JOHANNESBURG — Razor PR, M&C Saatchi Group South Africa’s public relations, strategic communications and reputation management agency, has launched an AI Governance Framework and Risk Assessment Model to “guide the agency and its clients towards ethical and effective AI implementation”.

Claimed to be the first of its kind in the global communications industry, the AI Governance Framework has already been included in Razor employee contracts and the master agreements that govern the relationship the agency has with its clients.

The new policy and framework, developed with academics, is based on eight interconnected principles designed to ensure the ethical use of AI, including ‘prioritising human needs’, ‘maintaining accountability’, and ‘fostering transparency’. In addition, the team has developed a ‘risk modelled rubric’ as a practical tool for translating these values into actionable guidelines and benchmarks. This takes the form of a series of yes/no questions related to the use of a specific AI tool, generating a risk rating from low to high.

Razor partner and executive creative director Chris Lazley (pictured), who led the development of the policy and framework, told PRovoke Media that while AI offers great opportunities for the PR industry, it also presents complex risks, including the spreading of mis- and disinformation and data privacy issues: “The age of AI is exciting, fast, innovative, and deeply disruptive. Sometimes the best disruptions begin in a messy place, but without ethics and governance, it’s the ‘wild West’.

“AI can never replace human creativity, but the policy is our response to never having seen such a hyper-progressive leap in technology – time horizons have been shortened to weeks and months, not years, and quicker than we have established social, ethical and fair use boundaries.”

And he said the AI Governance Framework would be made available on an open-source basis, for use by the global PR industry: “As a creative business, it is our hope that the framework will become a template or starting point for other creative businesses.”

Razor partner and MD Dustin Chick added that the agency was in talks with the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) around making its framework part of the organisation’s code of conduct for members: “Razor is committed to lift the quality of work coming out of our PR as a profession, not just the work it supports clients on. It’s vital that we as an industry stand up around key issues and themes that in effect have an existential impact on our future.

“Setting a new standard for responsible AI utilisation in the communications industry is not just a consideration – it’s the right thing to do. Our clients charge us with managing reputation and we as an industry need to meet them with the same level of trust and candour in an ever-evolving landscape of artificial intelligence.”

The Razor framework has been developed with Emile Ormond, a PhD Candidate at the University of South Africa who is completing his research on the risk governance of AI ethics. The framework was also reviewed by veteran communications advisor Stephen Waddington, who is currently completing his PhD at Leeds Business School.

In PRovoke Media's recent survey of the Influence 100 – our listing of the world's most influential CMOs and CCOs – every respondent said they expected AI to have a significant impact on the communications sector, ranging from “game-changing” to “like an earthquake”.

Other PR industry initiatives in response to the rise of generative AI include Method introducing a policy banning the use of the technology as a content creation tool, and BCW setting up an AI advisory practice.