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A decade ago, Barack Obama revolutionized political campaigning by successfully leveraging the power of social media to turn supporters into donors, organizers and voters. Today, another technology stands to have an equally transformative impact on political operations: artificial intelligence (AI). Now, campaigns that can capitalize on the power of AI stand to gain a competitive edge not only during the upcoming midterms, but in the 2020 elections and beyond.

Managing the ebb and flow of information and paid media is getting more difficult for campaigns. In fact, from now through 2020, the amount of digital data is projected to increase by a factor of 10. This deluge of unstructured data is driven in large part by the explosion of video and audio content. AI can help campaigns manage the internet’s information firehose. Here’s how:

A Digital Research Assistant   

Political operations are facing an epic struggle to review new clips that pile up daily as well as the vast volumes of legacy files they have compiled over the years. It’s simply impractical for campaign staffers to review thousands of hours of such content — and it’s utterly impossible to transform manually-gathered information into actionable insights quickly enough to keep pace with today’s high-velocity news cycle.

AI can help. It provides a way to take the challenge of data overload and turn it into an invaluable asset. New cognitive engine technologies can rapidly transcribe huge volumes of native audio and video files so they can be searched by phrases or keyword. These engines can also perform facial, object and optical character recognition, to provide new levels of insight.

AI technologies can compress lengthy review and analysis times from days or even weeks down to a matter of minutes, giving campaigns the rapid insights they need to detect and address issues as they arise. Such engines also relieve staffers from time-consuming tracking responsibilities, allowing them to focus on more valuable work that requires the human touch.

To quickly capitalize on the advantages delivered by these cognitive engines, organizations need to employ AI services or platforms. Instead of taking extensive time to select the best and most appropriate engines from multiple suppliers, users can select AI platforms that can automatically find the best algorithm or algorithms for the task at hand.

Such platforms can also become more efficient over time as they gain knowledge. With experience, platforms become more adept at identifying critical information, such as names, faces and keywords, allowing them to transcribe audio or process video with greater accuracy.

Keeping Up with Talk Radio

In 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump underwent a grueling on-air grilling from a Wisconsin radio talk show host whose conservative viewpoint ostensibly would have been friendly to Trump. The event highlighted the continued importance of talk radio in American politics, as well as the critical need to build awareness of sentiment on local radio stations.

In an age of social media, radio may seem to be a relic of an ancient era. But the thousands of radio stations across the United States still command a sizable and loyal audience, with the medium reaching the largest number of Americans of any form of electronic entertainment as of 2015, according to Nielsen. With local hosts discussing political issues and taking calls from voters, these stations serve as a window into the mindset of residents of various US states, counties and legislative districts.

Instead of spending countless hours hunting for audio clips from these radio stations, campaigns can leverage AI engines to track broadcasts and provide alerts. If a talk radio host mentions a relevant issue or the name of a candidate, these engines can send a notice to a campaign within minutes. For example, our firm offers a proprietary radio tracking system that allows campaigns to create watch lists of names, subjects and stations to ensure they know what’s happening nearly in real time.

Armed with such information, campaigns also can prepare candidates and spokespeople for interviews on local radio. This information can even allow candidates to steer clear of potentially hostile interviewers.

Flipping the Transcripts

Another task that takes far too much time and effort for campaigns is editing transcripts and video files to ensure they match each other. AI can simplify and streamline this drudgery as well. Our firm offers a platform that allows campaigns to edit the transcript and the video clips simultaneously. 

Using the platform, staff members can save time by selecting just the specific few sentences that they need to share or capture. Our video player then syncs that information immediately.

The More Data the Better

For today’s campaigns, the massive amount of media that must be tracked may appear to be an insurmountable obstacle—an ever-rising mountain of information that they have to scale each and every day. 

But when AI enters the equation, this enormous amount of information starts to look quite different. With AI, the more information that is ingested and processed, the better it works. With each keyword they search, each sentence they transcribe and each face they identify, AI cognitive engines incrementally improve their accuracy and predictive value.

Kristy McKnight is the general manager of Veritone Politics, a leading cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) technology company.