Communicating the Next Frontier of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence

Communicating the Next Frontier of Artificial Intelligence

As 2018 draws to a close, the tech world is lighting up with predictions for the coming year.

Buzzy trends like mobility, automation, and health tech get even buzzier as the industry tries to understand where it’s heading next. But few terms get the attention that artificial intelligence (AI) receives.

The loosely-defined term has been described as everything from humankind’s greatest hope to the likely destroyer of civilization, with few actually believing either prediction.

Artificial Intelligence

At a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) event on November 15, I heard from three veteran journalists – Ian Sherr, Sasha Lekach, and Don Clark – about what they actually expect from AI. Unlike the dramatic predictions on both extremes of the spectrum, they expect that AI will be less about doing tasks for humans and more about enhancing our abilities to complete tasks. Automation and data analysis will be particularly key as AI learns to complete single-minded tasks, such as analyzing reams of data to identify trends. Rather than via new, transformative products, AI will enter our lives in small, subtle ways through technology we already use on a daily basis, such as curated playlists or movie suggestions.

As 2018 draws to a close, the tech world is lighting up with predictions for the coming year. Buzzy trends like mobility, automation, and health tech get even buzzier as the industry tries to understand where it’s heading next. But few terms get the attention that artificial intelligence (AI) receives. The loosely-defined term has been described as everything from humankind’s greatest hope to the likely destroyer of civilization, with few actually believing either prediction.

So what does this mean for tech communications? First, we are already in the midst of a public backlash against the industry. Introducing new technology, especially one as hyped as AI, without clear messaging is asking for a headline-making scandal. The media itself is learning to balance the “wow” factor with educating your average consumer, so be careful not to make their job more difficult.

Second, AI and its potential applications are largely undefined. Lakech mentioned a recent conversation with a company developing a technology that would analyze a driver’s emotional state on their driving style. A short while later, Clark brought up that AI is being trained to analyze X-rays. Same basic terminology – AI, analyze, detection – but wildly different applications. Consumers hearing the same basic vocabulary over and over again are unlikely to gain a better understanding of your technology.

Third, it’s not just about you. Even as a Series A startup, tech companies need to have an eye on the big picture. PR is not just about attracting attention from potential investors; it’s about building a relationship with the public that can enhance your company’s growth at every stage. The public has already been burned by tech companies that decided to ignore their concerns: don’t be the next one to do so.

The new frontier of AI is an exciting space. Established players, as well as new upstarts, are finding innovative ways to apply it to everything from your Netflix queue to cancer treatments. But the most important player in AI – the consumer – is still looking for guidance. Having a clear plan to communicate what AI is and how it works will be a critical challenge for tech companies, one that historically has not been a strong suit of the industry.



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