By Kristy Dixon

Reading about technology is sometimes like playing bingo; there are plenty of buzzwords and it doesn’t take long to stamp your sheet. But what might these developments mean in a communications industry context?

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

What is it?

AI already influences what we see on our Facebook feeds or in our news recommendations.

Machine Learning is a sub-set of AI, where computers are programmed to learn for themselves. For communicators these kinds of applications can read text and determine if it’s a complaint or congratulations. Image recognition and large translation jobs are also examples of Machine Learning.

AI and Machine Learning can help make more efficient use of customer data, for instance using billions of social posts to make predictions about how an advertising campaign or other content may perform.

IABC Communication World magazine explores AI and how it’s changing communication.

One last thing, the global hype around AI may be moving to a more practical, realistic application conversation.

Blockchain

What is it?

One example of Blockchain that may impact communicators, especially social media managers, is the Mercury Protocol. It’s a new type of software that uses blockchain to allow users to participate in messaging without sharing personal information. It also aims to reduce trolls (and trolling) by using tokens for constructive behavior.

The creators aim to make the code available to the public (open source) and hope to evolve our day-to-day social communication from marketing-driven platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

Big data

What is it?

Companies have been gathering data for many years. Think of focus groups or marketing research, surveys or other feedback mechanisms that have helped inform the next communication strategy. The difference today is computing power has impacted the speed and cost of gathering and making sense of the data.

Around the world 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created every day. That’s 2.5 billion gigabytes! If your eyes are glazing over with these numbers, 250 GB holds more than 30,000 average size photos or songs. Whoa!

Automation

What is it?

A good example of automation is media monitoring with keyword searches and notifications. Some media monitoring still requires human input, like checking newspapers that don’t mirror their print and digital versions.

A more advanced example is sending an email to a list of potential clients or donors or other audiences and the campaign automatically tweaks the content based on what actions the people take with the email. For instance, it may lead them to an advertisement or a specific webpage or a contact form.

Opportunity: the buzzword worth acting on

For communicators the biggest tech trend, like many other industries, may be the choice between concern and opportunity.

As waves of new technologies wash over the world we have a critical job to help explain, define and simplify.

‘Technology is only as complex as salespeople (and con artists) want it to sound. It’s all created by people no smarter than you or I, and it’s all quite simple when you break it down,’ Jamie Skella, LinkedIn.

Communication around ethics, policy development and regulation and education is a space where we can truly lead. Buzzwords will continue to rain down and it’s our job to help clarify and define, to build consistency and reduce confusion.

If the sound of all this furrows your brow, consider the idea that technology could augment our existing communication capabilities – there’s only an 18% chance PR specialists will be replaced by robots in the next 20 years!

Kristy is a communications specialist with experience across private industry, government, charities and start-ups. She adores the Canadian Rockies, eats Vegemite, and likes to ask, “What if?”

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