According to Kevin Dulaney, the executive VP of technology and innovation at Hotwire Global, it takes inspiration, visualization, and ethics to successfully utilize tech at a company.
- Kevin Dulaney leads tech innovation at Hotwire Global, a marketing and communications consultancy.
- Dulaney told Insider that tech-focused strategies and AI tools can help other companies improve.
- This article is part of “Tech Leadership Playbook,” a series that shares advice from the most innovative tech execs.
Kevin Dulaney has a tall order. As the executive vice president of technology and innovation at Hotwire Global, a marketing and communications consultancy, he must deliver an IT strategy that connects a global team of over 400 employees and empowers them to execute innovative campaigns for a diverse roster of international clients.
But Dulaney — who was included in PRWeek’s 2023 “Dashboard 25” list honoring influential people in communications technology — is up for the challenge. When it came to developing and implementing Hotwire Global’s IT strategy, Dulaney made sure to view technology as “an enabler” for the entire business and not “just another toolset,” he told Insider.
Dulaney and his team encourage employees to “embrace technology in every aspect of their work” to boost efficiency. He believes that data and insights, in particular, enable staff to do their best work alongside clients and the company’s internal teams.
This strategy has helped the company over the years as it gains accolades: In 2020, Forbes named Hotwire Global one of the best PR agencies in the US; in 2021, The Sunday Times honored the consultancy as the best small company to work for in London; and just this year, Insider recognized Hotwire Global’s senior director Maribeth Darling as an emerging leader in public relations.
Of course, encouraging everyone to embrace technology is no easy feat as some people might fear change. But a big part of Dulaney’s job is to inspire curiosity over hesitancy.
As an expert with over 20 years of IT and tech innovation experience, Dulaney shared insight into how companies can bolster tech use within their organization.
Always be in-the-know and foster connectivity
With technology advancing at a rapid rate, Dulaney’s team must stay up to date on the latest developments and apply them to different areas of the business. “My team looks at tools as soon as they come up or as soon as it is identified,” he said. “We then evaluate the tool to see if there is a use case for it in the business.”
As part of its IT strategy, Hotwire Global has implemented a concept called “One Team” that works as a “collective without borders and collaborates regardless of locations or backgrounds,” Dulaney said. At the heart of this strategy is a technology-based collaboration suite.
“The pandemic highlighted the importance of this technology,” Dulaney said. “It showed us that conventional offices may no longer be a thing, so how do we keep that same connectedness and culture of business?”
He added: “The only way to do that is through synchronous and asynchronous collaboration tools like Slack and Zoom, and all the other tools that we use to help create the conversations for ourselves as well with our clients.”
Get your teeth into tech that gathers data and insights
Data, insights, and automation also form a vital part of Hotwire Global’s IT strategy, particularly when it comes to the client experience. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive modeling allow clients to leverage data to improve the effectiveness of marketing and communications campaigns, Dulaney said.
“Leaning into these technologies helps us bridge the gap with our clients by giving them the real power of data to optimize strategies, measure impact, and enable business growth,” he added.
Recently, Hotwire Global’s IT team developed a language library powered by AI chatbot ChatGPT. The aim was to help employees “look for solutions, answers, and information in a way that is most comfortable to them,” Dulaney said.
While Internet of Things (IoT) solutions like Alexa and Google Home are oriented around question-and-answer interactions, Dulaney said, ChatGPT is more conversational. “It is more like having a conversation with your manager or colleague to get information,” he said. “It breaks down that barrier of, ‘Am I asking the right question?’ and focuses on ‘Am I having a conversation?'”
The AI-based language library — which is ChatGPT’s colloquial rendering of Hotwire Global’s original language library — is underpinned by Hotwire Global’s existing processes, documents, information, and internal communications. The result, Dulaney said, is “more conversational data versus just automated responses.”
Create ethics guidelines around tech use
Dulaney is clear that generative AI solutions like ChatGPT can’t be a “complete replacement” for human talent. Instead, he sees it as a tool to inspire creativity across the agency. To ensure employees use tools like ChatGPT ethically, Hotwire Global’s IT team has created AI guidelines and best practices.
“Part of those guidelines also touch on how untrustworthy these tools can be,” Dulaney said. “It has been proven not to have legitimate information and sometimes just makes up data altogether. And when you consider it from a diversity and equity lens, it is creating its knowledge base from information that is already out there. This system is pulling from databases and pulling from sources that already have biases baked in.”
Visualize and materialize
For leaders at other companies who want to use technology more in day-to-day roles and operations, Dulaney recommended that they create a vision that takes into account business priorities and the desired technology to be adopted.
They should then invest in and roll out tech to an initial group of stakeholders to measure return on investment and make any necessary changes to the strategy. Another tip is to ensure that those working on the IT team understand the business and the daily challenges it faces so that they can find effective technical solutions to problems.
Look onward, and prepare for more advancements
In the near future, Dulaney expects technologies such as automation and AI to continue transforming the skillsets of PR professionals. He believes they’ll need to know how to create prompts to get required information through AI tools and use automation to improve efficiencies in their roles.
However, he expects technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality to have the biggest impact on the PR industry in the coming decades. “That universe is going to open a whole new demo for us to do immersive experiences and storytelling,” Dulaney said.