LONDON — Communicators feel unprepared for the threat of AI to organisation or brand reputation, despite 97% being concerned – with a quarter identifying it as a significant threat – according to new research from Golin.

A survey of 200 communications professionals commissioned by the agency as part of its ‘AI Issues Trap’ report into the impact of AI tools on issues and crisis management, found that nearly 60% are yet to adjust their reputation management approach to AI, with two-thirds unsure how to.

The agency’s risk and reputation EVP Victoria Brophy said: “The use of AI tools is completely shifting how we operate issues and crisis management. On the positives, we now have new tools to identify threats such as misinformation, bot networks and malicious acts across digital platforms and social, as well as to spot and predict accelerating issues.

“But generative AI is also providing an accessible way to create powerful misinformation. The proliferation of fake news is not ‘new news’ but when taken into account with the increasing use of generative AI, it takes on a whole new terrifying force.”

According to the study, 76% of communicators are specifically concerned about the use of AI tools spreading misinformation about their organisation or brand, but very few said they understood how to tackle it. As part of the report, Golin identified 16% of a recent conversation about one multi-national mentioning ‘China’ originated from fake accounts.

Golin also analysed the digital information accessible from search engines versus AI tools for recent corporate issues and crises. While traditional search engine algorithms served up the most recent and relevant information, AI tools were unreliable in sharing the nuanced story or outlining a company’s right to reply. This led to issues served as fact without vital pieces of context, creating an inaccurate permanent record.

Brophy said: “Our findings show that the traditional issues management playbook is no longer effective in the AI-fuelled media and social landscape. Those statements to media, amends or retractions that are a key part of our issues management toolbox won’t necessarily pull through into AI searches or information gathering.”

As part of its efforts to understand and address the implications of AI, Golin has created a issues management methodology which uses data points across volume of mentions, types of actors, length of sustained media conversation and more, to assess what to look for when an issue emerges and how it might feature in the permanent record.

Based on analysis of a range of recent issues, including the Bud Light Dylan Mulvaney partnership, Brew Dog and advertising around the World Cup, ITV and Phillip Schofield and Wetherspoon’s employee issues, Golin identified four core traits that make stories dominate the news agenda.

These are the newness of the story and whether the organisation is question was a leader or a laggard on an issue – both factors in virality – as well as whether content from active micro-communities has been challenged, and media divisiveness and bias, both of which are key determinants of a story’s longevity.

“Now more than ever preparedness and responsiveness, coupled with an omni-channel approach, is key to crisis and issues management,” added Brophy.