The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation for many industries much more quickly than anticipated. The new Worldwide Artificial Intelligence Spending Guide from International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts global spending on AI systems will jump from $85.3 billion in 2021 to more than $204 billion in 2025. We are experiencing an AI boom that is here to stay.
With high growth comes great responsibility.
The government, both regulators and legislators, and not to mention the public, remain skeptical about the ever-evolving AI applications, finding it difficult to measure the benefits against the perceived risks. The applications of advanced technology are racing ahead of its fundamental understanding. The uncertain regulatory landscape means uncertainty for AI companies and across global jurisdictions. That makes media engagement more complex and the potential risks for the corporate reputation even higher.
Newsrooms have responded to the digital transformation across sectors by dedicating more resources to beats such as emerging tech, AI, and innovation. However, similar to the regulators, reporters, and editors are also still trying to catch up. The NYT’s Shira Ovide wrote in her March 2nd OnTech newsletter:
“In our imaginations and in pop culture, it can feel as though there are only two paths for young technology companies: spectacular success with Ferraris and Ferragamo for everyone, or titanic wipeouts. The start-ups that change the world or die trying are the ones that people write books and make movies about.
The Silicon Valley myth all but ignores the vast middle ground between the unbelievables and the unforgivables.”
That vast middle ground is especially relevant for companies and executives that are just starting to establish their presence in the U.S. If you’re not in the “unbelievables club” it’s becoming challenging to get the media’s attention.
What does is it take in 2022 to architect a communications strategy and plan that overcomes the PR challenges facing AI companies in today’s fast media cycles?
Try something new
Following and engaging with target reporters on social media can be effective in learning what reporters are interested in covering and the likely questions they will have during an interview. It is particularly challenging for AI companies to find a story that no one else has told, but it’s not impossible. Be open to showing a demo, producing a Q&A, or bringing a client to a call with a reporter.
In addition, exploring platforms where journalists solicit interviews and seek written commentary can be a great way to get some early results. It might sound old-fashioned, but following up with select journalists with a phone call can be just the thing that gets you an interview. However, excessive follow-ups by phone or email are strongly discouraged. All in all, try something new, but from time to time, turn to the old ways.
Diversify your media outreach
Podcasts and bylines are high-value opportunities for executives to establish themselves as thought leaders. When it comes to the AI beat, some reporters cover broad topics, while others focus on a niche segment of the sector. This varies by publication. Additionally, with the shift from newsrooms to remote work, PR professionals need to tune into the best times of the day to pitch stories and think about other stories in the news that may impact a reporter’s response to the pitch or lack thereof. Many media outlets are becoming more reliant on contributed content, which presents additional opportunities for thought leadership.
Messaging manuals are a key component of a marketing communications strategy. Having a messaging manual defines how a company describes what it does, what makes it different, and enables consistency in how various spokespeople communicate key messages, which can increase a person’s comfort level while doing interviews. These manuals also ensure that all spokespeople are aligned around the same core messages.
Almost all new advanced technologies are met with some degree of skepticism, and sometimes distrust, and there is a lack of understanding, particularly around AI. Demonstrating a company’s approach and the benefits it delivers is critical in building understanding and confidence in the promise of the technology. As data privacy and regulation continue to trend in news cycles, executives will also have to be ready to speak about privacy, transparency, and ethics, no matter how uncomfortable it can be.
In 2022, it will be important to continue to be agile as we plan and adapt communications strategies throughout the year. Finding creative ways to connect with journalists and penetrate the media cycles, slow, medium, and fast, will be important as digital transformation continues at its rapid pace.