AI Strategy in Your PR Software with Cision’s Antony Cousins

AI Strategy in Your PR Software with Cision’s Antony Cousins

Today on PR Talk, Amy spoke with Antony Cousins, the executive director for AI strategy at Cision, a global PR software. During their conversation, the two explored upcoming changes for the software and industry as AI capabilities continue to advance.

Cision and Its Infusion of AI 

Cision is a comprehensive PR platform that enables public relations, marketing and communications professionals worldwide to understand, influence and amplify their stories. While most PR software already has some AI built in, Cision is revamping its entire software to offer updated AI capabilities, with a transition to the new platform set for July. 


What Does AI Mean for Comms

As more and more people in the industry assess the validity of using AI as a resource for writing copy, pitching for placements and overall strategy, many are dismissing it. However, Antony believes that using AI can free up more time for comms people to build relationships and solve problems while letting AI handle automation efficiently. 


Advice for the Comms Industry

Amy asked Antony to share some advice for those getting into AI, and he provided two key pieces. First, experiment with the many resources available to learn how to use AI to your advantage. Second, look to your junior hires, as many have been experiencing AI capabilities longer than those more experienced in the field. 

While AI will continue to grow, Antony acknowledges that misinformation is still a significant concern when using AI technology. Nevertheless, with updates like the one he has implemented at Cision, we will see a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Tune in to learn more about Cision’s new updates and discover how AI can assist your work.

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About the Guest: Antony Cousins

Antony Cousins is the newly appointed executive director for AI strategy at Cision, responsible for integrating and overseeing the development of generative AI-powered tools. Previously, he was CEO of Factmata, which used AI to monitor and detect harmful narratives online and combat misinformation. Cousins is a PR and AI group leader and co-chair of the Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communications tech hub.

Antony Cousins Headshot

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Using Communication as an Accountability Tool to Support DEI Efforts

Using Communication as an Accountability Tool to Support DEI Efforts

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed while in police custody, sparking racial justice protests across the country. Many organizations responded to these events with commitments to advance their own diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Now, more than three years later, business leaders should assume that their stakeholders will be checking in on the progress of those promises.

Earlier this year, I spoke with two DEI experts on the PR Talk Podcast: Dr. Felicia Blow, APR, Associate Vice President for Development at Hampton University, and Neil Foote, President and CEO of Foote Communications and president of the National Black Public Relations Society. Both spoke about the inherent challenges of DEI work and how communications professionals can play a critical role in advancing this important cause. 

Check out those episodes if you’re a business leader struggling to move your DEI promises forward. You may also consider approaching the work through the communications framework, outlined below.


Using a 5-Step Communication System to Build Accountability

First, it’s important to remember that while DEI is all of a sudden popular to talk about, the struggles marginalized people have faced in the workplace are not new. DEI work involves addressing generational harm, and it’s okay to be intimidated by the enormity of that task. What’s not okay is to use the size of the job as an excuse for not taking action. After all, you don’t have to solve this problem all at once. It’s okay to set small goals to get started.

It’s easy for goals to fall by the wayside if you keep them to yourself. That’s why simply communicating your desired outcomes to others helps create the accountability you need to move forward. In a DEI context, sharing your goals, progress and failures with people inside or outside your leadership structure can make a difference. Here’s a five-step system you can follow to progress DEI and establish the accountability needed to make a difference.


Step 1: Pause, Reflect and Research

Professional communicators understand the importance of words, which is why everything they share has been carefully vetted for accuracy and meaning. The same should be true for your DEI efforts. After all, it will be more impactful if your actions are slow, considered and authentic rather than simply saying what you think people want to hear. 

Additionally, if you find yourself worrying about making mistakes or saying the wrong thing, that’s a sign you appreciate the importance of this complicated work. So, when in doubt, take it slow and wait to share your goals or action steps until you’re sure they authentically represent your intentions. 


Step 2: Promote the Cause, Not the Company

Attempting to market DEI efforts in the corporate world can be dismissed as performative and opportunistic. To combat this cynicism, organizations should always promote the cause over their own interests. When businesses place the cause at the center of their communications, they use their established credibility to move those efforts forward and serve as role models for other organizations searching for ways to make a difference. However, doing this effectively requires humility and seeking counsel from outside experts.


Step 3: Stop Thinking and Get Started

Of course, nothing will change if you don’t take action. Unfortunately, the scope of the problem often keeps organizations on the sidelines. However, even small steps can begin moving you on a more significant path. A few effective places to start could be:

    • Inventorying your organization’s current diversity position. 
    • Seeking external help from a DEI consultant. They can help interpret your current position, set realistic goals for making changes and provide advice on how to get there.
    • Setting goals and benchmarks for advancing your diversity position in meaningful ways with impacted groups.
    • Recording all the actions you take. This action will form the basis of your communications strategy. 
    • Reporting these steps to your internal stakeholders to build transparency and accountability.  


