From hindsight to foresight.

Microsoft is running at the head of the AI craze. From its partnership with OpenAI to its Copilot tool to Azure AI and more, the tech giant is putting out new tools by the day to help people and organizations take advantage of generative AI.

But how is Microsoft’s own communications team using AI in their day-to-day work?

We got a bit of insight during PR Daily’s recent Public Affairs & Speechwriting Virtual Conference, when Microsoft VP of Public Affairs Brent Colburn revealed several ways his own department is using AI, from measurement to media relations.

Using AI for measurement

“Traditionally, we’re really good at hindsight in communications,” Colburn noted in his presentation, calling this kind of measurement “hindsight.” And AI can make that hindsight part of measurement even faster and more effective. AI can quickly generate clip reports that don’t merely show you all media you’ve generated, but more personalized reports that show all pieces from a trade journal, for instance, or from a specific geographic location.

Colburn also sees a great opportunity for what he calls insight: real-time information that can help us respond in the moment.

“As news is spooling out, how can we be looking at clips, how can we be looking at news articles that come online, in a more thoughtful and nuanced way?” Colburn mused. He noted that competitive or comparative analysis is also a strength of AI. For instance, AI can help see how coverage of Microsoft stacks up against coverage of Google on a certain topic or even compare coverage of five different Congresspeople. That kind of analysis, if delivered by a human, could take hours, while an AI can deliver it all but instantly.

But what Colburn considers most exciting is foresight, which allows us to use AI to peer into the future and “make better decisions.”

“They don’t just become a record of what’s occurred, but a little bit of a guidepost for where you might want to go,” Colburn said.

For instance, foresight can help us:

  • Identify reporters to pitch to based on their past coverage.
  • Help identify what else reporters you’ve worked with in the past might be interested in covering next.
  • Identify issues or problems with published stories for faster correction.
  • Analyze who’s really reading stories and better understand audiences.

Using AI for earned media

In addition to using AI for measurement tasks, Microsoft has also mapped its entire earned media process, from story pitch to publication, and identified several areas where AI can automate or act as a copilot.

Automative opportunities include creating reports or advisories, what Colburn refers to as “drudgery” tasks. But AI acting as a copilot — echoing the name of Microsoft’s flagship AI product — also offers opportunities to advise humans without taking over the whole show.

Suggestions for using AI in the media relations cycle include:

  • Giving AI your best story ideas and asking for what you’re missing.
  • Giving AI your initial talking points and asking it to add its own.
  • Showing AI the reporters you’re going to pitch to and asking who else you should consider.
  • Asking AI to review a reporter’s past work to identify the kinds of questions they’re likely to ask in an interview.

All of these tactics not only save time, but in Colburn’s words, they help you “think around the corner a little bit” and put out your best work — with a little extra help.

Watch Colburn’s full presentation.


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