We set up Inflect in the middle of the pandemic, and only actually met up face-to-face once in the first few months of operations, so unsurprisingly we looked really carefully at the tech stack that we wanted to use to build the business and service clients. We wanted to be agile, cloud-based and future-proof.

We might be slightly older than your average tech gurus, but we saw the opportunities to embrace new technology alongside what was a pretty radical shift in ways of working to help us build a modern consultancy with a competitive advantage.

We built the business to be operationally lean and focused on delivering maximum collaboration between both colleagues and clients.

We have fully embraced Google Workspace which enables us to work on reports and documents together, give clients access to folders and documents and we have set up shared Slack channels when it makes sense. We keep an eye on AppSumo for new tech that can help support the business in particular where we can get in early as a new tech looks to build their user base and buy a lifetime licence.

We have also been keen to embrace new AI tools which have become much more accessible with the integration of generative AIs, Co-Pilot (powered by ChatGPT-4) into Microsoft products and Google Bard into Google Workspace new functionality in Zoom (AI meeting summaries) and AI image generation in Canva.

We have encouraged the team to experiment, and tested:

  • Summarising and asking questions about large documents such as Select Committee Reports, White Papers or think-tank publications
  • Summarising Hansard debates etc.
  • Generating writing prompts
  • Training for new business presentations
  • Creating captions for social media
  • Helping optimise our website
  • Research to aid strategies, reports, monitoring and meetings
  • Revising text to improve language and structure

It’s fair to say that, so far, our experience has been mixed.

AI tools can speed up efficiency for some of the more mundane tasks in public affairs, such as that first summary of a select committee or Parliamentary debate or an initial bit of research. It can add to a brainstorm, get you thinking differently or suggest new arguments.

But you have to be very careful with accuracy. Generative AI is known to ‘hallucinate’ – i.e. make things up. It often tells you things that are incorrect, untrue or completely wrong. Even meeting summaries are often full of errors, linking together unrelated conversations or not even accurately recording actions.

So, it can be useful but needs to be used with caution, and currently can’t replace the insight and analysis that comes with really knowing your client or your issues.

You can prompt AI tools to research a company and view research, but it cannot truly understand the nuances of a business or sector or the full context in which they operate.

Much of public affairs is about what is not said, how something is said, or a slight (almost imperceptible) change in the standard line. It’s about understanding the relationships, the timing and the nuances. Applying insight and understanding of the big-picture political dynamic and how to navigate it is not going to be replaced anytime soon with AI. It does not and can not (for now, at least) be used to drive strategy.

That’s why the best public affairs consultants are all-rounders. They need to be a political junkie, a strategic thinker, comms expert, a campaigner, a great networker, a risk assessor with a smattering of social media, marketing and events thrown in!

It’s hard to find that complex mix of skills in many people, so it’s often an attitude that makes the best public affairs people stand out, and that’s what we are looking for when we recruit at Inflect.

Politics, like people, is unpredictable, often irrational and AI can’t quite cope with that just yet.