Views: AI in public affairs – A valuable part of the future

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THE role of AI in public affairs offers significant potential opportunities but will never replace the fundamentals of good political engagement, writes Dr Stuart Thomson.

The UK government recently released a whitepaper claiming that its world leading approach to innovation in AI will ‘turbocharge growth’ but the reality is much deeper and wider. For many parts of the UK economy, not least all parts of the communications family, it offers the potential for productivity improvements. 

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AI is potentially democratic. It is not the preserve of large organizations or consultancies. It could potentially level the playing field and small consultancies, or freelancers, who really understand how to implement it could set themselves apart.

In public affairs, we often have to deal with large amounts of data and information. Boiling that down into something that a client, or particularly, a political audience will understand can be a challenge. One that AI can assist with.

We need to be as tailored as possible when making approaches to audiences, especially elected representatives. AI could help them to understand the area they represent in a whole new way. Governments at national and local levels release information but we rarely have time to consider it and certainly not in a way tailored to the constituency boundaries of a Member of Parliament. Then there are reports, whitepapers, think tank studies and a whole range of information that AI would help us all to consider.

AI is already commonplace for those providing political monitoring services but as the technology evolves it will allow us to bring together the continuous monitoring of news articles, social media platforms, and online forums to track discussions and sentiments related to specific issues. 

This real-time monitoring will allow us to stay more informed about emerging trends, public opinion shifts, and influential voices. This is especially important when a government announces a new policy or a politician makes a speech. By staying up-to-date we can be even more proactive in our engagement. That is essential in an ever more crowded marketplace where the pressures on government are ever increasing.

Being proactive in your public affairs engagement is essential and AI can help us to be better at that.

For me, therefore, AI is a huge potential benefit to public affairs. But, at the same time, the fundamentals of public affairs remain the same. It is about building relationships which take personal time and effort.

So, AI allows better connections to be made but then the human element comes into play. Face-to-face meetings, events in Parliaments, attendance at party events. They all remain critical to the development of relationships. Critically, it is important to the audiences we need to engage with as well.

The AI opportunities for public affairs are there but only for those who are alive to them.

Dr Stuart Thomson is a public affairs and communications specialist with over 25 years’ experience. He has advised clients on all aspects of their political and corporate communications, and reputation management. His work includes consultation and planning communications as well as media relations and crisis communications.

Dr Thomson runs his own consultancy, CWE Communications, and is the author of books including ‘Reputation in Business: Lessons for Leaders’. He also delivers training for the PRCA, CIPR and Dods.