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  • Writer's pictureLaura Merritt

AI and the Reinvention of Communications

I recently had the pleasure of listening to an excellent podcast presented by PRWeek in partnership with Ruder Finn. The podcast panel, which included Jonathan Adashek, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications and CCO of IBM; Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn; as well as Steve Barrett, Editorial Director of PRWeek, shared their thoughts on the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in reimagining communications. They also discussed how communications professionals can be at the forefront of uniting people in a divided world and unlocking opportunities. In this piece, I share some valuable insights from the podcast.

 

AI is certainly a hot topic these days, and rightfully so. Yet, while most of us have a very basic understanding of what AI is, few of us are actively using it, including communicators.

Are we, as communications professionals, embracing the AI tidal wave? We need to be prepared for the transformation and disruption that come with it. We must pay attention to what’s happening right now with AI, have a good feel for what’s coming (at least in the short term), and have the courage to experiment and even fail sometimes. We also need to consider how we can leverage AI within our organization and achieve the desired results. But we can’t stop there.


As communicators, we need to help the people around us (including leaders) understand what they can do with AI. We accomplish this through demonstrations and by doing what we do best—storytelling— as well as story-showing to bring the AI capabilities to life.


I appreciate this viewpoint. As we know, leaders will face their own unique set of challenges related to AI. To this end, it is key that they shift their leadership styles to respond to the disruption that technology will no doubt bring. Consider that we came from the pandemic being very empathetic and caring and striving to make people feel comfortable. And, now we are dealing with a new set of challenges that must be met if we hope to grow.


Contrary to what some may believe, communication is not just a soft skill—it has a business impact. Politics also has an impact. It’s not just the regulatory aspects of it. It’s the diplomacy aspects. Because the world is so polarized, that having people come together who we know are going to disagree, special skills are required. This is where communication can play a vital role within an organization. By strengthening and combining our communication and political skills we can have a major impact.


When you don’t work in “silos” you can create amazing things. You get exponentially better as you bring more voices in and more opinions to build a plan. And execute against it. Politics is ultimately just about telling stories. You’re just trying to get regulators to go the way you want them to or you’re trying to get voters to support the cause. But you’re doing it through telling stories. Taking all the factors and putting them together and understanding how you let some outweigh others and you let other issues that come up, spin out and take care of themselves. We need to stay focused on the bigger prize. But how can AI help us do that? By analyzing data and sifting through all the data to ensure we make decisions based on fact.


However, we need to watch carefully what the analytics are telling us. Is it going to trend down and therefore we take a more moderated approach, or is it becoming more viral as more factions get involved, and more connection are made in terms of issues kind of clustering together? In that case, we would need to be more aggressive in terms of outreach. AI can also play a role in crisis communications, helping to triage large-scale cyber-attacks and allowing teams to understand how to respond and what to deal with.


AI is projected to double our productivity by 2035. That’s terrific for those who have adapted to this new world. But what about those who don’t? Some are averse to risk which may be security-related (e.g., data leaks) or they may fear making mistakes. And some just don’t like change. Getting these folks out of their comfort zone can be challenging but throwing in the towel isn’t an option. I once heard a phrase that really resonated with me. “AI won’t replace marketers. But marketers who use AI will replace those who don’t.” I’ve since heard variations of this (the original quote is attributed to an IBM study). 


AI is not there to replace individuals, rather, it has the immense opportunity to augment human capital.  It takes away some of the repetitive tasks and performs said tasks in a more efficient and productive manner.  However, to be successful with AI tools, you must learn how to use them and take the time to understand how those tools are going to augment what you’re doing. You also must learn how to work with each other and your team, clients and customers once those tools are deployed. It’s not just about using the tools; it's recognizing that they will require us to work differently.


So, how do you get started? Think first about what you’re trying to solve with AI. AI can help with a wide range of tasks, from automating repetitive tasks to analyzing large amounts of data. By collaborating with your team, others within your organization, your customers, clients and vendors, you can identify the areas where AI can have the biggest impact and develop solutions that meet your specific needs.


In conclusion, AI tools can be incredibly powerful, but they require careful consideration and planning to be used effectively. By embracing change, having the courage to experiment (and to fail!) and learning how to use AI tools, we can unlock their full potential and drive innovation. AOE has a team of experts skilled in the use of AI for a variety of uses, so reach out today to explore the best means for integrating it into your plans for 2024.


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