Business communication is increasingly using artificial Intelligence in various formats. While chatbots have changed the way consumers can connect with businesses, targeted smart marketing campaigns are using AI algorithms to create customer groups who will most likely engage with the ad. As more people continue to use voice search, content is being adapted to ensure a seamless transition to voice assistants. PR has also leveraged machine learning and automation to gain better insights about customers, conduct sentiment analysis and ensure that various processes are streamlined and automated.
In theory, PR is the perfect setup for AI. Not only can it easily accomplish huge amounts of data processing, with Natural Language Processing, machines can even learn to mimic humans and communicators can automate the boring and repetitive tasks of PR such as tracking email responses, publishing press releases or even social monitoring..
However, AI as a technology, also has limitations which need to be at the forefront while taking campaign and communication decisions. There have been a number of instances where it has resulted in PR nightmares for corporations. One of the most well-known examples is Microsoft’s Twitter chatbot Tay. Set up as an AI persona targeting the 18-24 demographic, the chatbot whose purpose was to emulate the language of millennial women began to spout Nazi sentiments as a result of interaction with toxic users and was taken offline after just 16 hours. Another example with more serious consequences was IBM Watson’s computing system for oncology. Supposedly designed to help in the decision-making process of physicians, IBM Watson was widely criticised because it gave incorrect and unsafe recommendations that endangered the lives of patients.
Reputational risks while using AI in business communication can be potentially very harmful to organisational brand as algorithms that make decisions are not transparent about the processes they use to reach those conclusions. Often, they use probabilities which can be flawed because of incorrect or biased data. Also, AI’s inherent racial and gender bias is still a work in progress especially as it uses patterns and insights but ends up amplifying the biases from which it learns. It has already led to undesirable results and negative PR for corporations like Amazon. Another significant concern in AI is ethical and privacy issues related to data mining and data breaches.
Deploying AI can be a business risk to your brand. In all the above examples, it was the PR team which managed to control the narrative and avert plummeting stocks. When it comes to business communication, humans need to work working with AI in hybrid models to ensure that errors are minimised, smooth processes are in place and machines are trained properly to perform certain tasks. For instance, while Danske Bank uses AI to monitor potential money laundering, it still relies on human judgment to look at the flagged transactions. Or take the case of Unilever that uses Artificial Intelligence to recruit and train employees; those who pass the initial rounds are invited for in-person interviews where humans make the hiring decisions.
When it comes to marketing and communication, it’s important to remember that they are about human connections and the relationships between brands and consumers or brands and journalists. For PR to be effective, it needs a human touch because emotions cannot be replicated by machines entirely. Journalists are more likely to respond to real sources instead of AI tech because the latter might make them feel manipulated and while automation makes smart replies possible, keywords can’t replace human intuition or contextual creativity.
The world has turned digital at every step and while automation makes life easier, AI is not a one size fits all solution. It should not be considered as a replacement for people but as a judicious collaboration between humans and human-made systems, calling for a cautious investment that measures and understands the various risks involved.