FY(A)I: Shaping Opinions Around New Technologies

May 7, 2018

This article is featured on O’Dwyers PR and was written by, Lindsay Murphy, VP, Earned Media. 

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “Artificial Intelligence?” With season two of “Westworld” in full swing, many think of Dolores Abernathy and the fine line between a human- and robot-controlled amusement park. But whether we realize it or not, we’re interacting with AI every day, on both the enterprise and personal level.

At Racepoint, we celebrate the great potential of AI while helping our clients keep a close eye on how reactions are forming to emerging technologies. In particular, our teams utilize a proprietary technology, FieldFacts, that enables us to narrow conversation focus to high-quality influencers, from powerful industry leaders to popular bloggers. With FieldFacts intelligence in hand, we arm clients with insights and key narratives that allow brands to capitalize on the news of the day, reach key decision makers and drive high-value brand engagement.

As industries evolve from early adoption to investment, it’s important that brands are tuned in to how AI is perceived. These key insights ensure their leaders are well positioned to communicate the benefits of new technologies, while effectively managing brand reputation from rural communities to Capitol Hill.

The AI revolution

Conversations around AI are taking place every day, whether in the news, among employees and consumers or at events worldwide. Last month, Politico convened an event in Washington, D.C. titled “Winning the Age of AI,” hosted by Cognizant. In his opening remarks, Cognizant executive VP Malcolm Frank predicted that AI will be the “fourth industrial revolution.”

Gallup poll released earlier this year found 76 percent of U.S. adults said AI will change the way people work and live. Among these adults, 73 percent said AI will result in net job loss. Frank and the panels that followed, however, argued this new technology will actually protect jobs and create new industries. Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) also stressed the importance of fostering competition in AI technologies, noting the United States is “tied or slightly behind [China in that race], but not too far away where we can’t catch up.”

Our FieldFacts scans identified similar threads of conversation related to how AI is a focus of policy discussions worldwide — including U.K.’s announcement of its $1.4 billion investment in AI and articles on how Paris plans to emerge as a global hub for this new technology. Additionally, FieldFacts extracted a Reuters exclusive explaining why the U.S. government wants to tighten its grip on “informal partnerships between American and Chinese companies in the field of artificial intelligence.”

The Gallup poll, however, underscores the importance of brand leaders recognizing that realities — like billion dollar investments — don’t often square with fears of job loss as the race to AI ensues. Privacy, data collection, and other automation concerns will undoubtedly arise as AI is unveiled and communicated to stakeholders, and brands must be prepared to challenge these fears with tangible benefits that shape the narrative long before negative perceptions can take hold.

Crafting narratives that address misconceptions is particularly important for Beltway audiences, as legislators hold the power over whether or not layers of regulation can be applied to the technologies brands are pursuing. Brands shouldn’t fear Capitol Hill, nor should they ignore it; it’s important to take decision-makers along in the AI journey to communicate the benefits, weigh potential risks, correct the record and engage in an ongoing dialogue that positions your brand as a thought leader and trusted partner.

AI is everywhere, ready or not

Our FieldFacts intelligence also highlights an important aspect of AI that’s often overlooked — AI is everywhere, it’s fueling everything we do, and it’s only going to get more deeply embedded in our day-to-day. From driverless cars to self-destructing emails to controversial Facebook content-removal policies, top-tier publications and industry leaders are dissecting trends, assessing threats and amplifying really cool technologies that are shaping how influencers and industries approach the future every day.

If you aren’t telling your brand story, someone else will. Brands need to position themselves as leaders in shaping the AI debate, particularly inside the Beltway, to frame perceptions on how AI will impact people and industries for the better. And there’s no shortage of opportunities for FieldFacts to help shape storytelling, strategize best practices, capitalize on news of the day and, ultimately, influence the decision-makers where and when it matters most.

Perhaps Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) said it best when, at the Politico event, he noted artificial intelligence is no longer science fiction. While the science behind AI has not reached Dolores-level smarts, this industry’s potential proves boundless. Narratives surrounding AI cannot and should not be defined by perceptions. It’s going to take strong and thoughtful leadership to help us all grow and work together toward this exciting future.