Predictions 2023: The year ahead for public relations – by Cicero & Bernay’s Ahmad Itani

By Ahmad Itani, founder and CEO of Cicero & Bernay Communications Consultancy

Of all the terms in the contemporary lexicon of digital communication, ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) is one that needs to be continuously modified and revisited. Since its introduction in the mid-20th century, its scope has consistently expanded to integrate and involve far more factors than the term ‘artificial’ should. If autonomous smart processes are the criterion, why weren’t cars, which can drive their passengers and operate on their behalf according to meticulous design and programming, labelled artificial mobility?

Futurists, tech specialists and creative minds have been drawn into speculation about what the full potential of AI is, but what we can say for the immediate future is that AI will empower teams with more time to focus on other growth metrics and not deplete a workforce to any significant degree. We are already witnessing its adoption across creative fronts and, though this may translate to fewer opportunities for junior staff members, agencies and marketing departments will be better able to streamline their specialists and draft smarter content.

However, it won’t take mastery of the domain to capitalise on the potential of AI. There are tools available today, some in the late beta stages such as GPT-3, ESMFold and DeepMind’s Gato, that can put the power of AI at anyone’s fingertips. Consider also the chatbots on which many businesses have come to rely. These customer-service lines of code are prepared to address basic queries, but as more brands increase their redirection of customers to them, the user experience in the coming months will inevitably become more adapted to usage patterns. Technologies like WuDao2.0, which is rapidly exhibiting the ability to produce conversational speech and interpret imagery, will see optimising customer service as a first port of call but the possibilities that lay ahead for live comms are theoretically without limitation.

With our expanding understanding of digital parameters, we are seeing brands building permission-based marketing databases. In their pursuit to maintain audience attention, communication prompts are being structured to engage with customers more specifically about elements that are personally relevant to them.

Whether the desire is query resolution or the search for a purer shopping experience, the proliferation of social commerce and click-through-to-buy features across social media platforms means businesses can ill afford to ignore the potential of integrated strategies. One-to-one marketing and customisation will increase through 2023 and the ability of companies to offer enough bandwidth for nuanced messaging will be a major marker of success. AI has the potential to add immense value in the marketing industry – predicting and analysing data, identifying trends, helping businesses understand their target audiences and reaching the right people at the best time with the appropriate words; this can be the key to conquering their spheres.

Communication professionals and their media relations will surely have to experiment with the same personalised marketing approach, especially at a time when traditional routines no longer guarantee results the way they used to. In terms of social media management and generation, great strides can be made in areas like email marketing. The tech around us is moving at the stupendous pace it always has and the communication industry is happy to see it. However, this is a competition we are in, one with humans and emotion-based decisions at each end and it has always been about communicating best to win.

Businesses using AI in its early phases should expect to see flat ROI. However, as the technology expands across the whole enterprise, incorporating AI into the key business processes, workflows and customer journeys will drive significant disruption allowing organisations to optimise their everyday operations and decision-making duties. Analysis by McKinsey anticipates that businesses that embrace this strategy are likely to experience value and scale, with some even increasing revenues by 20 per cent and taking advantage of the $9 trillion to $15 trillion in potential economic value that AI provides.

The potential and enhancement of AI cannot be overlooked. Sophisticated language tools such as Google’s LaMDA and Mircrosoft’s MT-NLG are drawing extremely close to convincing sentience. If used correctly, AI will be a serious force for good and organisations must investigate the potential of AI and approach their AI investments strategically, putting down plans to use it for more than just accelerating and automating current operations.

Though AI presents an incredible bedrock for advanced automation, the consistent dependence on a term like ‘artificial’ seems to increasingly present a sheet of separation to protect our human experience and sentience. Perhaps we must remind ourselves that we are the architects of this innovation, training and educating it to function to our preferences and needs, to mirror our intelligence and understanding of the world.