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Artificial Intelligence – the key to ‘Super-Human Communication’?

In the last part of my blog I scratched the surface of the mind-blowing world of AI, which has remained a neglected topic in the communication industry.

Why? – Because AI is in its infancy and may offend our idea of what it means to be human.

The communication industry is a particularly human profession because it relies on meaningful and trustful relationships, an empathetic approach that gets to the heart of client, consumer and contributor needs, and a high level of creativity to craft compelling content.

Bringing the two together, I would like to make a provocative argument – that AI could make the communication industry even more human. I’d like to explore one significant way that I think AI can do this: by redefining outreach.

Human Outreach

Much of successful new-age communication lies in outreach, which literally describes reaching out to people in the right way, at the right time, in the right place and with the right message. Currently this relies on teams of humans working out by trial and error, and ideally backed up by digital data, what does and does not resonate with different target audiences. We then use these insights to adjust our strategies accordingly.

AI Outreach

This is similar to how cognitive AI systems work, for example IBM Watson, which observes, interprets and evaluates big data to provide hypotheses to questions posed in natural language. But one huge difference is that these systems complete this task in a fraction of the time and can also find insights in vast volumes of unstructured data that would make the human mind boggle. This includes all data that is created by humans for other humans: articles, blogs, social media posts, research reports, literature – you name it. The power of AI lies in its ability to sift through this data and pluck out valuable patterns.

Just imagine the consumer and market insights AI could provide in the communication industry. While this technology may seem beyond our reach at the moment, it is becoming increasingly mainstream and has in fact already entered the communication world. Condé Nast recently partnered with IBM Watson to fine-tune its social media campaigns. The system analysed the last 20,000 words published by potential influencers to find the best campaign ambassador in minutes. When it came to the audience, the system assessed 52 unique attributes for each magazine reader to work out what messages would make them tick. Other major international brands like Coca Cola, Mc Donald’s and L’Oréal are also using AI systems to strengthen their understanding of their customers.

Super-Human Outreach

What does this mean for the communication world and how could it make our profession more human, or even super-human?

  1. AI simultaneously provides more targeted, wide-ranging and in-depth insights into consumers than ever before. This has the potential to deepen our human understanding of how other humans across the world feel and behave.
  2. Greater human understanding would allow communication professionals to connect with audiences on a new level that truly resonates with them. While AI can’t currently create emotion-led content, the insights it provides could transform content development.
  3. The speed these systems work at means that communication professionals would have more time to invest in the human tasks that AI currently falls short of – creating emotion-led, long-form content, connecting during face-to-face meetings, and organising on the ground events.
  4. With real, data-led insights, AI could support our communication strategies and bolster our approach to delivering solid, measurable results, thus strengthening human relationships and trust between agencies and clients.
  5. All of this is without even considering AI’s power to connect the world through translation systems, linguistic interfaces and image recognition – an endeavour to which Facebook Artificial Intelligence Researchers is committed.

Microsoft, one of the leading pioneers of AI technology, states this as one the key pillars in its approach to designing AI systems: “Humans are the heroes.”

I believe in this and I am excited by the ironic potential that AI and machines have to bring out the humanity in humans – not just in the communication industry but on a global level.

Ahmad Itani is the COO of Cicero & Bernay Public Relations. An independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai and offering new-age public relations consultancy to the UAE and across the MENA region. | www.cbpr.me