Who will speak for your company, human or machine?

Jason Sumner. Jason is a white man with very short dark hair, a short beard and glasses. He is wearing a light jacket and shirt. Jason Sumner

Five recommendations for using artificial intelligence in corporate digital communications

If your organisation has a trust problem, would you solve it with software that simulates human creativity to the point where it is impossible for your stakeholders to tell who or what assembled the information they are watching, reading or listening to? 

What about if your communications team could use the same tools to multiply productivity, streamline workflows, or measure the impact of messages more accurately than ever? 

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) could spark more profound changes in society than the invention of the internet itself. 

I want to focus on the impacts that the technology could have on how big companies converse with the world – the core task of corporate digital communications professionals. In what situations does implementing artificial intelligence software make sense, where should its use be tightly controlled, and where should you experiment? Here are five recommendations 

1. Your own digital presence just got more important, so invest in it 

Even after 21 years in this business, one of the most frequent questions we get asked is (believe it or not), “what is the corporate website for?” It’s such a powerful tool with many different purposes, that the fundamentals can easily get lost as different factions fight for influence.

One answer hasn’t changed in two decades – the corporate web presence is the one place where you can explain yourself as a company on a channel that you completely control.

This was true before ChatGPT and will be even more so afterward. When someone else controls the platform (see Twitter), your point of view risks getting drowned out, distorted or cancelled altogether.

If the doomsayers are to be believed, AI will lead to even more fake news and misinformation. In this dystopian future, could your corporate website even be an oasis of truth in a desert of lies? Stranger things have happened.

If the doomsayers are wrong about the future, you still need a digital room to call your own, and all these large language models need to get their information from somewhere. Returning to the present day, I asked Bing, Microsoft’s AI-powered search engine, this week about BP’s corporate strategy and one of its few named sources was bp.com. 

Screenshot of Bing AI chat about BP’s corporate strategy

We asked Bing, Microsoft’s AI-powered search engine, about BP’s corporate strategy

2. If the goal is information exchange, AI could be perfect 

>Another answer to the “what is the website for” question, is: to give your stakeholders accurate information about your company fast, in a usable format. Artificial intelligence is of course phenomenal to the point of magic at being “quick”, and getting better and better at “usable” and “accurate”. 

Visitors to corporate websites are often seeking answers and information quickly – jobseeker looking for job, investor looking for financial data, ratings agency wanting the latest figures on plastic recycling, customer wanting to compare products quickly, etc. The potential for pure information transfer on the corporate web presence – summarising, routing, collating, tagging, visualising – is huge.

3. When the goal is "be human" keep AI at arm’s length 

Just when big companies were starting to sound more human – letting employees speak authentically about their lives, admitting to mistakes, discussing complex issues in a nuanced and adult way – along comes ChatGPT and the AI clones to throw it all into doubt.  

It doesn’t have to be that way of course. When it comes to putting across your company’s personality, values, purpose and impact in the world, nothing (yet) beats human-to-human interaction through persuasive stories. This means continuing to commission high-quality articles, photographs, videos and podcasts to get your point across. 

And if ChatGPT sounds more authentic and accurate than your corporate content? Well that either is a sign that the “singularity” is here, or it’s time to re-shoot that corporate video.  

As this all develops, be guided by your company’s stakeholders, and common sense. When will they accept an answer from AI and when might they feel aggrieved to learn they were hearing from an algorithm? It is also important to be transparent with stakeholders about when you are providing human responses and when you are providing AI ones. 

4. Experiment with tools to increase efficiency and help your internal stakeholders 

One of the biggest potential impacts of AI is on the way communications teams work inside the organisation. AI technology is likely to be embedded in software already familiar to us, such as the content management system, and it could do all sorts of useful things – video and podcast editing, music production; image production for reports, measurement and data analytics tools. Your non-writers outside the corporate centre might find it useful to produce a working draft (with corporate guidelines firmly embedded). AI could help translation of legal language into straightforward audience-friendly wording. It’s hard to overstate the potential here.  

5. Stay open to big possibilities 

It’s fun to speculate where this could take us, and when it comes to the website, I could see a world in which “corporate content” could be its own source for a bespoke large language model. An AI interface could sit on top of the corporate presence ready to answer any questions about the company. There could be an analogy with search here, however. After all the speculation whether search would “replace” the website, we ended up in a place where the two sit side by side, giving users options. The same may be true for the coming AI interface. 

And of course in letting an AI trawl the cobwebbed corners of the corporate digital presence, there would need to be a level of trust from the human managers that may not exist right now in companies – would your CEO trust the AI with the secrets that are buried in footnote 10 of page 235 of the annual report, for example, where the company admits dark truths such as, “there are business opportunities from climate change” and see that front and centre in the query results? 

In other words, will it be impossible to bury bad news when the robots take over? That’s a utopia to look forward to after all.

To discuss how Bowen Craggs can help you address this, and other challenges, please get in touch.