Getting personal with AI

Feb 25, 2024

AI provides opportunities to bolster our understanding of our intended audiences while supporting our efforts to refine our messages.

We all long to connect, and I mean the royal “we” as it relates to anything and everything. Humans strive to connect with other humans, with nature, with themselves. A lot of animals gather in packs and create communities. Plants crave sunlight or a breeze or insects. Robots – well, we like to think they desire to experience human feelings and connect; remember the character Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation?

German social psychologist and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm said, “The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots.” Robots and artificial intelligence have been around for a long time, but we are now in an era where these tools are widely available for us mere mortals to use. This reminds me of a phrase commonly associated with Spider-Man: “With great power comes great responsibility.” At this juncture, we must remind ourselves to embrace these tools responsibly, ethically, and as humanely as possible. We need to get personal with AI.

Marketers consistently talk about the need to make our initiatives, campaigns, and collateral about “them,” meaning the clients. In the pursuit of overcorrecting the common mistakes of only talking about “ourselves” and flip things on “them,” sometimes we fail to acknowledge that content should really be about “us.” Associations, partnerships, relationships, joint ventures, preferred vendors, you name it, they all come down to connections.

In the ongoing conversations about AI and its impact on the AEC space, AI can be leveraged to enhance our marketing and business development efforts by making them “personal.” Seeking connections, we must dig into the trenches of the items we are passionate about, passionate for “us” and for “them.” AI provides opportunities to bolster our knowledge and understanding of our intended audiences while also supporting our efforts to refine our messages so they can resonate with a stronger impact.

We can utilize these AI tools to learn about the interests, preferences, and behaviors of diverse groups, including personal contacts, current and targeted clients, stakeholders, potential recruits, and current staff. AI is a tool that can be added to our existing well of knowledge, which includes lessons learned from past/current working relationships, interactions with client staff, contacts through professional organizations, friends of friends, etc. We are able to conduct additional research in short amounts of time to fill our well with more information and create “personas” which will inform our messaging and communication processes.

Social scientist and business leader David Burkus talks about how purpose resonates stronger when presented in the context of the “who” rather than the “why.” Stipulating the “who” is also an exercise in empathy. I don’t know about you, but one of the things that resonated and influenced my decision to stay in the AEC space as a marketing professional was the impact the projects we develop, analyze, permit, design, and construct have on communities, cities, states, countries, and the world. We are part of the stakeholders; we are part of the “personas.” What moves us probably moves them. Summarizing and synthesizing large datasets are two of the many areas we can excel at with the proper use of AI tools. After figuring out which groups are part of the blended persona you want to target, use AI to come up with the characteristics commonly shared by those stakeholders.

Yann LeCun, a French computer scientist said, “Our intelligence is what makes us human, and AI is an extension of that quality. Artificial intelligence is extending what we can do with our abilities. In this way, it’s letting us become more human.” Let’s wield these tools to get personal, emphasize empathy, and connect. 

Javier Suarez is a principal marketing manager with Geosyntec Consultants. Contact him at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.