Sulakshna Mukherjee
Guest Article

Navigating the AI wave: Charting the future for communications professionals

Our guest author shares insights on mastering essential skills for PR professionals amid the rising influence of AI in communication strategies.

The communication landscape has been ever-evolving. But for the last year and a half, we have been standing on the brink of a new era dominated by artificial intelligence (AI). Amid discussions centring on the relevance of PR and corporate communications professionals, the fear of AI replacing our roles also emerged, though briefly. 

However, a shared realisation prevailed – in this dynamic environment, upskilling is not an option but a necessity.

Upon exploring AI tools, it's now evident that AI isn't a competition but a reliable co-pilot. It is ready to take on mundane tasks, while communicators focus on the truly human aspects of communication – empathy, creativity, and our prowess as corporate storytellers.

To harness the power and thrive in this AI-infused future, it is imperative that PR and communications professionals master the following skills:

Embracing data in communication strategies

AI is set to become the backbone of communication. From crafting compelling stories to analysing data for targeted messaging, it will be a game-changer. It will be important that communicators familiarise themselves with AI tools and hone the skills of interpreting insights to refine their messaging and understand audience preferences better. 

A basic understanding of analytics, algorithms, the language of SEO, clicks and conversions, common metrics, and key performance indicators relevant to one’s industry will help in data-driven storytelling.

Communication professionals will have to be tech-savvy wordsmiths, creating content that captivates hearts and aligns with algorithms. 

Sharpening storytelling skills

AI effortlessly generates data, insights, and press releases at remarkable speed, but it lacks the human touch to understand customer emotions. This is where communicators can stand out as differentiators by adding their emotional intelligence to narratives that echo with the audience. 

The era of one-size-fits-all communication is fading. Professionals should be able to use AI-generated hyper-personalisation and analyse user behaviour and preferences to create personalised communication strategies. Therefore, it will be pertinent to sharpen emotional intelligence and read between digital lines to craft stories that resonate with hearts, not just eyeballs.

Thinking like a futurist

Communication professionals are now expected to think strategically and add real value to the business. Companies will seek out experts who can break the clutter, bring authenticity, and use data and insights to develop campaigns that can build brand trust and create a lasting impact. 

Therefore, it will be important that professionals stay ahead of the curve, understand the changing landscape, and don’t just react to trends, but anticipate them. Professionals can take advantage of AI tools to automate mundane tasks and use the time to unlock strategic thinking and newer avenues of creativity. 

For instance, in this age of influencers, virtual influencers, and AI-generated content are taking centre stage. These digital personalities, created and controlled by algorithms, can be powerful allies in shaping public perception. 

Communicators need to quickly adapt and understand the nuances of these new-age tools, and find ways to integrate them into communication strategies that can benefit the brand. 

Managing crisis with AI

Crisis management is a key component of reputation and trust management for a brand. And in today's social media era, crises can quickly spiral out of control. AI can prove to be a powerful tool for crisis management by analysing social media sentiments in real-time, predicting issues, and at times recommending proactive solutions. 

Communications professionals should become adept at using AI to handle crises effectively. If used to its fullest potential, AI can analyse audience sentiment, track brand mentions, and identify potential crises much before they erupt. 

Learning to evaluate AI-driven crisis management tools is crucial for detecting and minimising risks on time. Therefore, upskilling oneself in data interpretation will be key to making informed decisions under pressure. 

Responsible communication in the AI era

As AI becomes integral to communication strategies, ethical implications cannot be ignored. Professionals must be at the forefront of responsible AI use, ensuring transparency, fairness, and ethical considerations in all communication initiatives and campaigns. 

Therefore, it will be imperative that professionals strengthen their understanding of ethical AI practices. For this, staying updated on industry guidelines and regulations related to AI communication will be even more important. 

In conclusion, the future of PR and Corporate Communications is intertwined with the rise of AI, presenting both an opportunity and a responsibility. To stay relevant, it is crucial to embrace AI trends, dive into its world, and upskill oneself while retaining authenticity, a human touch, and a perspective defined by real-life experiences and learnings. 

The future of PR is not about replacing humans with machines, it's about humans and machines working together, each playing to their strengths. As the communications tribe, we have a unique opportunity to learn and lead the change in this AI revolution.

(Our guest author is Sulakshna Mukherjee, Head and GM of Corporate Communications at McDonald’s India (W&S))

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