The Ball Is In Your Court


Sia Papageorgiou

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Sia Papageorgiou

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The Cambridge Dictionary describes the word “playbook” as: A set of rules or suggestions that are considered to be suitable for a particular activity, industry, or job. But you’ve most likely heard of a playbook used in sports – i.e. a book containing a sports team’s strategies or plays. And when it comes to our organisations’ business, just like in sports, it pays to be prepared. 

Earlier this year I attended IABC’s World Conference in Vancouver, Canada. If you’ve never heard of this conference, it’s three days of inspiring keynotes and thought-provoking breakout sessions about the latest trends, topics and issues in communication and includes valuable opportunities for networking and connection with around 1,400 other communication professionals from all over the world.

The closing keynote was particularly relevant for me. Peter Sheahan, Group CEO and Founder of global consultancy Karrikins Group blew me away. His keynote, Leading transformation: How leaders accelerate their progress to the future explored the changing role of organisations and their leaders in an era of fake news and increasing demands. But it’s what he said about the role of communication professionals that really struck a chord with me.

He implored communication professionals to move from awareness to ownership and said that frustration and fear for the future is an opportunity for urgency and excitement. You don't want to be the one saying, "We never saw it coming."

This hit me like a ton of bricks. Yes, I remember thinking – yes! Communication professionals have to stop waiting for direction on what’s next. It’s time for us to step up and be proactive. It’s time for us to learn about what’s next. And what’s next is artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is going to change the way we do business and work as communication professionals. In fact, the revolution has already begun. For communication professionals it promises to take care of all the mundane tactical activities we currently handle, freeing us to focus on demonstrating our value through the more strategic activities that machines cannot – like influencing the C-suite, connecting our organisation’s audiences and stakeholders and creating meaning in a world fraught with change.

But we can’t afford to wait any longer. When our organisations seek advice on how best to communicate about AI, we need to be ready to ask the right questions and advise on the right approach. We also need to know what technology is being used and how it will impact on our organisations’ stakeholders. Not only do we need to be ready to communicate about AI, but we need to be ready to explore AI in the context of our communication work.

Which leads me to our recently-released AI Playbook for Communication Professionals. Developed after almost two years of research, interviews and focus groups, and supported by IABC’s Research Foundation, it offers guidance to communication professionals and is designed to be your go-to guide on communicating about AI to your organisation’s stakeholders and adopting AI tools in your communication practice.

The playbook can help you to:

  1. Start building your AI knowledge: using suggested sources offered by communication professionals currently communicating about AI
  2. Find what you’re looking for online: using suggested search recommendations from communication professionals who have done and are doing AI research
  3. Experiment with AI tools: using tools that could help make your job in communication easier 
  4. Understand the business need for AI communication: by understanding the context for your organisation and where the business needs is coming from
  5. Establish objectives for AI: by focusing on creating awareness, changing attitudes and taking action on AI
  6. Priorities your stakeholders: and encouraging dialogue around AI topics and issues with employees delivering AI and customers consuming AI
  7. Focus on the narrative around AI: to customers, employees, suppliers and shareholders
  8. Position your AI messages for impact: by using the right approach supported by data, research, stories and case studies
  9. Set expectations up front: about what is shaping your work when it comes to communicating about AI and adopting AI tools in your communication work
  10. Build your AI learning pathway: by thinking about the competencies and skills you need to help you on your AI journey

We’ve tried to make the playbook as actionable and helpful as possible for communication professionals. It includes a number of extra insights, tips and bonus content to help you plan your journey with confidence. Use it to start thinking about what’s ahead when it comes to AI and how it can help you in your role as a communication professional.

The Centre for Strategic Communication Excellence will continue to update the resources that support the playbook so communication professionals can continue to build their knowledge and skills as communicating about AI becomes the focus of more and more organisations.

Our 2019 research uncovered some interesting insights:

  • Only 11% of communication professionals surveyed said they’re using AI in the communication function
  • 84% believe AI allows communication professionals to provide significant value to the organisation
  • The same number feel that communication professionals should advocate adopting AI tools in their communication activities
  • 63% feel the communication industry isn’t preparing professionals for a leadership role in AI communication
  • 40% were unsure of their organisation’s plans for using AI communication tools in the next year

So what are you waiting for?

Be aware, stay informed and respect what you might not know. Your success as a strategic communication professional, responsible for developing communication in today’s fragmented, complex world, depends on it. 

Download your copy of the AI Playbook for Communication Professionals.

Sia Papageorgiou FRSA, SCMP is the Director of the Centre for Strategic Communication Excellence. Sia is a multi-award-winning strategic communication leader who believes in the power of connection, the spirit of change, and embracing adventure. She’s a certified strategic communication management professional, a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, and Immediate Past President of the Victorian chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). She’s consulted to some of the world’s largest organisations, delivering creative communication strategies that drive understanding, impact and performance. She’s a past board director at IABC Asia-Pacific and is Vice Chair of the Global Communication Certification Council. In 2020 she was named IABC’s Chapter Leader of the Year.