The era of AI-powered communicators is here. How do we successfully navigate this brave new world?
Everyone is talking about artificial intelligence – it will change everything! That might be a bit of hyperbole, but if you spend any time on social media AI is clearly a topic of intense interest. For anyone working in communication, tools like ChatGPT, Google Bard and many others are raising questions about how applicable AI is to our daily work. And more to the point, will generative AI replace us and if so, how soon?
I've had many conversations during the last six months about how AI will impact those of us working in communication, marketing and PR roles. People are nervous. It’s understandable, but not productive.
A quick level set on AI
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, "generative AI" refers to models that generate text, images, and other content based on the data they were trained on. These models encode a simplified representation of their training data and draw from it to create a new work that’s similar, but not identical, to the original data. If you want to get even more technical about it, read this.
This type of AI is what many communicators are experimenting with now. So, what does the future hold?
Admittedly, predicting AI’s path is a guessing game. I don't think the emergence of AI will eliminate the need for communicators. However, it will clearly change HOW we do things.
Setting yourself up for success
So, what's the best way to think about how AI might impact your career? This is the right mindset (via Scott Galloway):
“AI’s not going to take your job. Somebody who knows AI is going to take your job.”
Even that statement from Scott might be a little too strong, but now is the time to learn how AI can – and can’t – take your professional work to the next level.
Here are the best steps you can take right now:
Keep connected with new developments in AI.
Use some of the available AI tools so that you can at least understand them.
Don't get swayed too much by the biggest negative or positive voices on AI.
Think critically about what's happening with AI in your profession and have a personal perspective on it.
The case for 'cautious optimism'
If I had to choose a single phrase to sum up how I feel about AI it would be cautiously optimistic. I think there are clearly areas where AI can help communicators. Here are a few:
Editing and revising existing content. ChatGPT is especially good at this.
Summarizing key points from longer documents. You can also easily create executive summaries within specific word counts.
Generating first drafts of simple internal communications.
Creating first drafts of communication or marketing plans. With the right prompts, you can get a very serviceable template that you can then customize with specific information.
On the other hand, there are lots of limitations to keep in mind. Just look at the message that comes up when you log into Bard,
“Bard will not always get it right. Bard may give inaccurate or inappropriate responses. When in doubt, use the ‘Google it’ button to check Bard’s responses.
Bard will get better with your feedback. Please rate responses and flag anything that may be offensive or unsafe.”
In other words, Bard is a work in progress.
These are some of the primary, but not the only, considerations you should keep in mind when creating content:
Information produced by AI tools cannot be considered definitive. It must be fact-checked.
AI cannot capture your personal or company brand voice. First draft copy tends to be mediocre.
Any content produced by AI is generated in part or whole from something that already exists, including work that might be copyright protected. At this point, I would not be comfortable posting external content generated by AI – even with substantial rewriting. To that point, any content YOU put in an AI tool might train the tool and be used by others. If originality matters to you, be careful.
Bias is a potentially huge problem with AI. Proceed with that in mind at all times.
Never enter confidential or personally identifiable information into AI tools. At this point, there is just no guarantee of who that information might be shared with or exposed to. It's simply not worth the risk. Deidentify everything.
As you might have noticed, my list of cautions outweighs the useful applications for me! That might change at some point, but it doesn’t feel likely to happen in 2023.
What's the best way for communicators to think about how AI might change our careers?
Be ready to adjust your sails! What am I talking about? It goes back to one of my favorite quotes from William Arthur Ward,
"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails."
We can’t pretend that AI won’t impact our careers. Yet, we also can’t expect AI to be the perfect digital intern that makes our work a breeze. It won't be that simple.
Overall, some changes with AI will be positive and some changes will be negative. Maybe in the extreme.
The truth is that nobody truly knows what will happen next with AI, but there is clearly opportunity here as well as uncertainty. Embrace that.
Be a realist about what’s happening. Adjust the sails now.
💻 Webinar: "ChatGPT: Is It Safe to Use for Your Healthcare Communications." I recently took part in an eHealthcare Strategy & Trends webinar for healthcare strategists. Watch it here.
🎤 Podcast: "How worried—or excited—should we be about AI?" Recode Media with Peter Kafka. Listen here.
✍️ Article: "The Realities of Using ChatGPT to Write for You – What to Consider When It Comes to Legalities, Reputation, Search and Originality." This is the best article for a deep dive on the concerns I outlined above.
🤖 A note about AI and this article
The only part of this content produced (sort of) by AI was the headline. With multiple prompts from me, this was suggested by Bard:
“Here is one headline that I think is particularly effective: AI-Powered Communicators: The Future of Communication.” This headline is specific, engaging, and provides more information about the topic of the article. I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.”
In comparison to ChatGPT, Bard is really trying to give the feel of a human(ish) assistant helping you with the work. It didn’t produce exactly what I wanted, but it came close.
A brave new world indeed.