Artificial intelligence is a consequential technology that many of us are hearing about on a daily basis, and its technological advancements are shaping our industry at an unprecedented pace. There are many ways to evaluate the progress of AI, but one dear to our hearts is how stories are told and news is created by or with it. Let’s take a closer look.
AI in newsrooms
The media has gone through a decade of change marked by everything from news deserts and avoidance to layoffs. Now AI is in the newsroom, and content is quickly evolving. Almost two thousand online media professionals recently gathered to discuss that very topic at the Online News Association meeting following the release of the Associated Press guidelines for AI usage.
AI in media can broadly be categorized into two buckets: generative and supportive.
Generative AI generates content and can curate content as well but has a large impact on what people see based on preferences and the algorithms used. An example would be AI writing a basic sports story or quarterly earnings article for AP.
Supportive AI augments and streamlines processes to simplify tasks. An example would be an AI machine transcribing a video. Supportive tends to be more common with 67 percent of journalist respondents saying their newsroom uses AI for recommendations, according to a Reuters study.
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's October '23 Healthcare & Medical PR Magazine
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The “human” element remains a critical part of storytelling even as AI fundamentally reshapes how newsrooms operate and even becomes a helpful tool. Its technology can parse through analytics to understand audience behaviors, automate transcriptions, sift through large amounts of documents, turn data into text for simple sports or business coverage and streamline tedious communications tasks. All of which gives reporters more time to focus on stories that require extra time and attention.
For instance, AI is now being used by AP to generate more than 3,700 earnings articles each quarter and Reuters says that it handles a whopping 30,000 financial stories a day with AI globally.
New times create new roles. In the newsroom, this may include data scientists, AI specialists, software engineers and staff dedicated to optimizing newsletters, not to mention a new reporting beat that is more nuanced and emotive. USA Today, for example, is looking for “modern storytellers” adept in print, audio and visual journalism. This is welcome news for Swifties, according to recent news that Gannett will be hiring reporters to cover both Taylor Swift and Beyoncé.
AI and communications
From a corporate communications perspective, AI presents its own unique set of challenges and opportunities.
If AI algorithms begin to influence the topics that journalists cover, then corporate communicators need to understand what topics are trending and the vernacular that’s recognizable to AI gatekeepers.
Many times, we’re speaking about the same topic but not using the same language. AI can offer insights on specific vernacular that will make pitching journalists more effective and the content more engaging. Axios reported that writing staff were three times more likely to respond to pitches with the term “generative AI.” But that won’t last. Creativity and a great story will always do better than all of us repeating each other’s actions.
We’re already seeing “no AI-generated responses” on reporter queries and in email pitch conversations, which shows there is no substitution—yet—for good old-fashioned communications.
Not all uses of AI are good, of course. It’s equally important for corporate communications leaders to recognize and prepare for how bad actors use AI and social media, alternative media, the dark web and app communities to plan their targets and execute attacks. These bad actors are improving their game at the same time we are.
And back inside our companies, we know that 85 percent of communications professionals are concerned about the potential legal and ethical issues that come with generative AI technologies, while only 11 percent of companies currently have policies or guidelines in place to guide responsible engagement with generative AI tools in the workplace. That isn’t a surprise. It takes time to get governance right, build training programs and educate teams inside our organizations. Patience is a virtue here.
Additionally, as we begin to master where AI can make the most impact, new roles will emerge on our teams. Prompt engineering experts, recast search engineers, analysts and software engineers will operate, regulate and ensure the technology runs smoothly. This creates opportunities for corporate communications leaders to evaluate where their team members can make the most impact and align their skills with the corporation’s goals.
While AI lays the foundation for advanced marketing strategies to reach key audiences and continues to evolve by the minute, stay calm and carry on. It doesn’t hurt to have a strong partner who’s staying current on what’s next in this space and you can help take it to the next level.