Don’t Be a Zombie — Thrive With These PR Insights on AI

April 10, 2024

I recently interviewed a machine learning engineer who’s also a partner at a unique venture capital firm, distinguished for its own AI platform innovation and technical expertise. In fact, the firm is one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2024. The conversation had me genuinely riveted as this hands-on technologist explained how zombie AI companies with dead-in-the-water products were multiplying.

Why? It’s largely due to AI-hyped fantasy, flagging due diligence, and marketwide misunderstanding of the extremely challenging task it is just to get data in shape — before AI ever becomes production-ready — to grow a business’s bottom line.

That was one conversation of dozens with technical professionals that we have weekly at Bospar. None of the discussion and learning goes to waste. These relationships, coupled with our ongoing research and strategies to deeply understand the client technology we explain to the world, continuously shape our PR and marketing insights. AI stories that media care about now, amid so much noise, are stories of substance (and, occasionally, drama). More examples in our portfolio include these:

As your brand considers telling its AI story, or not, and works to find its groove in an AI-inundated world, here are some marketing and PR observations that put your business’s real needs front and center.

Keep your marketing eye on the core-product ball

Many companies are developing AI-driven components and copilot-style assistant tools. If you’ve got that in your kit, it’s OK to celebrate the efficiencies gained with a press release, social campaign or media initiative, but don’t overhaul your messaging to distort your AI reality.

If your non-AI core product and technology has market traction and if you’re meeting customer needs, keep your eye squarely on that ball in your communications strategic plan. You don’t need a new website plastered with AI. Companies minimize crisis communications risk by telling the truth across collateral. If AI is delivering a piece of concrete value, do roll that out as a player in your larger story, but not as a sudden and false central hero.

As Jensen Huang envisioned, how we build most software in the future may be through a super AI with a mission that assembles a team of AIs to own each piece of an execution plan — but that is a vision. Despite the tremendous progress in AI and the fast-paced change, that isn’t a reality dominating the market and won’t be for some time.

If you’ve got an AI longevity story, tell it

Companies, including many of our clients, have been developing and using machine learning (systems that learn from the data they consume) for more than a decade. Recommendation engines, spam filtering, language translation, cybersecurity monitoring, computer vision, and so many more use cases, all leverage this form of AI.

While generative AI (systems that generate new content, including text, imagery, audio and synthetic data) has knocked our collective socks off with its eloquence and function calling capabilities, the longevity that some businesses have in accumulating and preparing their data and refining their machine learning tools is solid gold. That longevity demonstrates a brand is unlikely to be a flash-in-the-pan failed startup or an AI zombie, but instead is offering customers hard-won reliability and value.

Know how big gen AI perceives your brand and feed the need

Keep a close watch on how generative AI is or isn’t construing your brand. Bospar is working to help clients prepare for the new SEO of the AI era. Which data in the wild, covering your brand, have been screen-scraped up by ChatGPT and similar, major LLMs? How might you get those models to consume more brand data and the most accurate data? Do you know which prompts will cause the big gen AI players to mention your brand? If your brand isn’t mentioned in responses output by ChatGPT, and you wish it were, is there anything you can do about it? “While companies can’t change what the models already ‘know’ about the brand,” they can strategize and implement next steps.

We know major LLMs are fast running out of data to train on and that an important debate continues about training on synthetic data and the kinds of degradation and model collapse that may cause. We know those feeding the LLMs are turning their hunger to web videos and those across social media.

That’s big food for thought as you position your brand for generation.

Know when gen AI can help your marketing and PR — and when it can’t

Using AI to analyze your marketing and sales data and determine strategy with hard numbers is smart.   Gen AI may even be useful in idea brainstorming and creating copy starting points for a presentation, newsletter, or email. But it’s highly counterproductive at this time to use it to produce a thought leadership article for a reputable publication.

Remember that editors don’t want ChatGPT’s view. They want yours. In fact, most of those publications have rules against gen AI’s use, and they monitor for it with AI detectors, like GPT Zero and Zero GPT.

What’s more, it’s pretty easy for experienced editors and writers to sniff out synthetic copy in the first paragraph. (It’s often that obvious.) While gen AI arguably outputs an “original” formulation of words, it’s problematic because: (1) the writing doesn’t offer an identifiable human’s perspective and unique twist, (2) hallucinations and bias are still common, and (3) lawsuits are ongoing about the ethics and legality of how the data was acquired to train the models.

For thought leadership, it’s vital to check a target publication’s rules or check in with an editor before wasting time with content that can’t be used and takes significant time and effort to reformulate.

Remember your teams and customers are human — and exist to be creative

Increasingly, the AI conversation pendulum keeps swinging back to a most pressing and basic sentiment: We want AI to do the dishes, not write poetry. Humans not only crave doing the creative part in life, society thrives when we do. Machines picking up rote and mundane tasks may truly free humans up for more creativity and more productivity. But beware of cutting corners. Leaving your brand’s creative expression up to gen AI or people who like to use prompts — but not critical thinking skills and wild imagination — is unlikely to help your brand, your teams, or your customers see your value.

AI’s evolution and accelerated computing are, of course, happening at a breakneck pace. But the useful products to be created from that and the value to be derived from it are still immature. At Paris Fashion Week, Naomi Campbell wore an artificially intelligent, but buggy, Star-Trek-style badge that can laser display onto your hand, featuring interactivity in thin air. Detailed 3D holographic displays are here, but need better resolution and smaller hardware. AI-fueled digital twins are here and being refined. When we’re able to combine all three — and reduce a product like Apple Vision Pro to the size of regular sunglasses — the PR communications needed to accompany that will be alive and ready. Right here.

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About the author

Racquel Yerbury loves inquiry, technology and poetry—as well as feisty debates about the rise and fall of crypto. As senior content director at Bospar, she brings 20+ years of writing and editing experience to the team, with technical chops in cloud services, data management, DevOps, APIs, AI/ML, cybersecurity, and blockchain. Her work includes research reports, press releases, articles, strategic digital communications, and marketing campaigns. She is also a former educator, licensed private pilot and Fulbright scholar.