AI for communication experts

Don’t immediately think of the most complicated things when it comes to AI or Artificial Intelligence. It simply means the capacity of a system to correctly interpret external data, to learn from those data, and to use these findings to perform specific tasks. AI helps making flexible decisions and responding quicker to changing situations. Of course you find it on computers and smartphones, and also in various social media, search engines, apps, and so on. Communication professionals have obviously also found their way to AI. Their opinions have now been thoroughly examined for the first time in the European Communication Monitor 2019 **. How do communication experts in Europe view the use, knowledge and adoption of AI in their profession?

Three quarters (77.3%) of interviewees think that AI will change the communication profession as a whole, but 37% also still think that their daily work will not be affected directly. 55.8% of Belgian communication experts are of the opinion that AI will not change their profession as a whole, and 32.1% even think that it will not affect their personal work. It may also be surprising (and disturbing) that very few communication specialists in Europe (13.3%) use smart assistants such as Siri, Amazon Echo or Alexa at the office. What do communication professionals understand about AI? When given 8 statements about AI (for example about the self-learning ability of AI), the average is 4 correct answers. Only 15.4% give 7 correct answers and can therefore be more or less called AI “literate”, with most of them active in Finland, Sweden and Germany.

It becomes also interesting regarding the question about the greatest challenges in the use of AI in the communication field. The greatest seems to be attracting the right competencies (56.2%), immediately followed (54.7%) by the need for a good IT infrastructure and the necessary investment resources. Access to super-fast Internet or legal barriers (the ethical impact of AI) seem to be less relevant (34.8%) to the communication sector. Most startling in figures: the “inverted” AI gap between young and older communication experts. Young people see the future of AI less bright than older colleagues, because they are more aware of the dangers and risks, justified or not. Regarding the risk in the use of AI, 29.2% see a large impact and few risks, and 14.7% a high impact with many risks.

When analysing the figures of the European Communication Monitor 2019, the conclusions for Belgium are as follows: 60.6% of interviewees think that their organisation will have trouble getting the right AI talent on board, 49.1% fear that AI will cause a lot of organisational uncertainty in their profession, 15.8% consider that the communication profession will lose its identity, 12.1% think of job losses and 9.1% of income reduction, and finally 14.5% are convinced that the communication profession will lose its core competencies. A distinction: at European level, Belgian communication experts are in the top 5 when it comes to thinking about and dealing with AI, behind Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France.

And what do I think? At any rate, AI thunders into the communication profession like a high-speed train. The impact that AI will have and already has on the communication profession is utterly underestimated. The accelerating possibilities that AI offers to develop better communication strategies are particularly underused. In other words: we are not home yet.

*An annual study conducted by the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA) and the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD), supported as partners by Cision Insights, Fink & Fuchs and Communication Director magazine CD), gesteund als partners door Cision Insights, Fink & Fuchs en Communication Director magazine.