A Story Revolution? AI and the Reinvention of Business Storytelling

From speeding up content generation to crafting personalised narratives, the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution has begun. It’s changing the way businesses communicate with customers, employees, and stakeholders. But can it be used effectively to support business storytelling? Can organisations leverage this technology to drive engagement and growth, all while maintaining a conversational and informative tone? And is that storytelling?

The answer is a mix of yes and no.

AI-driven content generation: A game-changer for efficiency and creativity?

We all know that creating high-quality content requires time, effort, and resources. So it’s great that AI-powered tools like GPT-4 are shaking up the content production game. These large-language models are analysing large datasets and generating coherent, engaging text in various formats. They’re certainly making it easier and faster for businesses to create content.

AI is significantly reducing the time and effort required for content development. But what about quality? On the surface the quality appears high. At an informational level the models are getting better and they can absolutely create human-like copy. They can automate repetitive tasks and reallocate more resources to strategic and creative endeavours. But does speed, accuracy, and “human-like” equal quality?

I remember a media studies seminar back in college (don’t ask how long ago that was), our lecturer asked us to give an example of a quality television show. I argued that the ITV series Inspector Morse was a good example. Beautifully filmed, strong storylines, and well-acted. But my lecturer challenged me: think differently. So, we had a very memorable debate about the definition of quality. And of course I ended up changing my mind. Quality isn’t just about the production, it’s about the meaning. Why does this story exist?

So, yep we’re getting speed and relevance. But we’re not getting creativity… yet. And the jury is still out on just how creative these models will become. For me it comes down to the same questions: who is this content for, why are they reading it, and what action will they take afterwards?

Personalised storytelling: Making it all about the audience

In today’s data-driven world, businesses have access to an unprecedented amount of information. Making sense of it all can be a daunting task. But with AI-powered analytics tools, businesses can sift through vast amounts of data to identify trends, patterns, and anomalies that can inform their strategic decisions. From analysing customer feedback to conducting sentiment analysis. AI provides a deeper understanding of customer perceptions and emotions towards a brand or product.

AI can absolutely get businesses closer to their customers. Gone are the days when a brand had to blast out generic, one-size-fits-all content to everyone on their mailing list. AI is ushering in a new era of hyper-personalised messaging, allowing marketers to create tailored content that resonates with individual customers. Incorporating these insights, businesses can better address the needs and concerns of a target audience, fostering stronger connections and driving growth through engagement.

But is that storytelling? I’m not so sure.

Enhancing visual storytelling with AI: A picture-perfect partnership

One clear application of AI tools is to in the area of visual storytelling. AI-driven tech, such as image recognition and computer vision, are helping organisations create more impactful visual content. AI can analyse images and videos to identify elements that resonate with an audience. Machine-powered design tools are assisting businesses to create visually appealing and consistent content across different platforms. And there’s a lot of fun to be had with AI image generators like Dall-E 2 or Midjourney.

All good stuff for speed and consistency. The tools can ensure a brand’s visual identity remains cohesive when communicating a desired message. Industry standard apps, like those from Adobe, have had AI built-in for years. But story is about so much more than simply have a consistent tone. And of course the truly creative acts still lie in the hands of the humans. The prompts and the assessment of the aesthetics for curation/activation.

Ethics in AI-driven storytelling: Balancing innovation and responsibility

As exciting as AI advancements are, we can’t forget about the ethical side in all this. Issues like data privacy, algorithmic bias, and the authenticity of AI-generated content must be addressed. Original content creators are arguing that their work is being plagiarised. Others counter that artists have always built on the ideas and work of their predecessors. A grey area to be sure.

We need to establish ethical guidelines and best practices for AI-driven storytelling. We need to take into consideration transparency, accountability, and fairness. By addressing these concerns, organisations can begin to foster trust and credibility with their audiences. While still enjoying the incredible benefits of the technologies.

What does it all mean for story?

The impact of artificial intelligence on business storytelling is undeniable and it’s only going to grow. From AI-driven content generation to personalised narratives and data-driven insights, AI is changing the way we connect with our audiences. As we embrace these innovations, it’s crucial to maintain a balance between innovation and our ethical responsibilities.

For me though it comes down to what we actually mean by story. As I discuss in other posts on this site, brands and businesses tend to have an overly simplistic and loose definition of story. They’re stuck in storytelling. A broadcast style of connection. As the tech continues to evolve and adapt, there’s no doubt that AI can play a significant role in shaping the stories we tell and the connections we forge. But how much?

For my money, a human will always remain at the heart of the process. We are the differentiating factor. The quality lens, the editor, the meaning-maker. After all, who are we creating our stories for? Not machines, that’s for sure.