How PR can help plug the AI brain drain

Last month, MPs warned that a “brain drain” of its top artificial intelligence (AI) experts to the US was a key risk to the UK maintaining its position as a global leader in this nascent industry. Indeed, data compiled by The Telegraph highlights the Silicon Valley raid on top UK talent, with roughly one-third of AI specialists from UK institutions now working in Silicon Valley tech firms.

While undoubtedly other factors come into play when making such decisions, including pay or research grants, the UK is also facing a brand issue. Despite the immense opportunities in Britain for tech businesses as the unicorn capital of Europe, Brexit has clearly cast a dark cloud over the future of British business.

No matter what your position on the matter, competition globally to attract and entice some of the most specialist and sparse talent is fierce: from companies, with many US firms offering six-figure starting salaries for AI roles, and countries, with initiatives such as Macron’s regulatory changes to make France more attractive to tech start-ups. Even the slightest doubts in this buyers’ market could lead to our AI specialists looking elsewhere for opportunities. With both immediate resourcing challenges to UK-based AI businesses, as well as the country’s future position as a global leader, it is clear that we can’t rest on our laurels and expect the required talent to roll in.

No one person, organisation or institution can solve this challenge alone. Instead, the AI industry must promote the common opportunities and advantages for pursuing a career in the UK.

But, how can AI companies use PR to reduce the brain drain? Here are our four recommendations.

Highlight local success stories

Case studies work in comms. No matter how well-respected your opinion, it is always more impactful for your customer to say how great you are. The same is undoubtedly true of the UK AI industry, with those that have thrived in the country best placed to credibly promote its benefits.

Whether that’s highflying British-born unicorns like DeepMind and Darktrace, or large organisations that have seen great success in the region and have continued to grow and invest as a result, such as Amazon’s commitment to creating 1,000 new UK jobs last month, promoting local success stories will be key to demonstrating the immediate and future opportunities in the region.

Partner with like-minded organisations

When you have a common cause, it needn’t be guns drawn at dawn to decide who will get to voice it. Bringing together like-minded parties to highlight a shared priority or commitment can spark greater attention and be far more impactful to those listening.

The Data Literacy Project, for example, was initiated by (client) Qlik and has brought together global industry leaders Accenture, Cognizant, Experian, Pluralsight and more to join it in its fight again global data illiteracy. Similar to the Data Literacy Project, AI firms should understand that when they have a true commitment to achieving change, speaking with a combined voice can be far more powerful.

Differentiate yourself

While the draw of the Silicon Valley is indisputable, the UK is hot competition. In fact, a report by Colliers International found that the UK is the most attractive European country for employers and employees, thanks to its quality of life, location and cost.

Companies must remember that when competing on the global market, the job isn’t the only factor. Candidates are thinking about the overall experience – both in and out the office. This ultimately presents a great opportunity, as it enables businesses without the capital of the tech giants to still attract leading talent.

British companies that can build on the country’s established appeal by highlighting their cultural initiatives – whether that’s better benefits, greater flexibility or even the growing interest in a four-day week – will play a key role in attracting top talent not only to the UK, but to their firms.

Have a voice on Brexit

Don’t let Brexit be the elephant in the room. We all know it’s coming, but many companies would rather avoid the topic and risk alienating prospective talent. If your company has a positive story to tell of continued investment, planned growth or even business-as-usual post-Brexit, then tell that story and show that the UK AI industry remains open to business.

Undoubtedly, any messaging around such a contentious topic must be handled delicately, accounting for the many different stakeholders that must be considered. However, with the right support, companies can identify the best message for their business without endorsing a political perspective.

Power of telling the right story

Between the significant investments from the government, its internationally renowned academic institutions and thriving tech clusters, the UK has all the ingredients to become a world leader in AI. However, with so much competition for the talent that will ultimately convert the opportunity into reality, businesses must take an active role in promoting the advantages of pursuing a career in Britain. Only by delivering the right message on the future of the AI industry will we be able to convince global experts to invest in the UK.

Written by Kate Baldwin, Account Director, Business Technology

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