Is artificial intelligence able to deliver effective crisis communication?

Communicators are being told to get familiar with artificial intelligence because it will be critical to the future. That is not something I disagree with. There is a lot that the development of AI can bring both to the world of PR and to managing a crisis.

I read with interest a blog on The Crisis Response Journal (Crisis Response Journal : The role of AI and machine learning in public safety (crj.co)) by Marta Azevedo Silva from the European Emergency Number Association. It highlights the aspects where the margin for error can be removed by machine learning that can take in and assess more data than the human brain. I was drawn to the comment:

“Machines can process huge amounts of data faster than humans can. They can also analyse a situation with emotional detachment and, as seen above, constantly learn to improve.”

It is the element of ’emotional detachment’ that causes me some concern. One of the key aspects, for me, in an effective crisis communication response is the ability to view and assess the mood and tone. This does mean you need to look from the outside of what has happened, and put yourself into the position of those who have been affected. But an element of emotion in your personal reaction is not a bad thing if you are aware of it and manage it.

When we just refer to logic and procedure for the crisis communication response we miss the point. On too many occasions we see communication in the early stages of an emergency or critical incident that provides lots of facts but is without any feeling. What we need to do is ensure that there is humanity and empathy with the words that we use. And of course all this needs to be authentic or it will be called out as fake.

In the future artificial intelligence may be able to recognise and respond to human emotion, and when it does then it may be able to provide crisis communication that hits the mark. Until that point we should harness what we can from it but always remain focused on the people that are caught up in the incident.

If you are interested in the possible future of artificial intelligence within the crisis communication response, you may want to watch this webinar I did a few months ago with expert in the area Kerry Sheehan. (https://youtu.be/QTQHb0ylYU4)

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