Artificial intelligence has unleashed a new wave of digital disruption, and we are already seeing its application and benefits across the communications industry spectrum. There was a time, not too long ago, when advanced technologies that we take for granted today would have been perceived as something from a futuristic sci-fi blockbuster. Along the way, we have started asking ourselves how the field of marketing and communications will evolve with the rise of AI in the span of five to 10 years.
Will we see more AI software writing the news and public relations professionals pitching to chatbot editors? Will proofreaders and copyeditors be replaced by autocorrect and predictive text?
AI is still in its nascent stages in the communications industry, but the pace of its development is accelerating. In our field, cognitive processing is still a human-dominated skill, and communication strategies and tactics depend on human processing. But it can be complemented by AI to drive efficiency and streamline operations. AI technology can also inform communication professionals for the better and change the way we approach and communicate with stakeholders. Leaning into technological advancement such as AI, actively engaging stakeholders and being open to change are essential qualities of an agile organization that can navigate the disruptive forces of an always-changing environment.
AI tools are used by social media platforms with ad targeting. These platforms use AI and machine learning algorithms to help media buyers and planners optimize key metrics such as cost-per-click and cost-per-acquisition by analyzing larger buckets of data to detect user trends.
Take Instagram for example, it uses AI tools to analyze what types of consumers typically follow which accounts and the posts they interact with to prompt specific ads for these audience segments.
While there are numerous use cases and opportunities for AI, there are also some important considerations such as ethics and transparency—especially so for personal data—that we must approach with caution.
Data privacy—like data provenance and use of an individual’s information—has become a widespread global concern, raising public suspicions of social media platforms and digital networks. As communication professionals, we must ensure that technologies are used ethically and with full disclosure to avoid invasion of privacy.
A good case study to learn from is the scandal involving London-based political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, which had harvested data to sell social media users’ political preferences and viewpoints. The scandal is detailed in the recent Netflix film, The Great Hack, highlighting the serious repercussions stemming from indiscriminate use of technology or AI-driven data analytics without proper accountability.
As humans will remain as main decision makers in the foreseeable future, it is important for businesses and industries to prepare a set of guiding principles for ethical use of AI. This, in turn, will help to build a foundation of ethical practices to ensure that humans will use AI in a transparent and accountable manner.