Making Affectiva a Thought Leader in the AI Ethics Movement

, May 21, 2020

CATEGORIES: Public Relations
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Photo credit: Steven Nostel Photography

For much of her life, Rana el Kaliouby had a vision: a future where technology could understand us the way we understand one another. She realized that our devices had a lot of IQ but were sorely lacking in EQ – or emotional intelligence – rendering our interactions with technology transactional, ineffective, and even, at times, dehumanizing.

That’s what drove Rana to co-found Affectiva, the MIT Media Lab spin-off credited with creating and defining the category of Emotion AI: software that can detect nuanced human emotions and complex cognitive states from face and voice. Today, Emotion AI is projected to become a multi-billion dollar industry with applications in contexts as varied as mental health, automotive and media analytics.

But while Rana’s mission has always been rooted in the belief that AI can improve people’s lives, she has never been blind to the tech’s potential downsides either.

From day one, Affectiva’s company core values included a commitment to ethics and privacy. And as Emotion AI gained traction, Rana and Affectiva wanted to tackle ethical concerns head on. Despite the sensitivity of a topic that had many organizations shying away from commenting, Rana wanted to take a strong stance in the AI ethics movement to help shape industry standards and guidelines.

Rana turned to March Communications to partner with her on the initiative, help hone her voice and generate awareness of her perspectives among key audiences.

March’s approach: Creating a unique voice around the tough questions in AI

Establishing Affectiva’s leadership in the emerging AI ethics movement started with helping Rana hone her unique voice. As a member of organizations like the Partnership on AI, Rana already had a foot in the door for talking about AI ethics; but we knew that alone wouldn’t be enough to really advance the conversation and stand out. Doing so meant building a bold-and-pointed platform for Rana to speak from. We wanted to dig deep, and explore the tangible steps that companies could take to ensure the ethical development and deployment of AI. The end result would be a bold, thought-provoking narrative that could shed light on a solution, rather than simply acknowledging the problem.

Once we had the narrative, we needed to create awareness around it. One of Rana’s and the company’s goals was to crack business press – not only to gain visibility with customers and investors, but also to get in front of potential partners in the AI ethics movement. March also knew that the business press was a vast sea of opportunity to promote Rana’s thought leadership beyond inclusion in articles, through other avenues like speaking opportunities, live events, podcasts and op-eds.

Through an in-depth business press audit, we prioritized opportunities based on their credibility and audience, emphasizing those that could cater to a diverse array of technology leaders, ethicists, government officials, academics and human rights activists – all audiences that we and Rana believed were central to conversations about the future of AI and its ethical implications. This media audit was also paired with a social one, informing a new social strategy to help share Rana’s voice across her personal channels.

The results

We believed deeply in the importance of Rana’s thought leadership initiative, and were incredibly proud of the results we were able to achieve. We secured multiple top-tier speaking opportunities for Rana centered on AI ethics, including at the New York Times’ New Work Summit and the Wall Street Journal’s Future of Everything Festival. Through media outreach, we secured nearly 70 media hits, including an op-ed, How Do We Build Trust Between Humans and AI?, published on the World Economic Forum’s blog. Affectiva was also honored among Forbes’ Top 50 AI Companies, with Rana’s views on AI ethics being spotlighted in multiple Forbes pieces.

Rana’s rising profile as an AI ethics thought leader was not only reflected in double-digit percentage growth among social followers and engagements, but also in new recognitions across the industry, including being invited as a senior adviser for the Technology and Public Purpose Project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. The success of the thought leadership program also helped Affectiva break through on IDC’s Innovators report, where the company’s commitment to ethics was highlighted as a key differentiator.

Affectiva is one of many Boston AI leaders we’ve been proud to work with. With the expertise that our talented PR, content and social teams have cultivated in this space, alongside our proven relationships with AI-tech and business journalists, March Communications is uniquely positioned to help shape your AI innovation story and get the word out to the broader audience you deserve.

Want to know how we can help your AI business stand out? Get in touch!

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