Is our work about to become obsolete as communicators?

2022 ended with an outpouring of news and opinion articles about ChatGPT which filtered into the new year. Frankly, it was a bit tiring to read the numerous posts about ChatGPT. Let’s not forget the many takes on how it will make our work as communications professionals redundant.

I know you may be tired of all the analysis and predictions but let’s not throw away the baby with the bath water. There’s an underlying point that we need to be mindful of. And that is how we need to positioned now to maintain sustained relevance.

Let me tell you a quick story. It’s from a movie I watched years ago actually.

I cannot count how many times I watched the movie, ‘Hidden Figures’ but I watched it over and over again. And it wasn’t because they served us some real girl power content. No. There were many salient lessons from the movie. The one that’s relevant to our topic of discussion is when they brought in the IBM machines to replace the women who did the manual calculations. Ordinarily, that machine really was going to make them redundant. But what did their manager do? She went to the library to get a book to understand how the machine worked. And she snuck in a number of times to practice what she read until she hacked it.

Of course, there came the day when the machine needed to be used but they were not getting the desired results. Guess who came to the rescue? The manager! She didn’t just come to the rescue, she also taught the other women in her team how to use the machine. So, they inevitably still needed them. And then there was Catherine, the lead character. Just when it seemed they no longer needed her genius brain, she came in at the nick of time to save the day when there was a glitch with the machine.

It’s been years since I’ve watched Hidden Figures but those two scenes have never left me.

And now it is relevant for us as Communications professionals today. I do not believe that our profession is about to become obsolete because just like it happened in the movie, humans will still be needed to work the technology. I’m reading a really great book on PR Technology, Data and Insights by Mark Weiner and in the section on technology, he said “AI requires human expertise to train the computer to think about the results and make the decisions.”

What the advancement of technology will do for our profession is to remove the need to do rote and mundane tasks that often take the bulk of our time. This will give us more time to focus on more strategic activities that require high level thinking. So, while you’re not about to become redundant, you must be aware that if you stay stuck at the tactical level, soon enough tech may take away the need for your role.

It’s time to come up higher. By coming up higher, I mean that it is time to become a “data-informed and insights-enabled communicator who is able to drive positive change and contributes measurable business performance through the intelligenct and timely application of technology, data and insights.” That’s another quote from Mark’s book.

More than ever, you need to rise to become a valuable professional who is able to steer the organisation towards achieving its objectives – whether it is for profit or non profit. You need to become a strategic thinker wh0 is able to deliver programs and campaigns that make your organisation relevant to its stakeholders. And also continue to position your organisation’s brand as a leader of the pack.

I strongly believe in the work we do as Communications and PR professionals, especially across the African continent but it’s time for us to shift. No more doing work without measurable results. No more creating strategies without being aligned with what our organisation wants to achieve. No more being told what to do – we need to pivot to become strategic advisors who are essential to the success of the organisation.

I do hope I’ve been able to convince you that our profession is not about to become obsolete. Beyond that however, I do hope this serves as an encouragement for you to remain committed to building your capacity as a Communications professional. Read books, go for training, improve your ability to speak the language of the decision makers in your organisation. The Comms Avenue is here to help you with this. And you can always count on me to share the knowledge and information I have gained. Let’s learn and grow together.

Allow me to give you one more quote from Mark’s book (Yes! I really love the book) to wrap up this post: “The communicator’s irreplacable contribution involves uniquely human abilities for creativity, judgement and storytelling, each of which is required to make the most of every communication opportunity.”


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One Response

  1. You’ve totally said it all! We really must come up higher and increase our capacity in order to command higher levels of respect.
    This applies to professionals across all industries to continually up skill for more relevance especially with the advent of tech.

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