How communicators can get ready for artificial intelligence

With new tech coming, communicators should gear up for changes to the way they do their jobs, and the communications challenges that will accompany this brave new future.

Chalk it up to the hype surrounding features such as “Blade Runner” or “Mr. Robot,” but it seems American consumers stand ready to embrace artificial intelligence.

In the U.S., 45 percent of adults describe their feelings towards artificial intelligence as “interested,” per a new study, “Sex, Lies and AI: How Americans Feel About Artificial Intelligence and What Marketers Need to Know” released by SYZYGY this past October.

Their interest makes sense, as many of us already interact with AI through chatbots and virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa.

However, it’s not all smooth sailing ahead for AI.

“Fear” is an emotion cited by many respondents.

Around 43 percent of the public thinks AI could pose a threat to long-term human survival. Many people are simply confused by AI and are having trouble sorting through the benefits and potential drawbacks.

That’s driving a near-unanimous outcry (96 percent) for the public to gain a better understanding.

This mixture of fear and lack of knowledge is likely why 89 percent said that the “r” word—regulation—should apply to AI used in marketing.

Most Americans are not against AI when it comes to marketing.

According to the survey, 72 percent don’t care if AI creates ads they see, and 63 percent don’t care if a robot answers the customer service line. They want transparency and see regulation as a way to ensure they know whether they are interacting with a human or a robot.

Instituting a Code of Ethics for Use of Artificial Intelligence

The message for marketers and brands is that using AI isn’t out-of-bounds, but the public will want assurances that the new technology won’t lead to industry abuses.

Here is a code for marketers when using AI for your consideration:

1. Do no harm.

While public understanding of artificial intelligence is low, marketers should not use that fact to take advantage of the public.

AI should not be used to deceive, manipulate, or harm the well-being of your audience. Used well in marketing, AI can read all the digital signals sent by a consumer. It can then help the brand get closer to the customer.

2. Build trust.

Overall, consumers have high expectations and hopes for artificial intelligence. Forty percent say they want it to save them time, 15 percent want it to make things safer, and 12 percent want it to save them money.

AI can promote greater transparency, honesty, and fairness in marketing; it should be used to build public confidence, not to tear down trust.

While AI algorithms present a problem when it comes to things such as “fake news,” they also present the solution. To eliminate false, manipulative, or deceptive content and prevent misinformation from spreading, use artificial intelligence.

3. Do not conceal.

Tell the truth and ask permission.

AI technology should not hide its identity or pose as a human when marketing or interacting with consumers. If we want consumers to be comfortable with our using artificial intelligence to personalize offers, ads, recommendations, or other communications, we need to be honest about it.

It should be clear when someone is interacting with AI rather than a human company representative.

Eighty-seven percent of respondents would support a rule prohibiting AI systems such as social media bots, chatbots or virtual assistants from concealing their AI identity or pretending to be human.

In addition to transparency, an overwhelming 71 percent of consumers also want brands to ask for consent before using AI to market to them.

4. Be helpful.

Fifty-nine percent of Americans feel artificial intelligence already affects their lives.

Many Americans receive exposure to AI when viewing recommendations from Amazon or Netflix, which is typically a good experience. Using AI in marketing helps people make better purchasing decisions.

It provides clear, honest, and unbiased information addressing their genuine needs.

By showing customers that you are providing value and being transparent about artificial intelligence, they’ll be more likely to trust your use of it in the future.

What are your concerns about AI and the future of communications, PR Daily readers?

Megan Harris is Managing Director of SYZYGY North America, which is partially owned by WPP. A version of this article originally ran on Spin Sucks.

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Topics: PR

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