We’ve been strongly warned by Stephen Hawking and other eminent thinkers to take the potential dangers of artificial general intelligence seriously. The disruptive force of artificial reputation intelligence, while less nihilist and more niche in its nature, is perhaps worth some of our focus given its more immediate repercussions in the field.
We are right to worry about the potential impact of advanced machine learning, data mining and AI on the world of corporate relations and reputation management. Much of this worry is driven out of a span of control argument – how much data in an exponentially changing world can increasingly smaller teams be expected to humanly digest and act upon? As well as a value argument – what is the true value of a corporate communications department in a world where everyone will be empowered to be amazing communicators?
The first point is already being addressed by savvy corporate communicators who are starting to adopt advanced techniques and ‘near-AI’ tools to understand both where their company currently stands and what’s to come. Only by connecting the dots between various siloed in-house data sets and external listening posts and databases, are they able to peer into the future and help carve out the next shape of their companies against the emerging landscape. We’ve only seen the seeds of what the tri-partite marriage between AI enabled data aggregation, open stakeholder dialogue and expert extrapolation can bring. One example is that taken by leading firms in applying carefully calibrated strategic reputation dashboards that both integrate and cross-analyse all relevant data and intel, and then enable and encourage the professional communicators, business leaders and employees at large to take appropriate action.
The second, a communicator value argument, can also be addressed through emergent technology. Those who embrace better human + machine enabled analytics, content creation and (micro) targeting in their work, will be more successful than the non-AI-enabled traditional communicator. The power is in the pairing of human creativity and emotional intelligence (intrinsic to our field) with the wider and deeper processing power that AI promises. Only by smartly adopting this technology in stakeholder engagement, and enabling the wider business to use it well, can corporate communicators avoid being disrupted by it.
Yet, as the professional corporate communication community scrambles to put the ‘C’ back into ‘ICT’, some mis-steps are likely. It’s all too easy think that buying into one data aggregation package or standard reputation metric is the solution (however fancy the data analytics seem at face value). Or that hiring a few digital communication specialists will be a viable solution. We are best advised as corporate relations professionals to stay abreast of all digital developments including AI and embrace the opportunities smartly and early, in that order. As recent research shows, the function is increasingly positioned as a strategic advisor to the business and no longer has to fight for a ‘seat at the table’. We can only keep this seat if we continue doing what we do best- making our companies future ready through our unique ability to understand the emerging landscape and positioning our organisations in it, using whatever technologies that help.