AI Marketing Strategy: PR Dos and Don’ts For AI Startups & Companies

By Amanda Munroe, SVP, Technology

We’re about through Q2 and it’s safe to say that generative AI has been the singular dominating topic of discussion with our technology clients for much of it. In every call, strategy meeting and brainstorm, nearly every client (AI startup or not) asked how we, their PR team, can tie them to the genAI discussion.

The goals and motives vary, from showing a competitive product differentiator to becoming a thought leader to, well, simply exploiting a hot topic for earned media hits.

As PR people, we’re used to jumping on the news agenda, search trends and breaking technology discussions to insert clients’ voices across paid, earned, social and owned channels. But I think it’s safe to say that genAI has created a different type of fervor to throw one’s hat in the ring; an unrelenting quest to claim a piece of the pie before it’s too late.

For lots of organizations, an AI marketing strategy works. Whether they’re an AI startup or have incorporated genAI into existing tech or a knowledgeable spokesperson can discuss the cybersecurity risks, many are using it to better serve customers and have genuine, credible insights. These companies should, by all means, have a team securing media hits, pumping out content and engaging in social media conversations on their behalf.

But there are also risks when jumping into the conversation:

Contrived AI marketing strategy

For every company that is authentically aligning themselves with genAI, there are two trying to force it. It’s not baked into their products. They aren’t moving the technology forward in any way. Their spokespeople do not have unique insight. This is a PR problem and one that PR teams need to watch.

We’re reaching a saturation point that will force journalists, influencers, technology watchers and others to strictly scrutinize anything about genAI. Just this week, an editor at a top-tier technology publication told us in passing that they’re getting flooded with article ideas and opinions on genAI that all sounded the same. Companies that do not have authentic insight or observations are risking their brand reputation among these audiences by “dogpiling” on the topic.

Exaggerating claims

There are also communications guidelines to consider. The FTC published a blog post in February warning businesses to “keep AI claims in check,” noting the sheer volume of AI hype popping up in product descriptions and marketing campaigns, and reminding businesses about the FTC’s guidance, investigation and enforcement when it comes to AI messaging. In addition, we’ve seen Congressional hearings calling for the regulation of AI, with future policy and monitoring likely to come into effect. AI startups and other tech companies are smart to review current regulations, incorporate careful messaging and be prepared to back up claims now.

Confusing target audiences

Companies that are forcing themselves into the AI conversation are confusing their audiences and diluting their message. If they get coverage, it’s probably not the right kind (nor helpful).

Customers, prospects, investors and the business community want a clear business strategy, compelling narrative and product differentiation that addresses pain points. Thought leaders should speak on topics that align the company vision and mission as well as keywords. Earned media hits and social media posts that force affiliation with AI will not drive qualified site traffic, customer engagement or new leads.

For AI startup or mature companies that have an authentic role to play in the genAI conversation, there’s a lot of work to do to launch an effective AI marketing strategy. A media audit to find the whitespace and opportunity, SEO analysis, social media audits, and the creation of a defensible narrative are merely the starting points to successfully engaging in the conversation and outlasting the hype. But it will help drive real business performance.

Companies that do not meet FTC guidance on AI claims — or that are attempting to simply capitalize on a technology captivating everyone from politicians and academics to investors and entrepreneurs — are advised to sit this one out and work with their PR team to pinpoint a trend that is authentic, ownable and actually beneficial to their business.

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