you are asking me now. How to use AI so that we can trust it 100%? How to operate with it to be as accurate, precise, and at the same time, use its software capabilities in the best possible way. But since I saw that I have many interruptions for music, if the girls from the control room manage to find my song "PR we are," which we recently recorded with Misho Shamara- Bulgarian rapper, and with his son and with an American singer who is currently, by the way, in the first place in the ranking of the largest American hip-hop radio "Hot 21", there are also many things related to PR explained in it.
Host: I am glad that we managed to do the interview just when the song came out because it's different, we didn't expect it from you. But it pleasantly surprised us.
Maxim: Well, I'm still in first place in the "Hot 21" ranking, and I'm extremely surprised. Because this is not my business, but as my friend Polly Genova-Bulgarian pop singer told me - "Max, you invested a lot of energy in this song, and there was no way it wouldn't be successful."
Host: That's true, and I admire your ability always to stay updated. Many people are afraid to even approach CHATGPT, different AI models generating images, and we were talking about how you're having fun with it.
Maxim: Well, you see, a person must take risks and engage in interesting things so that they can look at life from different perspectives. Otherwise, we are stuck in business, standing behind these monitors and keyboards and phones and tablets all day. We work, and we can't see the forest; we see the trees around us, but we can't see the whole forest. That's why I try to do various projects, books, music, films, so I can look at my business from different perspectives, and that brings me a lot of advantages.
Host: Is that the most important skill for a good PR expert, to see the big picture, and to keep evolving?
Maxim: Those qualities come with experience. They can't happen in a year or two, but eventually, it's very important to have a vision at least six months, one year ahead. Even though we live in a dynamic world. Don’t just look at what will happen today because what will happen today, you will handle. But if you know what you want to do in 1 year or 2 years, then you can certainly succeed.
Host: That's true. The key word, it seems, is "adaptation." We've been repeating it throughout the past year. To adapt to...
Maxim: Can I make a correction? The key word is "innovation" or something new, something interesting. Because we can easily adapt, but when you adapt without innovation, without interesting ideas, you're just sitting there being adaptive and nothing more. That's why I prefer to have innovation or something new or something interesting as the key word, if I have to avoid foreign words, but mainly, to do different things.
Host: Maxim Behar, who is always in sync with innovations, always evolving. It was a pleasure talking to you.
Maxim: Thank you very much!
Host: I'll be happy to have you as a guest to present the upcoming book.
Maxim: It will be a pleasure, and I wish success to this wonderful Radio Focus, that I listen to in my car. Congratulations!
Host: Thank you very much.