Does AI mark the most significant technological shift in communications we’ve ever seen?

Progress or regress? Upskill or deskill? Replace or augment? Generative AI is causing debate around the world, even leading the conversation bill at Davos earlier this month. The creative industry and the communications world are in the midst of grappling with the role and potential of AI technology. The recent Getty Images court case shows just how complex the situation has become.

While there’s no doubt that AI  will create some fundamental changes and opportunities, the jury is still out on exactly how, what and when. Clarity’s Michael Gonzalez sat down with Nicolai Wadstrom, founder of AI VC firm Bootstraplabs and one of the most prominent thinkers on AI, to get his thought on the  new phenomenon. Here’s what he had to say.

From Admin to Ghostwriting

MG: What is the opportunity for AI in comms — what drives the immediate need for this technology?

NW: We are still in the early days of how AI can be used and there are many unanswered questions. As AI follows the path of many other automation technologies, there are significant opportunities to replace time-consuming manual work such as admin, research and reporting, with efficient and smart AI. AI will also soon be able to create highly creative and insightful content—within some areas—because it connects and learns from a broader set of sources than a human can do. The future ghost writer could very well be called GPT.

A potential legal copyright minefield

MG: What are the biggest risks involved?

NW: Copyright is a big issue, particularly around images but text will be impacted as well. With the arrival of AI, we need to rethink hundreds of years old copyright laws that are very well established and a law that doesn’t have much wriggle room. AI will fundamentally change how we author content and it’s something that legal professionals within PR organisations will have to track closely.

Some of the mainstream AI technologies at the moment, such as ChatGPT are trained on the global internet with a massive data set and we have very little control of what flows into it and what it learns from. That means that when you create content to be communicated, you don’t know how the information is referenced or where the sources come from. 

MG: How should PR agencies inform the use of AI to clients, and how transparent should they be?

NW: I would turn the question around and start asking the customers if they actually care about it. If they are mainly paying PR to solve a particular problem as opposed to how you do it and what tools you use, it might not matter to them as long as the problem gets solved. 

Strategies, outcomes, and building your own AI

MG: What do you think the future holds?

NW: The cost of training a GPT AI has come down exponentially which means that these tools will become increasingly sophisticated. As a consequence, many educated people in PR organisations will be impacted and the industry needs to think differently about deploying their talent. 

In the short term, AI will replace many of the tasks involved in execution such as writing, editing, research and image & video production. The PR firms that rely too much on execution will find it hard to adapt. The winners will be those that focus on the customer’s bigger business objective and the problem that needs solving, and the right strategy to take to address this. That’s what smart talent needs to focus on. 

NW: The most professional PR firms will build their own AI tools that can be trained on a deep domain knowledge specifically adapted for the industry. This will enable people to be highly effective and successfully augment any tasks and empower them to do jobs that previously would have been outsourced. Ultimately, they will generate greater value to their customers and make their organisations more competitive. PR agencies that rely on mainstream AI tools will struggle to compete with the professional firms. 

MG: Finally, what advice do you have for PR agencies about using AI?

NW: Start experimenting! Try to figure out how it makes you more efficient to produce results for the customers.

Michael Gonzalez will speak about the impact of AI and digitisation in Stockholm on Feb 2.

 

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