PR Professionals as Ethical AI Gatekeepers

Exploring the roles that Public Relations experts can play in navigating the complexities of generative AI technologies

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Dear reader,

A friend and PR colleague of mine recently asked me if I could help him find information on crisis communication approaches in the context of cyber threats.

With all the talk about AI, this topic has come back on the agenda, and that inspired me to write about it here in the Wag The Dog newsletter.

The following article is based on a whitepaper I published with Bill Mew a few years ago, entitled “Brands, Trust & Digital Ethics” but has been updated in light of the current hype around GenAI and our potential role as PR experts and crisis communicators.

Enjoy, and don’t hesitate to comment or send feedback!

PS: You will have seen that this newsletter starts with “Presented by...". This is just the way advertising is set up in the newsletter system I use, and it is not a “commissioned post” or advertorial in any way.

Prefer to listen? Here’s the summarized version in audio format.

The difficult terrain of AI in cybersecurity

Generative AI technologies* (GenAI) have become essential components of modern cybersecurity systems, providing sophisticated threat detection and risk reporting capabilities. However, these same technologies pose additional ethical and reputational challenges…

According to PwC's 2024 Global Digital Trust Insights Survey, GenAI has the potential to identify vulnerabilities and optimise cyber risk reporting. On the other hand, the misuse or compromise of these systems can have a serious impact on a company's reputation.

According to the Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023 from IBM, the average cost of a data breach worldwide in 2023 has risen to $4.45 million, a 15% increase over the previous three years.

*Generative AI is a kind of AI that can create new data resembling the data it was trained on.

These technologies include, but are not limited to, neural networks like GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks), RNNs (Recurrent Neural Networks), and LSTMs (Long Short-Term Memory networks).

These AI models can produce various outputs, such as text, images, music, and code. These outputs are generated using patterns learned from the training data.

The reputational risks of AI misuse

When AI systems are compromised or exploited, the consequences go beyond financial loss to include significant damage to a company's reputation.

Regulators have imposed strict cyber incident reporting requirements, making it critical for companies to carefully manage AI-related risks. The stakes have never been higher, and the margin for error has never been lower.

The role of public relations professionals in ethical AI management

Public relations professionals play an essential role in this complicated terrain. They are the crucial link between technological advancement and ethical management. Advocating for ethical concerns should be one of their main tasks.

PR professionals need to work together with technical teams and governing bodies to create and enforce ethical standards for AI use in the company. This collaborative approach ensures that ethical considerations are incorporated into the AI development process from the outset.

Another important role of PR professionals is to ensure transparency. They are responsible for developing clear, concise statements about the company's AI capabilities and limitations.

Transparent communication is essential to earning and keeping the public's trust, especially now when transparency is highly valued.PR pros need to make sure that stakeholders with little technical knowledge can easily understand these communications.

And they must also be ready for incidents brought on by the misuse of AI. They should create comprehensive communication plans that are specifically tailored to AI events. The plans should include immediate actions, methods of communication with stakeholders, and long-term steps to restore reputation.

Integrating data privacy & security in crisis communications planning - from the original white paper.

Another area where PR specialists can make a big difference is stakeholder engagement. They can harness GenAI's capabilities to simplify complex data and enable more transparent communication with stakeholders. This not only strengthens stakeholder relationships but also helps with crisis management and communication.

Finally, PR professionals can position their companies as thought leaders in the field of ethical AI. They can enhance their company's reputational capital by producing well-researched publications and case studies that contribute to the general discourse on ethical AI practises.

Public relations professionals and crisis communicators alike play a multifaceted role in addressing the ethical challenges of generative AI. Our participation is essential for managing risk and maintaining a good reputation, especially in a high-stakes and high-cost environment.

What are your thoughts? Are you implementing any of these approaches within your organisation? How do you prepare for a cyber/AI incident?

What readers like you are saying about the Wag The Dog Newsletter.

“I am really enjoying reading this newsletter. The content is thought-provoking, and extremely useful to me in my current research looking at public trust and risk communication.”

Charlotte Dimond, Director, Sidekick PR

“Being both a practitioner and a professor in crisis management, I’m constantly working at building bridges between theories. Your newsletter - short but substantial - has arrived as a new, fresh tool helping me to close that gap. Well done!”

Luciano Luffarelli Adjunct Professor, Issues & Crisis Communication, Università IULM, Milano

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What I am reading/testing/checking out:

  • Managing Outcomes - How moral blindness breeds plummeting corporate reputation.

  • AI Vibes - a newsletter that shows you practical ways to incorporate AI into your daily routines.

  • Magic Design by Canva - Canva’s new integration with AI for design.

  • Video - Professional interview recording studio with an iPhone 15.

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