September 27, 2023

Getting Ahead on Generative AI: Ep. 40 of Red Sky Fuel for Thought Podcast  

by Ellen Barnes in News

Now that the dust is settling on the AI maelstrom that’s raged for the past few months, our September episode of “Red Sky Fuel for Thought” looks at what we’ve learned about generative AI in particular: the good, the bad and the uncertain. Host Lara Graulich examines how artificial intelligence, or AI, has become a buzzword that elicits many emotions: wonder, excitement, confusion and anxiety, among others. As she says, “One thing is certain: This technology is here to stay, and it’s important for us to understand it as marketing and public relations professionals.”   

What You’ll Learn in This Episode:  

  • How marketers and PR professionals can use generative AI to make our lives easier   
  • Where we should not use generative AI from a legal or ethical perspective  
  • How to strike the balance between being better with AI and being better than AI  

To help you make out the full picture of generative AI today, we’ve divided this episode into two parts. First, Umbar Shakir, a partner and client director at Gate One, gives us her whip-smart introduction to generative AI, what it’s capable of and what its limitations are. In part two, we dig into the specific implications that generative AI has in the PR and marketing space. For this roundtable, we’re chatting with Rachael Sansom, CEO of Havas Red U.K., and Myrna Van Pelt, head of technology and business for Havas Red Australia.   

What generative AI can never bring to the table  

The episode begins with Umbar (pronounced “Amber”), who differentiates traditional AI from generative AI. Traditional AI, she says, is the ability of machines to mimic human intelligence to perform tasks and automate workflows. This is AI as we’ve known it; it’s what’s been around for decades, and it’s something technology consultants have been implementing for clients for a long time. However, when large language models began arriving over the past five years or so, generative AI stole the spotlight. With generative AI, trillions of bits of crowdsourced data can be used to synthesize new data.  

Does this new capability represent a threat to human creativity or to job security? 

No, says Umbar: “As marketers, your whole value add to customers is differentiation and personalization. Even though generative AI can generate content for us, you need the human brain to give the differentiation. And then you need the human heart and emotion. In all the marketing campaigns I’ve been involved in, an emotive response is really important to memorability. That comes from heart, and a lot of our emotional intelligence comes from our values, beliefs and moral judgments. At the moment, you can’t mathematically program that in. What we need to remember is that we’ve built this tool, and we can interact with it; it might be faster than us, and it might be able to process more data than we can at any point in time, but it doesn’t replace our humanity.” 

Instead, AI can create space for those of us in this industry to get back to our craft and to doing some of the things that drew us here in the first place — to creating human connection, for example — rather than the monotony of data analysis or transcription. Plus, with generative AI, we’re going to get richer insights much more quickly than we would on our own.   

When it comes to humans’ job security, Umbar says, “I’ve got a slightly provocative view on things. When people worry that generative AI will cause people to lose jobs, I say there are some jobs out there that humans should never have been doing. We have taken really tedious work and turned it into careers for people. We’ve normalized tedium. How do we unshackle ourselves from some of that tedium? How do we then free up capacity to solve for bigger and better problems for society? How do you use this technology to replace what humans have been doing that fundamentally doesn’t tap into our humanity or our values or our creativity?”  

Umbar’s segment ends with her answering these questions, before Lara then welcomes Rachael and Myrna to the podcast.  

Putting modern AI to work in public relations 

Lara first asks them what excites them most about generative AI and the capabilities it brings to our clients and which tools they’ve most enjoyed using.  

“Gen AI cannot create ideas, but what it can do is take great ideas, by humans, and push them faster and further and help iterate them more brilliantly,” says Rachel.   

In marketing and communications, Myrna says AI also has a distinct role to play in helping us in the area of rapid decision making.  

“As humans, we have finite ability to scan volumes of information,” she says. “However, AI does this at a fraction of the time. So, for example, when it comes to understanding audience preferences, or demographic nuances, AI can help sort through this massive volume of content, identifying patterns and trends, anticipating future scenarios, and then categorizing the data. We then have an absolute smorgasbord of useful pre-categorized content we can use to inform campaigns, particularly so in industries where a rapid pivot of a campaign might make the difference between success and failure — particularly so in political campaigns.” 

Among Myrna’s go-to AI tools, she highlights Brandwatch, which provides media monitoring and competitor tracking; TLDR, which summarizes high-tech articles; and DeepL Translate, which can accurately translate content in dozens of different languages. 

Next, they talk about the inherent risks of using AI, including where we should and shouldn’t use it from an ethical and legal perspective — e.g., is a press release fair game?  

Thank you to each of our guests for weighing in on the transformative power of AI. 

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