Thursday, August 10, 2023

Why Content Marketing Should Embrace AI

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about how I was using AI, still pretty much in its content marketing infancy, as a collaborative tool in my daily work. It might be a good time for an update. 

I’m writing this by hand, not using any AI input, but I am using AI spellchecker because, well, that just makes sense.
I genuinely believe that artificial intelligence isn’t just a tool, but a transformative force in content marketing. It offers unparalleled personalisation, enhances creativity, optimises distribution, and fosters data-driven decision-making. While there’s ethical considerations that undoubtedly need to be addressed (should I be sharing the by-line?) and a wider conversation to be had, the gains for me have been weapons-grade.

For content marketing professionals like myself, who seek continuous innovation and efficiency as part of the process, the integration of AI has a lot of benefits. Its power to revolutionise the way we approach marketing is not just promising; it's already here. And I use it daily.

Using AI Day to Day
Just about everything I’ve written at work since last November has had some level of AI collaboration, be it ideas, data, explanations from ChatGPT, or images and visuals from MidJourney. As I said in my early thoughts and finding on AI, I am not now and never will be, any kind of an aficionado of Artificial Intelligence (AI). I’ve found a level of usage, however, that suits the way I work and has put my productivity level through the roof. If there were KoolAid, I’ve drunk it.

Here's a few reasons why:
I can’t spell for Jack: Or punctuate, really. I get by pretty well and always have, but most of that is from practice and I don’t have an English degree. I’ve worked with journalists who have nothing but my deepest admiration. I don’t naturally write in US English, for starters. On the most basic level, AI tools (like Grammarly and Wordtune) are indispensable spelling and grammar checkers that can be tuned for brand voice and stop me rambling on with run-on sentences and comma splices. They do this in-line while I’m writing, across assorted applications, with zero friction. If we get one decent solar flare, I am so screwed.

Explaining concepts: Most content markets are biblical at trivia – especially those of us in an agency who flit from topic to topic. We have to write and create fresh ideas around everything from pet food to the socio-economic impact of retail robotics. Immersing myself in a topic is one thing, but I work in cybersecurity, and sometimes, working from home as I do, I need to ask someone to “explain, like you would to a graduate student, what are the core concepts behind user and entity behavior analytics” without (once again) hassling our product marketing manager in Teams. I don’t have time to wade through pages of weak Google results. Thank you, ChatGPT4.

Fresh ideas: Being creative on demand, daily, is what I do. Some days, at the risk of using the phrase “writer's block,” it’s not a natural state to be in. Sometimes I need some inspiration. AI is one of the options I turn to when I’m staring at my screen like a goldfish in a strobe light.

Above and beyond ChatGPT, which is my default for most things, platforms like ShortlyAIJasper, and others provide creative writing environments with useful prompts and suggestions. Websites like Reedsy offer writing prompt generators that can kickstart the creative process. If we have some programming skills, and it’s actually not rocket science, we can use AI models (including OpenAI) to create customised prompts based on our specific needs and interests. 

I recently wrote a whole other post on the creative content marketing process, including the use of AI, but tools like MindMeister or Lucidchart also allow us to create mind maps and visual prompts to help brainstorm and ideate.

Talking to the audience: I’m not the Chief Information Security Officer of a billion-dollar Fortune 500, but the CISO is the main target of the bulk of the output I produce these days. What do they actually care about that will be of genuine value to them? What are their concerns? What is the CISO community talking about? Much as I love them, this is the new Yahoo Answers (alas, no longer with us) and Quora

Using AI for inspiration, I recently crafted a post on “How can Busy CISOs Avoid Occupational Burn-Out?” Sure, it’s low-hanging fruit. It was, however, “syndicated” by Cloud Security Alliance, who published it to their site, giving us a ton of retweets from their share and some juicy PageRank from linking. This has happened more than once, because the professional cybersecurity community found real value in my writing.

Making it pretty: Back in the 80s, before I ventured into the world of film production and before the advent of the Internet, I studied graphic design at college. I can turn my hand to a reasonable infographic, airbrush a burnt-out car out of a corporate image (true story), and I’m something of a Photoshop veteran, but, MidJourney is now my go-to for basic imagery. Sure, there’s beautiful original art for free at Pixabay and Upsplash, and many a time I still make use of these invaluable assets, but I have deadlines and things to get done. While always enjoyable, I don’t have the capacity to wade through thousands of images that are “almost” right for the job – not when I can cut and paste a prompt I know will give me exactly the brand look and consistent style we use, add a few new words that reflect my copy, then spend two minutes in Photoshop to round off the edges and apply (in our case) a corporate duotone. And this for $15 less month than Shutterstock and with no limits on volume.

Just this week I’ve been dabbling with PikaLabs, to give our corporate Twitter pics some movement - because it’s our job to experiment. I also use MidJourney for ideas, like showing me graphical suggestions for infographics (using specific data) that I can then exploit in Illustrator. It’s not the whole process, far from it, but it’s a part of the process.
Analytics: AI’s not just useful for producing content, it’s also a godsend for analytics and decision-making. Statistics and data analysis leave me cold, but content is born of good data. Original data insights make bankable PR, and getting those insights is now a whole lot easier. Also, trend analysis affords inspiration. I have to give Tableau some props. It's great for anyone who wants to play with data and make it come alive visually, and I’m no tech wizard. It can handle complex calculations, mix different data together, and getting started with the free trial was a breeze. Again, I then add brand and other elements to the output, but it’s damn helpful for ideas and for pulling out the unseen. Being able to dump a load of web analytics onto OpenAI and ask it who our most engaged visitors are, then create me a few personas for those visitors, all within seconds, is useful, enlightening, and inspiring.

Saving time: Rolling all the above together, how much time do I save on a full production day? I’d estimate an hour, maybe two. What do I do with that time? More work. 

I can produce two 1200-word blog posts, or a blog post and solution brief, plus my other work, between 9-5. That’s probably an extra case study and an explainer script in a week – and good value content at that. Harsh, perhaps, but with a level of productivity like that why would future employers consider a candidate who hasn’t embraced AI collaboration?

Will AI Take Our Jobs?
Obviously, I think of AI as a boost for my creativity and efficiency. It is, right? 

Well, yes and no. Unless we’re an undertaker or a hairdresser, we’ll have to embrace the possibilities of AI, or yes we’ll get left behind. Proofreaders and translators, copywriters, video producers, graphic designers, audio editors, analysts… I do elements of all these jobs in my content marketing role and all jobs in the AI firing line. But is my job in the firing line? 

No. AI isn’t creative without the right promps and actions by a human agent. Ps Beta now has AI image generation built in, and it’s now part of the creative process. Digital artists are training on this in Universities around the world, right now. The likes of outpainting and process-driven AI image creation are a massive time saver, and now a part of the creative process. Augmenting imagery with AI is now normal and part of the job, but it still needs a creative operator – well, at least for now. As you can see from the above, I’m still pretty hands on. AI is not the creative in creative content marketing, it’s a means to an end.
We can’t afford to put our heads in the sand and ignore AI, and we need to make it a part of our day-to-day or, frankly, get a new career. Isn’t it a part of our jobs to be experimenting with new tools and mediums? In the future, AI will turn one creative person into a polymath, an individual into a team, and continue to be a fantastic collaborator for outstanding creative output. Embracing AI as a collaborator, now, means we’ll be a part of that future.

Let’s not get left behind.

If you’d like to follow up with me on this post, please grab me on Twitter (though I’m shadow tweeting these days), Threads (where I’m happily get my book geek on), or LinkedIn for a chat.