BelgaClub @ Living Tomorrow 19 October 2023

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Being a spokesperson is a special job. It has been for years, but the acceleration of information, social media and the entry of AI into the media have turned the job on its head in a short space of time.

BelgaClub @ Living Tomorrow 19 October 2023

On Thursday 19 October, during the 4th edition of 'The future of communication and messaging' organised by BelgaClub in collaboration with Living Tomorrow, speakers addressed how spokespeople can hold their own in a changing world. And above all realised that 'spokesperson' as a term is actually totally outdated.

No regular host for this BelgaClub Afterwork. Avatar Artia, a digital woman cast by Artificial Intelligence, welcomed attendees. A textbook example of how fast the digital world is adapting. In 2019, at the first edition, virtually no one knew what AI was, in 2023, almost everyone is working with it. Consciously or unconsciously.

And so everyone needs to get on the bandwagon of that Artificial Intelligence. But for the worried: the job of spokesperson will not disappear soon or be replaced by a quickly made digital face. Above all, the new technology is useful. Speakers Astrid Bastiaens (Innovation Designer, TomorrowLab) and Nael Giannini (Co-Founder & Head of Felobel) discussed how it can serve to support spokespeople.

Translation apps and brainstorming sites as a good basis for creative work, without losing critical thinking, a sparring partner. The panellists also did not feel threatened by the all in all 'dumb power' of AI: "The biggest advantage: AI doesn't get tired," summarised Tom Van de Vreken (Hospital Network Antwerp). At his hospitals, certain biopsies in cancer studies are examined by AI with much greater accuracy than lab technicians. Treatment choices remain reserved for doctors, though; the hard work is for the computers. Fellow panellists Barbara Blomme (Volvo Car Gent) and Albane Lairesse (Ethias) nodded along. The latter also reiterated the importance of caution: "If an error creeps into a press text, the criticism is not going to be for ChatGPT."

Back to speakers Astrid and Nael. To reach young people, to be with them, you have to have moving images. Attention to video exploded in recent years, thanks in part to the entry of TikTok: a whopping 82 percent of internet traffic comes from video.

Forget the days of three-man camera crews and expensive, complicated editing programmes. Smartphones have high-quality cameras, editing apps are becoming more powerful. YouTube, for instance, already launched its own video editing app, YouTube Creative. And, to stay in the mood, why not a digital host thanks to AI?

At the same time, sound is becoming less and less important - users watch 85 percent of videos on Facebook in silence. "The ordinary press release in text is going to die out," Van de Vreken predicted.

So it can be done: quick and efficient video creation. So much for the good news. Because whoever says internet, immediately says disinformation. How to distinguish real videos from fabricated ones, has Elon Musk really been recommending crypto currencies? (No)

Fortunately, websites that find out whether images (the still version, remember) are made with AI are shooting up like mushrooms. For that, turn to aiornot.com. With the current rate of change, it won't be long before an AI video becomes indistinguishable to the eye from a normal one. But we should have solutions for that too soon.

Should spokespeople become influencers to reach an audience with today's social media? Again, the answer is probably no, but you can always get inspiration from influencers... The four key lessons of the cheat sheet are relevance, insight, content and authenticity.


So, with your message, you need to be relevant and trustworthy, an industry expert. You need to understand the audience you are building and want to reach. So know what is on their minds. "Social media are important as a thermometer," Barbara Blomme knew. Quality in content speaks for itself. Finally (perhaps most important): stay authentic. Don't blindly run after every hype. Find out what your organisation stands for and choose carefully what fits your DNA.

Spokespeople no longer do the talking. Or at least not exclusively. Yes, building contacts with journalists remains important. And so is a strong message. But the pace is faster, video is much more important and any mistake can easily be magnified. The acceleration and change mean that terms like "news influencer" and "storyteller through images" are already being thrown around.

Let's put it this way

Our success will depend on our ability to challenge ourselves, to master new technologies and the new ways in which information is disseminated and consumed, but above all to remain authentic, to inspire trust and credibility.

Albane Lairese

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