Internet has democratized information, freeing brands from traditional media and allowing them to become publisher and reach out to the public themselves. In this “extended” information eco-system, organizations - now also media companies - have more scope to make their voices heard. This brings with it new responsibilities towards their readers.
Here at Content Intelligence Network we study ways of extracting the most value possible from content, and we wondered what communication would be like in the new millennium and what role Content Intelligence, meaning Artificial Intelligence applied to content, would have in this new scenario. Daniele Chieffi, Head of Digital Communication and Content Factory at Agi and journalist working on digital communication for some time now, tried to answer some of our questions.
D: We are at a point at which journalists, communicators and organizations are using the same tools, the same techniques and the same platforms to deliver their communication. What risks and benefits do you see in this kind of contamination, where content has a strategic role to play in relationship-building?
R: With the advent of new media, disintermediation has redrawn the boundaries of communication: digital has demolished the barriers between readers and sources. Information generators can now reach huge audiences directly which raises two large issues. The first is the need to safeguard and maintain the distinct difference in purpose between journalists and the many other professions now inhabiting the communication world. Public interest in journalism is recognized in Article 21 of the Italian Constitution, which makes clear that the mission of journalism is to provide neutral information in support of democratic process and as such, must not be censored. Communicators, on the other hand, serve private interests, albeit using information. This difference in purpose must be defended, there can be no overlapping: journalists must be journalists and anyone not a journalist but producing communication must be transparent and make clear their different status and that they serve private interests.
Disintermediation has also turned the spotlight on deontological and ethical issues, which were solely the domain of journalists until now. Now that information is also in the hands of communicators and can be used to influence the stakeholders it addresses, the former must uphold their ethical and deontological responsibilities and regulate their actions. We should we open to the possibility of having professionals who can serve on both fronts, as long as it is made transparent to the audience when it is a journalist speaking, therefore presenting independent information, or when it is a communicator sharing dependent information. There is also the risk that this crossover may create “grey areas” in which recipients of the message are unable to determine if the message is independent or not.
D: Why do you think Content Marketing and Storytelling help to create memorable customer experiences? Why do they have to become data-driven to be more effective?
R: We have to go back to the beginning to answer this. The concept of storytelling arises from an organization’s need for disintermediated communication which was previously not allowed. For this reason, it has to learn to speak the same language as the public. In the act of communicating, we automatically tell stories so we transfer not only information but also emotions: this forges a relationship between communicator and recipient. Storytelling requires a story to be told before a personal one can be added. This requirement stems from the disintermediation of the communication process. It makes no sense telling someone something if he/she is not interested in the subject. My communication, in this case, would be pointless and I would fail to build any value for the listener. Telling a story is an act of value for our audience because we show that we understand what their interests are. Journalists have always been the best interpreters of the information needs of readers. Applying the professional techniques of journalists to communication means drawing on this competence to help businesses promote their brands. To this effect, digital, mapping tools, comprehension and data analysis provide a scientific means of identifying the interests and sensibilities of users and therefore also to build messages that respond efficiently and effectively to the requirements extracted from the stories their data tells.
D: What advantages do you believe there to be in using Artificial Intelligence (in particular its ability to measure content performance) in Content Marketing and Storytelling?
R: Artificial Intelligence provides a more effective way of reading data which allows us to craft a more customized response to the identified needs, bearing in mind that we are not talking about interpreting the tastes of a small group of people but vast audiences with highly complex communication dynamics and many variables which are difficult to manage. AI and its classification and automation strategies undoubtedly help to improve targeting and generate statistics which are a better reflection of reality. We can therefore process and reach a much deeper and accurate understanding of the results in scientific terms, including trending topics and audience interests. Artificial Intelligence is without doubt the future, in terms of Big Data analysis, but with one caveat: AI learns autonomously from experience and this brings with it the risk of moving in directions that stray from the path of human reasoning. We must make sure AI remains “fenced in” to safeguard the human element in terms of both sensibility and analysis: AI is used to amplify the scope of our abilities not to distort them.