Hybrid tech and communications consultancies should prepare the marketing sector for the advent of the AI (Artificial Intelligence) era.

Reacting to the public’s pulse by listening, learning and leading in real-time is key to protecting a brand’s reputation and promoting its image, as everyone in the marketing and advertising world already knows. And being able to predict trends based on social media sentiment analysis and respond to surgically targeted audiences with messages that take into consideration individuals’ behavioural traits to trigger desirable responses is what reportedly helped Trump win the US presidential election.

This type of capability is already available upon demand to marketers through a handful of global social media monitoring and sentiment analysis vendors. But public opinion for brands, government organisations, celebrities or football teams is not only shaped through social media conversations. Equally — if not more — influential to a brand’s perception can be real or fake articles in traditional media, blogs based on actual or “alternative facts”, information on websites, SMS chats, email exchanges, and just about any other form of communication with a digital expression.

And this opinion may be positive, negative or constructive enough as to provide food for thought for brands, depending on whether we talk about a complaint or a compliment, a suggestion or a question, commitment or criticism.

Now imagine a system using all digital channels to communicate with all types of messages to stakeholders anywhere in the world in order to gain insight or enhance a relationship that will help you become a better organisation. A system that values and acknowledges every voice, and knows how to seamlessly deal on an individual or group basis for marketing purposes, crisis management or surveys and dipstick research.

Something that would empower you with the necessary information to engage in meaningful two-way conversations with everyone with an opinion about you who is impacting on your reputation in any way possible and in real time. And all the while improving your performance and transforming strategies to best suit stakeholder needs.

A fully-automated stakeholder management system would be a dream-come-true for communications folks as it would provide invaluable insights of imperious superiority to existing tools, potentially leading to more effective communications strategies.

This is today’s high point for marketers worldwide as they enter the next phase of the industry’s evolution, which will be determined by AI advances taking contextual marketing to a whole new level.

Currently, when thinking of contextual marketing, the effectiveness of automated campaign managers and their ability to deliver prefabricated marketing content to end users, is under question. They simply lack the intelligence to target individuals with resonant and specific campaigns that don’t rely on old school techniques.

Also, programmatic advertising is now being considered to be spam, cluttering our newsfeeds and search engines, making it gradually lose its appeal and erstwhile lustre.

But until AI kicks in and takes everyone’s jobs due to its cognitive attributes that will eventually enable machines to create strategic content and deliver it, PR practitioners still have a role to play especially when they can leverage the insights garnered by a comprehensive stakeholder management system.

That could be true if technology companies were to reinvent the way they are looking at their business model. This requires them to evolve into hybrid consultants by hiring marketing communications experts to deliver the piece of the puzzle that’s currently missing from their offering.

If that were to happen, the tech or software development firms would be able to diversify their revenue streams, clients would benefit from one-stop-solutions and the professional lifespan of communications practitioners could extend well into the future.

— The writer is Head of PR and Social Media at Al-Futtaim and author of “Back to the Future of Marketing — PRovolve or Perish”. Follow him on Twitter @georgekotsolios