Step 4: Adhere to a Schedule

It’s easy for DEI work to be overshadowed by the organization’s work. That’s why it’s critical to build a schedule for discussing DEI initiatives internally and communicating progress to key stakeholders. This cadence will be different for every organization. Some might form a DEI committee and hold monthly meetings, while others might include DEI objectives in weekly leadership meetings. 

Once you’ve established how to talk about DEI work, create a schedule for communicating progress to your internal groups. These updates could happen through employee newsletters, all-hands meetings, dedicated DEI reports or another system that suits your organization. What’s most important is building a process in which DEI is discussed and documented consistently and predictably. 


Step 5: Move Some Internal Discussions External

As you begin to make progress internally on your DEI efforts, it’s time to start communicating your work to external audiences. This process could begin simply with blog posts and newsletters. If your organization regularly announces run-of-the-mill news like winning key partnerships or opening new offices, you can include DEI efforts in those posts. 

Eventually, you can expand your external DEI advancements by including them in social media, on your website or as press releases you actively pitch. Reporting on your work publicly will begin building the internal and external accountability that will fuel your continued efforts. 


Reporting Builds Accountability

Many business leaders are understandably reluctant to publicize their company’s DEI efforts. They might believe that promoting the work cheapens it or that they’ll be judged for not hitting the goals they set. In reality, reporting your work builds accountability because it creates an incentive to follow through on your promises. Reporting also builds credibility with your internal staff because it demonstrates a commitment to transparency throughout the process. These reports also don’t always have to be positive. Sometimes the message of “we’re not meeting our goals” is the most authentic way of communicating that you take DEI work seriously.

However, effective reporting requires a few key elements. You need to set benchmarks to judge where you are and record your actions as you move towards a larger goal. It’s also critical to include a communications professional in the reporting process so they can see what you’ve accomplished and create plans for sharing it effectively. 

Regardless of your goals and progress, talking about DEI efforts publicly also gives the issue more publicity, which helps propel the broader movement forward beyond your own efforts.  


Keep the Promises You Made

We want to believe that the promises made during the heat of the 2020 racial justice protests were earnest and authentic. However, the old saying actions speak louder than words certainly rings true here. Your organization will be judged on what it does (or doesn’t do), so building a system that encourages activity is crucial for progressing your DEI efforts. Moreover, communicating these efforts publicly, when appropriate, will help promote the larger goals of DEI while creating accountability for your actions and results. 


DEI is an Ongoing Process

When done correctly, DEI is an ongoing practice rather than a journey with a final destination. It’s the never-ending process of bringing all workplace groups more equally into the fold. Honestly engaging in this process is making progress. Even admitting that you haven’t started the process is progress. What matters most is bringing these efforts into the light so your team and customers can see that your promises are worth keeping.

How to Choose the Right Communication Channels for Your Communications Campaign

How to Choose the Right Communication Channels for Your Communications Campaign

With so many communications channels to choose from, it’s easy to see how some businesses might get overwhelmed.

According to a recent survey by The Manifest, 64% of small businesses use two or more channels when relaying messages to consumers.

By choosing a combination of channels, businesses can ensure their messages are being received by the widest possible audience.

Although it might be tempting to use as many communications channels as are available, businesses would benefit from a more deliberate and mindful approach.


Know Your Audience

One of the first steps of planning a successful communications campaign is knowing exactly who the campaign is for.

Ask yourself:

  • How old is the target audience?
  • What are their communication habits?
  • What types of messages do they respond best to?

For example, if your target audience is younger, social media might be the best way to reach them.

Businesses should also consider whether the target audience is current customers or people they’re trying to convert into customers.

“Current customers are going to listen to that message quite differently than folks who don’t know who you are or haven’t had any sort of relationship with you,” said Mike Rosenberg, CEO of Veracity, one of the top PR agencies in Portland, Ore.


Consider Your Message

 The next step to planning an effective communications campaign is to consider the message you want to share.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you sharing information about a new product or service?
  • Do you want to share company news?
  • Is the purpose of your message to inform or incite a specific action?

Businesses should always consider the nature of their message before determining which communication channel would be the best fit.


Think About What Kind of Return You Want to Gain

After you’ve considered your audience and the type of message you’ll be sharing, you also need to consider the type of return you want to gain from your communication efforts.

Ask yourself:

  • What is the goal with communication to customers?
  • What action do we want them to take?
  • Do we want them to buy something?
  • Do we want them to start a conversation around our brand?
  • Is this more a matter of customer service?
  • How will we track our returns?

For example, if you want to jumpstart buzz around your brand or a new product, social media might be the best channel. If you want to offer customers exclusive news or discounts, email or direct mail might be best.

Whatever your intended return is, make sure it is trackable so that you can measure the success of your campaign to prepare for future campaigns.


Business-Consumer Communications Requires a Well-Thought Out Plan

While businesses should use multiple platforms to emphasize their messages, they should do so in a deliberate way. By considering their audience, message, and the return they want to gain, businesses can create a communications campaign that strengthens their public relations, marketing, and reputation management strategies.

Featured image from Ethan Hoover