Synthetic Media can e. g. with lower production time and costs lead to a new era of content generation and public communication. At the same time the improved technology exacerbates the risks of manipulated content and cyberattacks through deep fakes.
On this page:
- What does the term synthetic media mean?
- Content generation with deepfakes
- Detecting manipulated content with deepfakes
- Recommendations for communication leaders and professionals
What does the term synthetic media mean?
It refers to media content that has been partially or completely generated by computers. Often, the content appears highly realistic and is created using artificial intelligence. Examples include artificially created or modified photos, videos, and audio files (e. g., deepfakes), computer-generated avatars (e. g., virtual influencers), as well as artificially generated texts or articles (e. g., “robo-journalism” and bots).
Content generation with deepfakes
Deepfakes are photos, videos, or audio files of humans, which appear highly realistic but have been partially or fully created with methods of artificial intelligence. This technology allows for example to replace the face of a person in a photo or video with another face (“face swapping”) or to read a text out in someone else’s voice (“text-to-speech”). In the last years, creating deepfakes has become accessible to the public through apps and open-source software.
Detecting manipulated content with deepfakes
Content has always been manipulated to some degree (e. g. modify pictures with Photoshop), but deepfakes will exacerbate the risk of manipulation. To prepare for these risks, the following approaches could therefore be helpful:
- Record and store original content with activity logs: This could help to identify deepfakes used to falsely frame someone for having said or done something.
- Adopt deepfake detection technologies: Such technologies spot small irregularities in deepfakes which might be imperceptible to humans.
- Advocate for legal protection: Current legal frameworks inadequately cover the risks of deepfakes. Therefore, it is recommended having legal protection.
- Leverage trust between brands and customers: Strong brands which generally deliver on what they promise and base their practices on strong ethics are better protected against deepfake threats.
“Synthetic media definitely has negative issue potential. But there are also promising applications of synthetic media in corporate communications. For example, as we continue having virtual events, avatars can be integrated into these digital settings, which would make the formats more interesting.”
Dr. Nina Schwab-Hautzinger, Senior Vice President Corporate Communications & Government Relations, BASF
Recommendations for communication experts
Corporate Communications can benefit from synthetic media in various ways:
- Cut production time and costs
This can be done by dynamically creating audio and video files with deepfake technology instead of multiple recordings.
- Improve personalization of content
Organizations can easily adapt content to other language or cultures.
- Enhance the customer experience
Customer could try e. g. cosmetics or clothes virtually before buying.
- Collaborate with virtual influencers
This can help to boost outreach and engage audiences on social media.
- Shape the brand image or revive brand history with avatars
Deepfake technologies help to create virtual avatars that represent a brand or organization.
Key Facts about the 5 trends
- Language Anwareness: Linguistic diversity such as gender sensitivity is increasingly discussed in society today. This shifts the focus of discussions from the actual content to the choice of words and phrasing. Communication managers will have to meet the expectations of different stakeholders and cultures while keeping in mind content and usability.
- Closed Communication: The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the retreat into the private sphere. Private messaging services like Telegram, Signal and Threema are popular examples of closed communication using partly hidden platforms. As a result, media use is shifting from public to private media environments. For communicators, more and more interactions between stakeholders are becoming invisible.
- Gigification: The division of projects and large tasks into "gigs" works for companies in the gig economy such as Uber, Lieferando or Fiverr. The demand for gigs is rapidly increasing due to remote work, digital nomadism, and globalization. Corporate communications can outsource various tasks as gigs; for example, creative tasks, text layout, presentation design, and software development can already be performed as gigs.
- Synthetic Media is no longer a futuristic scenario. The underlying technology has recently matured to a level where the content produced appears highly realistic. It will become relevant for corporate communications as organizations can use e. g. avatars to revive the own history or to enhance the customer experience. How can this risky technology be useful for communications?
- Cybersecurity: The number of Cyberattacks is rising rapidly every year. Cyberattacks are “the new normal” and can cause substantial financial and reputational damage. Organizations become more vulnerable due to the increased digitalization or the introduction of unapproved software in the workplace. What can communications leader do, to prepare the organization against cyberattacks?
- Sources & screening: First, information sources which provide relevant insights into the professional discourse in the areas of management, technology, and society were monitored and screened. These sources primarily include recent publications from scientific journals and conferences in the respective domains, but also selected newspapers (e.g., Economist Science and Technology), magazines (e.g., Harvard Business Review, Wired), social news sites (e.g., Reddit Science), blogs and websites (e.g., ReadWrite, The Next Web), whitepapers, and corporate trend reports.
- Trend profiles: Each potential trend was systematically documented in a trend profile consisting of a brief description and several criteria estimating the trend’s relevance to corporate communications. Specifically, the research team assessed the impact of the trend on the corporate communications function, processes and management.
- Scoring: Based on the criteria detailed in the trend profiles, a scoring method was developed that was used to rate each of the trends.
- Selection: These trends were first discussed among the Communications Trend Radar team during a workshop. Each team member then voted individually for the top trends in the areas of management, technology, and society. We proposed five trends for 2022 (depicted below) based on the outcome of this process.
- Reflection: These trends were examined further and later discussed with communication leaders during an online workshop in November 2021.
- Report: All trends were analyzed and described in more detail in our publication - the Communications Trend Radar.
The Communications Trend Radar 2022 project was conducted by a research team of the Leipzig and the University of Duisburg-Essen.
from left to right:
- Stefan Stieglitz is Professor for Digital Communication and Transformation Professional at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.
- Daniel Ziegele, M.A. is a research associate at the Institute for Communication and Media Studies at Leipzig University, Germany.
- Sünje Clausen, M.Sc. is a research associate at the chair of Digital Communication and Transformation at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.
- Ansgar Zerfass is Professor and Chair of Strategic Communication at the Institute for Communication and Media Studies at Leipzig University, Germany.