Are you irritated when you can’t get a cab using your phone app? Or when you can’t book a theater ticket?
20 years ago, in a similar situation, it would stereotypically be the call center representative’s fault, now it’s stereotypically the technology’s fault, “their system” or “their computers”.
All the above have to do with a new breed of services and products that are based on systems managed and executed by one or several algorithms.
Corporate communication, for this kind of services, has seen digital logic as a closed and opaque system, focusing on the results most of the times. This approach may have been adequate in the past, but not anymore, as consumer demand to have a better picture of the way these services are provided. We believe that in the immediate future, this communication will play a big role in the consumers’ choices and the acceptance of a new service.
Algorithms are present all over around us, affecting are daily lives, they manage and regulate systems that service every facet of our activities. Their function within systems that evolve through machine learning, leads to new artificial intelligence structures that minimize human intervention.
On the other hand, when it comes to corporate communications that cover this hot topic of algorithms, as a part of the corporate identity, we believe is an idea that has just begun to take shape in the market. At the moment it’s just a small part, but in the following years we believe it will be a more substantial part of corporate reputation.
Communicating a new generation of services that are inherently based on digital functions
When a business creates a product, service, or algorithm-based solution that directly affects the results that the end user will see, many things are unseen to the customer. And there is usually a need for proper communication to demystify the dark areas and reassure against fears and doubts.
Especially when the result is not fair and negatively affects a portion of the end-user base, a good communication team must operate in two directions, both in an advisory manner, to the client, explaining the nature of the reactions of the public and helping them choose the right communication strategy, giving them time to develop a solution to the issue that arose, mitigating the negative impression that has been created.
Reaching the core of the challenge
Most often a communication storm strikes our client when the result is already negative. Unfortunately for them, solving the outcome is not the only concern. Usually an undesirable result leads to a deeper examination of the causes that led to the failure of the algorithm and thus we pass to another phase, that of questioning the management of data and decisions resulting from the nature of algorithm.
Here, the right communication approach can ameliorate impressions, explain the situation and defend the reputation and position of the client, using, not with the language of numbers, but of common sense. Especially when the algorithm does not relate to machines, but affects e.g. the recruitment process in a business, or the granting of a banking loan, the communication team should safeguard the client from allegations of biased practices that disadvantage certain population groups and favor others.
The subtle balance of transparency
A third and very serious aspect of proper corporate communication strategy in the age of algorithms is to achieve full transparency of the client to the public, primarily to their customer base and partners, without risking sensitive business Information, the leakage of which may harm the company and benefit the competition.
At a time when a tweet from an angry customer can become the kickstart of a whole avalanche of negative comments on social media, the communication team will have to prove to the public that the client (like Caesar’s wife from the known proverb), is not only, but looks to be honest. The image of transparency, the protection of privacy and end-user rights, the compliance with the regulations and the legislative framework of the market, the proven adoption of good corporate practices, even the constant image of a responsible and socially sensitive leadership of the organization, are very important weapons in the quiver of the communication team.
So, when unavoidably, our client’s service is based on complex algorithms that make it difficult to maintain absolute transparency, proper communication can provide the solution on a practical level, working on two fronts, on the one hand explaining in broad terms the operation of the system that moves the threads behind the customer’s product or service and, in addition, building a picture of full cooperation and positive disposition for dialogue with the public, any stakeholders and everyone who shapes trends in the public discourse.
Ultimately, the end goal of corporate communications, in the age of algorithms, is to protect the reputation and good image of the client, always keeping up with the developments and challenges that inevitably rise from new technologies that emerge, further intensifying the problem of complexity and opacity of the decision-making processes. After the middle of the previous century, one of the objectives of communication was to dispel the myth of the “electronic brain”, presenting a more realistic and friendly image of the newly emerging, computers, of that era. Today the services of PR agencies are necessary to dismantle the image of algorithms as mysterious and impassable black boxes, simplifying, explaining, making the technical information accessible and bridging the gap between experts and the public.