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We all need a personal AI learning plan

When I started my communications career my first manager told me that our work was doubly hard. Not only did I need to master the discipline of communications, but I also needed to master the work of the broader organizations if I wanted to be an effective counselor, and really drive impact. Understanding comms while deeply understanding the business is a principle I’ve tried to live with ever since.  

AI is unleashing dramatic change across every part of every organization. If we as communicators want to live by the principle of knowing the business, we’ll need to double down on a commitment to being perpetual students or risk becoming irrelevant. The good news is that while this wave of innovation challenges us in new ways, AI also offers us powerful new tools we can use to transform the discipline, transform ourselves and rise to the challenge. Communicators who deeply understand the impact of AI on their business and know how to harness it in their function will continue to elevate both themselves and the discipline of communications. 

To ride this wave of change and prosper we all need a personal AI-learning plan that covers at least four dimensions:

1. How is AI affecting the organization where I work and what is our overall AI strategy?

Organizations big and small are rapidly experimenting with and embracing AI. In areas like customer service, marketing, product development and more, teams are just beginning to understand the power and potential. As communicators we have a real opportunity to help shape how our organizations use and deploy AI. We can be an important voice for ensuring our organizations use AI in a transparent and responsible way.  And we need to help tell the AI story for our organization. Investors, policy makers, the media, customers, and employees are all hungry to learn more about how organizations are using AI today, where they see opportunities, and how they plan to manage the risks and ensure the technology is used responsibly. Some might say this is the only thing some audiences are interested in. Your “AI story” needs to be front and center.  Do you know it? Can you tell it? Is your team working every day to refine and improve it? 

Part one of our AI learning plan is: Learn your organization’s AI plan and story. 

2. How can I personally use AI to help me better understand my organization?

Knowing the business takes work and time. It always has. And as the pace of change accelerates, it becomes even more demanding. But the good news is AI can help.  How can you use the same AI tools that are driving change to understand the change? For example, how are you using AI tools to summarize longer or more technical documents and presentations? How are you using AI to generate insights from data, identify interesting trends, and monitor competition in real time?

Part two of our AI learning plan is: Learn the AI tools you can use to help you better research, track and understand your organization.  

3. How is AI impacting the discipline of communications and what’s my plan to harness it?

This one is closer to home. It’s still early but already you see some of the potential for AI tools to radically transform our field. Potential uses include generating first drafts or suggested outlines of speeches, press releases, blog posts, and FAQs, and tracking external sentiment and spotting potential crisis or issues earlier. Even identifying new reporters or influencers who might be interested in your story or predicting the success of a pitch. These are just some of the ways AI is impacting the discipline of communications. Just as your business partners are experimenting with AI for the business, you need a clear plan to experiment with AI for communications. Understand what AI is good at and what it is not good at. And you’ll need training and clear operating principles for the Comms team and others to ensure they are using these new technologies responsibly and transparently.  

Part three of our AI learning plan is:  Learn how you can use AI responsibly in communications.   

4. How can I personally use AI to make myself more productive and have greater impact?

AI has the potential to transform how organizations work and AI can also be harnessed by the individual too, driving productivity, and efficiency and freeing us up from routine tasks to focus on the things that have the biggest impact. New AI tools can summarize meetings you missed and identify if there are any actions for you, transcribe phone calls or interviews, generate first drafts of internal reports or emails more quickly, speed up production of that all-important PowerPoint deck, and automate coverage reporting. We’ll all need to experiment with these tools, understanding their strengths and limitations, and how to get the most out of them. New capabilities are being added all the time, so our plan needs to ensure we’re staying up to date on the latest feature or new service.  

Part four of our AI learning plan: Learn the personal productivity tools that help you get ahead.  

AI is a wave of change heading our way. We all need to adapt to succeed. And AI can help us. But we’ll all need to commit to lifetime learning and a personal AI learning plan if we want to ride the wave and prosper.  

Dominic Carr is a communications leader with more than 25 years of experience at major multinational companies, including at Microsoft and Lyft, where he’s built global teams and strategic communications programs that change perceptions of businesses, brands, and issues. He is a member of the USC Center for PR board of advisers.