Emerging Technologies

Why the human touch is needed to harness AI tools for communications

AI still requires human oversight and refinement.

AI still requires human oversight and refinement. Image: Getty Images.

Margot Edelman
General Manager, New York; Co-Lead, U.S. Tech Practice, Edelman
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This article is part of: Annual Meeting of the New Champions
  • Generative AI can be used to write press releases and social media posts.
  • But it can't replicate or replace human creativity and emotional intelligence.
  • Here's how communications professionals can work with and harness AI.

Earlier this year, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman was quoted in a book called Our AI Journey as saying, “Ninety-five percent of what marketers use agencies, strategists, and creative professionals for today will easily, nearly instantly and at almost no cost be handled by AI.”

Altman was referring to Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), which is AI that has human-like intelligence and can teach itself. It doesn’t exist now, and the timeline for its appearance is highly debated among experts – but there is speculation by some that this could be achieved within the next five years. But even now, with the current state of generative AI, marketing tasks – like writing social media posts, designing web assets, and composing press releases – can be automated with AI, although it still often requires human oversight and refinement.

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Recent developments and those on the horizon can be nerve-wracking for marketing and communications professionals. But the best way to overcome fears about what the future with AI holds is to accept the efficiencies that AI offers while appreciating the nuances it lacks that humans can make up for.

AI does not have to make the role of professional communications obsolete. Instead, communicators can – and should – leverage the power and opportunity that AI tools provide. Creativity and emotional intelligence are irreplaceable in a field that appeals to human tendencies and emotions.

Leveraging AI to benefit communications

Edelman held our inaugural Generative AI Summit in May. Steve Clayton, the vice president for communication strategy at Microsoft, gave the keynote address, and tech, brand, and communications leaders from various companies that are on the frontier of AI adoption joined. They shared ideas about the practical application of AI technologies to drive change and improve efficiency in workplaces – particularly as it concerns marketing and communications functions.

Here are some tips from the summit that will help organizations manage AI integration in a way that supports and partners with their marketing and communications workforce, rather than displacing them:

1. Start small

Don’t feel like you need to completely upend your organization’s workstreams all at once. Start by integrating AI with existing systems. Then, invest in training and change management to bring employees on board with bigger changes down the line.

2. Consider ethical implications

According to the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer, 79% of global respondents find it important for their CEOs to speak out about the ethical use of technology. Companies using AI in their marketing and communications should over-communicate internally and externally about the ethical considerations they weighed when deciding on any addition of AI.

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3. Identify tasks that don’t benefit as much from a human touch

AI tools can improve efficiency to leave people with more time for creativity. Let AI translate content from one language to another, schedule social media posts, or even take a stab at the first draft of a document that a person can edit and put flourishes on later.

4. Augment human capabilities

Augmented intelligence draws on AI’s strengths, including data analysis and pattern recognition, and pairs them with human perspective and judgment. Leaders should empower workers to enthusiastically employ AI to improve their outputs by leaning into AI’s analytical power while still valuing the human’s real-world expertise.

The state of trust in AI

According to the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer, acceptance of AI is at a crossroads: 35% of respondents accept the innovation, 30% reject it. Educating people about how to best utilize AI tools can help earn more acceptance.

While there are some concerns over job loss due to the growing use of AI, job impact does not top the list of reasons why people are worried. There are concerns about AI’s effects on the workplace, but people are not completely closed off to how it could be incorporated into what they do.

One of the top ways people who are less than enthusiastic about AI say that they would feel more positive about it is if they can see the personal benefits (51%). So we need to flip the script on how marketing and communications professionals can leverage the power of AI – highlighting the benefits, rather than the risks, to those who use it.

Balancing human skills with AI

Human input can become even more important as certain technologies develop. In recent tech history, human to human advice has become increasingly valuable as SEO-optimized click farms clutter search results. As more communications start to lean on AI capabilities to generate and personalize messaging for each user, an unmediated human-led point of view may feel increasingly valuable.

Communicators and marketers are drawn to and good at what they do largely because of their understanding of human experience, storytelling, and creativity. They don’t lose those capabilities – even as AI gains effectiveness and popularity. Instead of pushing AI away, highlight the benefits to make it more valuable to work – especially when that work is meant to entice and inform real people.

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