March 26, 2024

Inside Our AI Innovation Challenge, And Why It’s Working

In a matter of months, artificial intelligence transformed our landscape with a seismic shift, expanding the boundaries of what's possible. As the world considers the right way to approach AI in our lives and our work, we've recognized it as a huge opportunity for strategic communications.

We’ve repeatedly seen how technology has completely altered our field by providing new communication channels, globalizing outreach, improving data-driven decision-making, and demanding quicker response times. AI will be no different. It will make our profession both more dynamic and — we believe — fulfilling, by enhancing what we do.

Wharton Professor Ethan Mollick prompted the audience at a recent client event with: “Every person in your company just got a first-year PhD intern. What do you do with that?”

It got us thinking. From our point of view, AI is like having a workplace superpower - a tool that augments what we do and allows us to better tap into our creativity, our empathy, our communications skills, our judgment and intuition.

How can you help employees at your company realize AI’s full potential? We’d argue… by experimenting.

Our leaders at Just Drive Media - including founder Ali Winkle - are fully embracing AI to drive innovation, and believe that by experimenting with AI, we’ll stay on the forefront of forward-thinking technological development.

Shortly after that conference, we kicked off our first-ever company-wide “Just Drive Media AI Challenge.”

With two goals in mind — to normalize AI as a useful tool in the strategic communications space and to harness the power of AI to streamline aspects of our work — each JDM team member was invited to submit their wildest, most innovative ideas on how we could be using AI to provide more value for our clients.

As comms experts, we’re often assumed to spend all our time talking or writing to the media, crafting social copy, or telling stories with data. And while that’s all a big part of our work, many don’t realize how extensive the admin and analytical aspects of our jobs are when we give clients our best. Communications is, at its core, focused on storytelling. But, like any published book, the results come from the background work put into the heart of the story.

When we first announced the challenge to the team, no one was quite sure as to what depth folks would want to dive in and get their hands dirty, so to speak.

It helped that we had established a clear policy early on to guide us in using AI and help our team think creatively without hesitation. Being clear about limitations and considerations, and educating our team around that, fosters bigger thinking and sets the state for a “yes, and” mindset.

From there, every other week we began holding a standing “AI Updates” call where we chat about anything new we’re seeing or hearing about in the world of AI. It’s a way to keep our team dialed in and thinking on a higher level about how we can benefit from AI in our daily lives.

So, how does one join -- and win -- our AI Challenge?

A team member can enter the contest by submitting an idea with a Loom video to demonstrate to others how it works. At the end of each round, the team votes on their favorites, leadership reviews the entries, asks clarifying questions, and confirms the winner. Each round is a self-contained contest with a separate winner, although we count iterating on past ideas to refine them as new entries. This allows the team to build upon each other's ideas and collaborate to make them even better.

To ultimately win, the idea has to be something we can leverage at Just Drive Media to improve a process or make it more efficient. To sweeten the competition, the winner behind the idea not only receives a cash reward, but we also implement the winning entry into our workflow.

As we hoped, the response has been phenomenal. From improving prioritization and goal setting with ChatGPT, to bulletproofing tough Q&As, to creating an award entry data collection wizard, ideas poured in from every facet of our team. A few folks are testing out building custom GPTs, with some exciting early results.

This challenge has not only opened up our creative brains to the many different avenues for AI to support our work, but is also a testament to our team’s commitment to embrace innovation, lean into the current times with curiosity, and make Just Drive Media an even more fantastic place to work.

As Economics Professor Richard Baldwin recently noted:

“AI won’t take your job – it’s someone using AI who will take your job.”