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IABC Victoria’s most recent event and a newly released discussion paper aim to spark a conversation about the future of communications in an age of rampaging technology.

Download a copy of the new discussion paper – ‘The robots are coming: AI, automation and the future of communications’.

Last week’s IABC Victoria event saw a highly engaged audience come together to tackle what could be the biggest change to hit our profession in decades. That is, the exciting, but challenging, issue of artificial intelligence and its impact on the future of communications.

The session began with a practical demonstration of the fallibility of technology (our way of explaining away a technical glitch). The group then settled in to hear about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and how technology is beginning to fundamentally re-shape our society, organisations and lives.

The group heard about:

The two forces that will profoundly impact our profession: radical organisational change and the automation of a growing number of communication tasks.

The two choices we have as a profession: keep doing what we’re doing (which will lead to downward pressure on the size of our teams) or raise the bar to meet what will be a growing organisational need for communication leadership and support.

The five steps we can take to build our STAKE in the future:

  • Strategic alignment: the ties that bind
  • Transformation: the champions of change
  • Advocacy: the voice of the people
  • Knowledge: the cult of curiosity
  • Education: the voice of the future.

Morals, ethics and leadership

Perhaps the most telling aspect of this event was the way the discussion clearly veered in one direction: the many significant moral, ethical and leadership dilemmas that automation will put before us. These dilemmas include:

  • How social will social media be when it’s executed by machines?
  • How do communicators get involved to ensure that the bots and algorithms our organisations create meet the needs of people and don’t raise the risk of major stakeholder issues and crises?
  • What does the automation of many routine communications tasks mean for entry level and junior communicators?

These are very important issues and we will all have to address them at some point in the future. At the same time, all these issues have one thing in common. The all relate to one of the five steps mentioned above: Advocacy: the voice of the people.

So, to introduce this new discussion paper to you, we reprint here an edited excerpt that covers this critical topic.

Advocacy: the voice of the people

The coming years will be marked by radical change. This will create many opportunities (as change always does), but it will stretch the capacity of both organisations and people.

Automation will also lead to a very delicate balancing act. One of the most exciting aspects of automation is the ability to improve efficiency and customer experience at the same time. But, if you go too hard on the efficiencies (which some will be tempted to do), you’ll run the risk of seriously compromising the outcomes you deliver for people.

To further complicate this, our organisations will face many difficult decisions regarding technology adoption. These range from complex moral and ethical dilemmas to questions about:

  • How we manage and support our people
  • How we create and manage our growing army of technologies, algorithms and bots.

A clear priority in all these conversations is the need to focus on people. This isn’t simply a case of being nice. The only way to build sustainable growth is to create sustainable value. At a time of growing competition and consumer choice, voice and mistrust, failing our stakeholders could be catastrophic in the long-term.

Somewhere in all this change, someone has to stand up and be the voice of our colleagues, customers and communities. Someone has to help our organisations build their sense of openness, trust and caring… of humanity… during what could be a wild ride.

There are few people more attuned to these issues than the Corporate Communication team. As such, there are few people better placed to perform this vital advocacy role than communicators.


Leverage technology to deepen your understanding of your organisation’s many stakeholders – who they are, how they’re changing and what they need.

Find your way into the middle of the key discussions. When strategy is being developed. When change programs are being mapped. When the technology and algorithms that will drive our processes and customer experience are being planned. Be the voice that’s constantly asking… what about our people? What about our customers? What about our communities? Are we doing the right things for them? Will the outcomes of our decisions work for them?

Work to bring your colleagues together and build a more ‘human’ culture within your organisation. Give people the opportunity to share and discuss their fears, concerns and ideas.

And, most importantly of all, make sure the organisation listens.

Download a copy of the new discussion paper – ‘The robots are coming: AI, automation and the future of communications’.