Five Questions with Kerry Sheehan
Vice Chair, Artificial Intelligence in PR, Chartered Institute of Public Relations
"AI will inform us when it is the right time to speak to the right people with the right messages."
Kerry is a chartered PR practitioner (CIPR); associate global PR and communications director, vice chair of the leading #AIinPR panel; and an elected member of the CIPR Council. Kerry has a background overseeing communications, PR, and marketing functions in both agency and in-house settings–building profiles and profits, ensuring organizations and companies have purpose in their approach, and start to adopt AI as part of their corporate strategy. As a former international journalist and news editor, Kerry has proven success in developing, managing, and implementing brand-building, reputation, and earned media strategies, and measuring results across traditional and digital channels. Kerry has also worked for global brands Costa Coffee and the IHG Hotel Group.
WHAT IMPACT WILL AI HAVE ON THE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSION?
The ultimate goal of artificial intelligence is not to take our jobs but to assist us in doing them better. I absolutely advocate that AI is PR’s intelligent assistant and, in years to come, we will not do without it.
Machines will help us better understand the data that is critical to our everyday decision making—whether that informs our own processes, the work we are doing, or the audiences we want to engage. AI will lessen the burden of time-intensive processing work, such as media monitoring, niche targeting, or running reports. AI will make research, discovery, and investigation easier for us as these tasks will be simplified, automated, and machine assisted. It will allow us to spend more time on high-value work, like talking to clients, leadership, strategy, and creativity.
Ultimately, the impact across the communications industry will be significant as we get to a point where AI is alerting us to when it is the right time to speak to the right people with the right messages.
Oh—a personal voice assistant will also be good to remind me on key deadline deliverables and where I need to be next!
HOW WILL AUDIENCES CONNECT WITH BRANDS AS AI USE INCREASES?
Information will find the customer rather than customers finding the information themselves, and personalization will be key. Audiences will connect better with the brands they feel are communicating with them on a personal level. Predictions are that organizations that invest in top personalization will outsell companies that haven’t by around 30%. AI tools can help us deliver personalized content faster and at scale by segmenting and targeting based on relevant characteristics like customer behavior, location context, etc. We will see an increase of AI being used to evoke emotions and thus, supporting a stronger connection between audiences and brands. AI will help to analyze human emotions, such as audiences’ facial expressions and voices, and we can then use technology to seek feedback on how well our content and campaigns were received.
HOW WILL AI IMPACT THE WAY WE CRAFT, DISTRIBUTE, AND CONSUME CONTENT?
Predictive analytics are key to developing a team of next-generation communicators. With real-time data powered by AI, professionals in the PR and media industries will be able to provide their audiences with the content they want. Data removes the guessing game that goes into creating content, exploring keywords, phrases, imagery, and other forms of media. It can also organize information to see which calls-to-action, links, and content performed the best and eliminate time being spent on content that audiences don’t find engaging.
WHAT SHOULD COMMUNICATORS CONSIDER WITH THE ADVANCEMENT OF AI?
The beauty of AI is that it is technology that understands nuance and learns as more inputs are collected. That’s what makes the technology “smart.” That is also what makes it dangerous, because the ability to discern is governed by algorithms being built by humans. In fact, the artificial intelligence revolution has unleashed a seemingly endless stream of ethics questions, particularly on data and bias.
Therefore, it is vital for PR professionals to be fully aware of what data their organizations and clients have and that there is a thorough understanding that all data is biased. We need to ensure the data we are using is compliant with data regulations, as well as sourced ethically and transparently. I believe that, at some point, it will become ethically irresponsible for communicators to be unaware of “relevant technology” and its everyday application for our practice and those of the industries we work in.
WHAT IGNITED YOUR INTEREST IN YOUR CURRENT LINE OF WORK?
I am fascinated how our work on the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ Artificial Intelligence in Public Relations panel is leading the way for the whole communications industry on what AI means for us in everyday practice, how we need to diversify our skills, and the fantastic opportunities it is bringing us to improve what we do. I am also passionate for our work in supporting PR professionals and their understanding of AI, how tools and products work, and what is ethical AI.
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