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30.04.2024 By Andy Rohr, Global Head of Technology.

Future Proofing Comms Teams In The Age Of GenAI: 3 Learnings.

A cartoon of a dinosaur in an office, sat at a desk, wearing a tie and looking at its computer screen.

Disclaimer: image was generated using AI.

I’ve been in the communications industry for decades now.  It does not feel that way.  And I know many in my cohort feel the same. One of the reasons I think we feel forever youthful is that we are always learning and adapting.  The media landscape continues to change dramatically. The nature of work keeps evolving in lockstep with culture, technology and geopolitics.  And the tools that we have at our disposal continue to change at pace.  (Hands up for peeps who remember fax blasting press releases at 9.30 in the a.m.).

While there have been tech advancements I could not have imagined as an Account Coordinator, the most disruptive tech I’ve seen (to date) is Generative AI (GenAI).

Working with clients like Microsoft has ensured that my team and I stay on the front foot here.  In these early days of GenAI, it’s clear to me that the technology will not replace the value we offer as storytellers and strategists.  But comms practitioners who use GenAI will leapfrog those who do not.

From my vantage point, getting off the starting block effectively isn’t about any algorithm per se. It’s about people.  Here are three thoughts around navigating this important period of change management and ensuring we’re future-proofing our teams – and ourselves.

1. Get in the right mindset.

For us as leaders it’s about recognizing GenAI’s potential. This is so much more than boosting productivity, which is an assumption that’s far too easy to make. It’s really about augmenting abilities and creativity.

For example, The Weber Shandwick Collective Futures team has developed high-value use cases such as using GenAI to help clients message test across demographics and geographies.

And I see the value in our daily client work too. Our team has been using GenAI to do everything from editing videos to super-charging brainstorming sessions.

What’s more, the technology has an important role to play in boosting team engagement levels.

New-to-career folks did not get into our profession to do things like meeting summaries or media scanning. Freeing people up from energy-draining tasks and letting them focus on higher-value work is a huge benefit.

The other big mindset shift we need to make is that these tools mean we must approach our jobs in a new way.  We have to appreciate the tools available as well as how and what to delegate task-wise.

2. Empower people with time.

Learning to get the most value out of any tool or device takes time.  Whether it’s a new phone or an air fryer.  With GenAI tools, learning the right way to prompt is an art form in and of itself.

In addition, working effectively with the output from these tools requires people to flex critical thinking. What any tool gives you will likely not be ready for Prime Time.  However, it’s rare that it won’t offer some value – whether it’s one new idea or insight, or at least serve as a first rough draft.

The key is making sure people take the time to keep trying.  And that’s hard given the deadline-driven nature of our industry. Even with a tool like Microsoft Copilot – which is literally embedded in the software we use every day – it still takes discipline to remember to pause and hit that button.

When folks hand me deliverables for review I’ll make it a point to ask if they tried using GenAI tools to help with their first draft.  It does not matter if the output created by the tool was not 100% spot on. That’s totally okay. What matters is that people keep taking the time to play around and learn.  Research shows using technology like Copilot improves productivity, work enjoyment and work-life balance after 11 weeks. So, ensuring people invest time now will pay off in a big way.

3. Encourage experimentation and best practice sharing.

There’s a key difference between GenAI and other tools. You know what a hammer is for, for example.  But, none of us know all the ways GenAI can help us be more effective practitioners.  Continual experimentation and best practice sharing are a must.

We recently had a little contest here at Current Global for promising applications of GenAI tools.

The ideas we got back ranged from increasing the accessibility of comms materials to stress-testing new creative campaign ideas. We then had a session where we reviewed the ideas together.  Our consumer, tech/corporate, and health teams all took part – and the excitement in the room says to me it won’t be the last session like this that we have. Not to mention that I literally learned a brand use case from a team member just yesterday.  Undoubtedly more will follow.

The bottom line is that the change ahead will be more profound than the shift from faxing to email or from written content to video.  But like past tech-spurred changes, our jobs will become even more rewarding, engaging and fun in the age of GenAI.

For any comms leaders out there who would like to learn about GenAI’s impact for the modern communications team, please do reach out.  We’d be happy to share some of our use cases and learnings.  

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