With artificial intelligence (AI) taking up so much of our collective consciousness as a society and workforce lately, it’s been worth considering — how will this affect the way we live and work on a day-to-day level? Moreover, as comms pros, how is it going to affect the ways that we do our jobs?
We spoke to a couple of top minds in comms to determine the ways our jobs will change, what AI can and can’t do, and some points of optimism that we can hang on to in a time of major change.
Putting the tech in perspective
While the buzz about practical and easy-to-use AI in everyday conversation might be new, it’s important to remember that some AI functionalities of AI aren’t necessarily totally unknown concepts. Ericka Pittman, fractional leadership consultant at Epitome Solutions, pointed to AI tech that we’re used to as a barometer of what to potentially expect.
“Think about the GPS systems we use in our cars or Siri — they’re AI technologies,” she said. “They’re solutions that when they found wide adoption, made positive changes by assisting the people using them. I think that can carry over to the world of work.”
While the potential for it is undoubtedly an exciting prospect, generative AI is in its nascent stages. With that in mind, the need for human oversight of it isn’t going anywhere, especially for comms pros.
“Right now, it’s great to use as a reference or resource tool,” continued Pittman. “But as professionals and human beings, we’re ultimately responsible for the communications and messaging we’re putting out to the world or using internally. It’s helpful, but AI isn’t the end-all-be-all for communicators crafting great messages.”
If AI is this massive thing that’s going to alter the landscape of our communication as some are predicting it might, then it’s worth asking — what exactly is that going to mean for comms pros on an everyday level?
Pittman posits a few ways that comms pros can approach AI. While she thinks it’ll be a helpful tool, she likens it more to a calculator than a problem-solving magic wand.
“I think that AI can help us on both the internal and external sides of comms,” she said.
“Externally, we can leverage AI tools to help us build resources like media lists for outreach around product releases or organizational announcements. But it can also help us with drafting ideas around intranet posts or internal rollouts too — but we need to take care to have a human touch added to both of these types of communication. The AI won’t do all the work.”
Kerry O’Grady, associate professor of public relations and corporate communications and PR consultant, added that while there are benefits to using AI as communicators, it’s a fine line to walk.
“AI is great for some things, like combing through big data sets to pull out the big picture items,” O’Grady said. “But it’s not capable of good storytelling. AI writes, but it doesn’t write well. You need human beings to be able to do that.”
While AI can save us lots of time to move on to the more creative parts of the profession, comms pros can’t lose sight of the fact that they’re going the be the ones controlling the storytelling arms of their organizations now and going forward.
“Creativity comes from the human mind,” said O’Grady. “An AI isn’t going to know your brand voice or story. A well-seasoned comms pro needs to be able to tell that story.”
While there’s no way to tell exactly what the future might hold, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that AI isn’t going away any time soon. In O’Grady’s view, that presents an opportunity for us to embrace what’s coming before it gets here.
“AI isn’t just going to be an asset to businesses — it’s going to be an asset to professional and personal development as well,” she said. “For instance, we could employ an AI to learn something new in 15 minutes that might help us do our jobs at a higher level. If we embrace something like that, we’re on the way to becoming our best selves as communicators.”
Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.