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Human vs Machine: Navigating the Realities of AI in Financial Business Communications

a robot on a white background

Above: will robots take over marketing, public relations or other communications functions in financial services?

The introduction of AI has brought remarkable efficiency and potential for personalised communications across various sectors.

This article aims to discuss three critical aspects of AI in marketing communications, highlighting the importance of balancing technology with human interaction and calling for more detailed, practical guidance in using AI in PR and communications.

AI Isn’t A Proxy For Genuine Communication

The capacity of AI to generate ultra-personalised content with near-instantaneous speed has been acclaimed as a revolutionary development in business communications. This technological leap has simplified complex tasks like account-based marketing (ABM), social media management, press release creation, and other aspects of content-based marketing communications considerably.

However, I foresee that the very ubiquity of AI could precipitate its downfall. The gradual integration of text-based generative AI into a diverse range of software – encompassing content management systems, graphic design, email marketing, and even Microsoft’s enterprise suite – is becoming increasingly evident. The easy access and the allure of rapid results are likely to encourage widespread adoption in the marketing and communications space.

Yet, this widespread use is likely to result in an over-saturation of AI-generated content, which may eventually become so recognisable that audiences simply dismiss this type of content. As prospects and clients become better at identifying AI content, its effectiveness will diminish significantly until there are no gains to be had from its use at all.

This pattern was similar for personalised emails. Initially seen as innovative, the overuse of email in general to promote business, but specifically personalised emails, led to a much diminished impact. Audiences are desensitised to it, they know the personalisation is canned and so the desired effect isn’t had: personalised approaches, including targeted emails and social media messages, no longer outperform generic communications.

The canned “personalisation” offered by AI is likely to meet a similar fate, with people becoming increasingly skilled at spotting and disregarding artificially personalised content. Early studies confirm this.1

This certainly means diminished returns across email, but also potentially across social media, advertising, landing pages - and wherever else AI is used. The opposite will be true as well: audiences will begin to start responding better to genuine, human communication.

AI as a Complementary Tool

In my view, AI must be deployed as a tool to meet strategic goals. Without people who can use AI to develop informed communication or business strategies, AI might actually hinder strategic efficiency.

A good business strategy is nothing but a communication enterprise. A solid relationship between firms and clients, for example, must be based on some sort of understanding between the two – something that AI is still incapable of. When it comes to strategic planning, AI can certainly help stakeholders to make informed decisions. However, if not used purposefully, AI will struggle to respond informatively.

Instead, AI can streamline and enhance processes, increasing productivity and allowing for a more strategic allocation of one’s time. One of the best uses I have found for AI is to run video or audio through it, generating a written transcript of what has been said. This can be refined further by AI, before being read, whilst following along with the video or audio, and then worked on manually for turning into content. This process cuts down on literal hours of work manually transcribing audio content, before the valuable work of creating thought leadership can actually begin.

Most positively, AI like Chat GPT has all but changed the world for those who struggle to write professionally. Using these tools as a guide to creating better content I’m sure has already helped many.

However, the reality today is that companies are still in need of human translators to make sense of AI capabilities and put them at the service of communication strategies – not the other way around.

Companies succeeding in the digital transformation of their business models were found to be investing equally in the in-house training of staff to incorporate AI into their work routines, and in these new technologies themselves2. The lesson learnt from these industry champions on the use of AI is that technology by itself is not a competitive advantage – especially when it is equally available to you and your competitors. Without the qualified personnel to make the most of it, AI is nothing but a white elephant that will have taken up too much of your time and will end up retuning too little on your investment.

The Primacy of Relationships in Financial Services

In industries like financial services, where trust and understanding are paramount, the impersonal nature of AI-generated communication will be particularly detrimental.

AI is a homogenised form of communication that can lack genuine human touch, after all. While it can customise communication to an individual's preferences or generate near instant results, it will not be able to (yet?) replicate the nuanced, empathetic engagement that human interaction provides. In other words, it sounds robotic because it is.

Furthermore, in a sector that thrives on direct, interpersonal relationships, employing AI in public communications could potentially damage the trust and rapport that professionals spend years cultivating. Drawing a parallel with friendships or romantic relationships, where the use of AI in communication would easily be perceived as deceptive, in financial services and other professional services businesses, where trust is paramount and business is personal, similar feelings of betrayal could arise if clients discover their interactions were actually AI-generated.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The takeaway in all of this is that ultimately, AI cannot replace the give-and-take that underpins a good communication strategy for it lacks what – still only humans – possess: the ability to establish genuine communication between interested parties.

Companies should utilise AI but do so responsibly - those who don’t will certainly be left behind. Second, marketing and communication heads need to remember that AI isn't everything. It's important not to get too caught up in it and to keep valuing the real MVPs – your people. They're the ones who truly make things happen.


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