Strategies & Tactics

Reputation in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

March 1, 2018

[shutterstock]
[shutterstock]

In an age where our reputations and the reputations of the brands we represent are everything, how can we, as communications professionals, better prepare for the way artificial intelligence may impact reputation management?

We spend countless hours building our reputations, managing them and even remedying them after a PR disaster; all the while, brands are spending millions of dollars on chatbots and AI customer service. As a futurist, I’m always trying to think about how new technologies will impact our profession and how we can be better prepared for these transformations.

So, in the age of artificial intelligence, will it be business as usual or will reputation management be greatly impacted?
In order to delve into this complicated question, I decided to speak to several experts who have their pulse on how AI is changing the way we communicate. I learned that there are still many unknowns, yet we all agree that AI will — and is — having a significant impact.

I first spoke with Nick Tang, an industry analyst and the host of the ever-enlightening #AIChat on Twitter. I asked him how AI could change reputation management and the future of communications. The best way to summarize our long conversation would be in a single quote: “Human thoughts and reactions are unpredictable,” he said. “Even if the AI can analyze the present and past data to find a solution, it can’t predict what the person will do right now.”

When I asked Naomi Assaraf — chief marketing officer and co-founder of cloudHQ, which provides AI tools to make Gmail more useful — to share the top three things she thinks communicators need to know about how AI will impact reputation management, she listed three takeaways.

  1. AI will be able to respond to most messages that you receive (like LinkedIn mail or Google’s suggested answers do now, but more intricately), saving you time.
  2. You’ll need an AI counterattack insurance plan: AI can be replicated quickly in the form of fake profiles or hacking into real ones in order to disseminate fake news about you. This means that your reputation can be ruined easily without an AI counterattack insurance plan.
  3. AI can predict public opinion (or a subset of the public) about you depending on what messages you send, how and when you send them, and to whom. The possible outcomes are immense — helping you define what to say to others in order to get what you want. Politically, this can be very dangerous.


My conversations with Tang and Assaraf, made me realize that, in the age of context, data and algorithms, there are still many unanswered questions. I do believe that we will see a direct impact on how we manage reputations online — which we are already seeing — and if our brands don’t have a counterattack strategy, then reputations will be built and destroyed at a faster pace in the age of AI.

Learning about how artificial intelligence and machine learning are expanding is just one way to prepare ourselves — and the brands we represent — and stay up-to-date, despite the fast pace of change. I hope that this column has helped answer some questions, while still raising new ones.

I wanted to close with a quote that once again gives me hope of a future where AI makes us better, and not less human.

As Sebastian Thrun, founder and president of Udacity, says, “Nobody phrases it this way, but I think that artificial intelligence is almost a humanities discipline. It’s really an attempt to understand human intelligence and human cognition.”

Cathy Hackl, APR

Cathy Hackl, APR, is a leading voice in augmented reality and virtual reality. She is a futurist, speaker and co-author of "Marketing New Realities." Hackl joined Atlanta-based You Are Here Labs in 2018, where she leads agencies, brands and companies in applying futuristic technologies for marketing and training.

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