Jan 4, 2024 - Technology

AI becomes a key audience

Animated illustration of a robot tightening and adjusting its necktie, followed by its teeth sparkling.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

In 2023, communicators used generative artificial intelligence to complete basic tasks like writing social copy or press releases. In 2024, they are taking it up a notch by using it for predictive measures.

Why it matters: AI technology can predict how select stakeholder groups will react to certain messaging, test specific narratives and detect when these narratives might go awry.

Communicators can use these AI tools to pinpoint key audiences and anticipate potential issues before they bubble over, says PRophet founder and CEO Aaron Kwittken.

  • "A lot of it's going to be predictive in terms of who's going to which stakeholder — whether it's a reporter, an influencer or podcaster — and identify who's going to be most interested in this narrative. [AI] can also predict which issues are lurking and which ones might pop up and threaten a brand's reputation."

The big picture: AI has the ability to serve as an amazing proxy for various audiences, says Sparky Zivin, senior managing director and global head of Teneo research.

  • "You can train generative agents to think like a very specific analyst, NGO or an activist investor — and then we can run simulations and actually test a lot of our communications in a private, closed space. We can even test things as sensitive as earnings material before they go public."

Yes, but: This tech serves as more than just an artificial focus group — it's also a type of stakeholder unto itself.

  • "With everything that companies are putting out there, the biggest audience for that are machines," says Zivin. "When all that content gets sucked up by machines, they create content based on it. … AI has become an intermediary and it [could] be that supreme influencer which shapes public view in the way that historically media or social media influencers have."

Driving the news: Consulting firms are quickly investing in these predictive capabilities.

  • In November, BCW rolled out its Decipher Index, which uses AI to monitor global trends, test messaging and predict the virality, believability and potential impact of particular narratives.
  • And last April, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) announced a $1 billion investment in AI and is currently in the process of upskilling its 75,000 employees on the use of these tools.

What they're saying: "The Decipher Index was in direct reaction to clients demanding better data and the ability to predict impact in a much more specific way — especially as we were heading into what we anticipate will be a very disruptive year," said BCW chief innovation officer Chad Latz.

Zoom in: The spread of dis-and misinformation remains a key concern for 2024, but AI tools can quickly flag and predict how misinformation about a brand, leader or company might spread.

  • "We can detect accelerators of influence — and that could be bots or foreign actors that may be acting on behalf of a particular issue or trying to move public sentiment on a particular issue," says Latz.

The bottom line: Using AI for content creation barely scratches the surface of its capabilities, and communicators are in a unique position to embrace the technology for more strategic, high-level purposes.

  • "This isn't something that's going to take your job," says Megan DiSciullo, PwC's U.S. & Mexico communication lead. "It's just another productivity tool in the toolbox."
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