2019 is the year of the robot. It’s also the year of AI, automation, algorithms, and pretty much any technology that claims to replace human effort or vastly improve upon it. Despite the promise, technology will never replace the empathy, imagination and life experience of a human.
As marketers and communicators, we must prepare for a world in which technology gives us new tools to better communicate our brands’ stories, but take care to not lose the human touch.
The art and science of corporate storytelling is going to shift more rapidly than many realize. As we head in to 2019, how brands utilize emerging technologies to connect with audiences may provide the octane boost they seek in their marketing and communications programs. We break it down into three key phases of adoption:
Marketers and communications pros can expect AI to have a significant impact in their fields, starting with the automation of routine tasks. These are processes like list building, social and media monitoring, impact analytics and reporting. This leaves more time for higher-level creative and strategic work. These tools are already in circulation and getting smarter every day. Many of them still require far too much human time to customize them and make them useful, but that will change quickly.
Next is content creation and distribution. It will increasingly become data-driven, guided by sophisticated algorithms, and dynamically-generated based on who is consuming it at that moment. Imagine a website that is rendered differently for each visitor, based on their prior browsing history, their geography, the time of day, and whether they are at work or at home. We are already seeing data-rich news articles and other content that is created by algorithms – such as earnings reports and sports updates. Forbes recently revealed its use of AI to write first drafts of articles for its journalists. If it’s good enough for Forbes, why not for your corporate content?
Further afield are customer-interaction solutions like chatbots, facial recognition, and voice. Today these are poor substitutes for actual humans and are often perceived as roadblocks, rather than accelerants. But as technology develops, it promises far better results than what humans can provide. They are 24/7, they can call on millions of data points and knowledge sources and can process queries far faster than any single human. A facial recognition technology that slows you down in the airport security line is not very helpful to you as the consumer. Applying the same technology to eliminate security lines altogether, and recognize you as a loyal frequent flier that should be given a blanket and pillow upon boarding, is another matter!
Despite the hype, ‘the robots’ are light years away from replacing the emotion and innovation marketers and communications pros bring to the job. In fact, we could do the brands we represent a major disservice by forgetting this point. Customers will despise attempts to replace humans with less capable technology simply to save a corporate buck. A company should never pass off AI and related tools as human substitutes, nor obfuscate this distinction. When deployed correctly, humans will value technology for what it offers them, and will continue to value humans for what they uniquely offer.
AI will help us reduce low level, time-consuming work, tell better stories faster, tailor stories to the audience, and improve customer experiences. But we are still the sentient beings expected to deliver where it matters most: being the empathetic, creative humans behind the brands.
RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm providing strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, public sector and healthcare markets.