The public narrative around the technologies known as ‘the Cloud’ and ‘Artificial Intelligence’ tend to be fraught with tales of peril and danger. Compromised data. Privacy breaches. Job elimination. Society ruled by a robot class. True, many new technologies present challenges that must be examined and mitigated. And AI is no different. Placed into markets without sensible boundaries and protocols, the good promised by AI technologies can be eclipsed by the bad. But the potential for benefit from AI is so large – larger than other tech evolutions – and so compelling, having a narrative to support those benefits is crucial to both the expansion of technology and its survival. Microsoft knew that incomplete, or flat-out inaccurate, media soundbites surrounding AI could often be harmful as tech influencers and policy makers set guidelines and policy to manage how technology like AI is deployed and managed. And, equally, how an accurate, honest assessment of how AI benefits society can do well to guide appropriate governance that help protect people while increasing access and fulfilling on the promises of technology development.
The question became, ‘How do we find, engage, and influence the people who matter in shaping the narrative and decisions surrounding AI?’ ‘How do we position technology leaders to be influential in the policy space? How do we pivot them from being just tech experts into influencing policy?’ These were the critical questions – they meant the difference between the public narrative and policy decision making being AI-friendly…or not. On the audience front, finding this type of VIP is notoriously difficult. Policy makers and influencers are inundated with demands on their time and focus. Additionally, influential audiences ranged in familiarity with the topic. This posed a unique challenge of making content that was digestible for those with less familiarity, and yet providing the deep insights and success stories that would motivate a policy maker to act. Yet Microsoft knew that it could help this diverse set of influencers shape their understanding of AI in an objective, optimistic, growth-oriented way. And it knew that training and equipping its senior leaders to influence and advise was the right channel to engage. Governments and industries are looking for an equitable and accessible tech future – and Microsoft knew it held an important voice.
First, to engage audiences at the right level, we knew the Microsoft team needed a new brand voice – in order to have them be the trusted experts. Since this was the first time these executives were having a personal campaign, we created prescribed narratives – that built in the authenticity of their voices and concerns and knowledge, but that was purposeful and strategic. In collaboration with the Microsoft team, we developed a multi-pronged campaign to help the executives get even smarter on using their own social media channels to evangelize its position on AI. We trained a global team on social management best practices, built a scalable training curriculum to expand training reach even more, and launched a social content campaign to help these same executives amplify their voices through social channels.
The team built a detailed content calendar that expanded on Microsoft’s seminal ‘Cloud for Global Good’ publication and developed custom-authored content for those executives. We managed content planning, development, and implementation, including a creative theme for the campaign that bucked the dystopian visual trends often associated to AI. We also built audience. Knowing that each executive would need a slightly different, larger audience, we managed paid audience growth and are involved in affecting key perception shifts and distribute information to key audiences. Formative created an optimistic, forward-thinking, progressive view into AI that promised to help Microsoft executives nurture the conversation with the influencers and policy makers doing the big work in the space.