Is AI Coming for Your Content Job?

AI at Bospar

Subscribers to Grammarly Premium, the cloud-hosted grammar-checking and plagiarism tools platform, just got service enhancements. Content correction capabilities have been boosted with features that detect and suggest corrections for inconsistencies in dates, capitalization, spelling, hyphens, and acronyms throughout a document.

Who cares, you ask? Not exactly a “game changer.” Right? 

Right. However, it is a likely portent of things, good and bad, to come. It set off an interesting discussion at Bospar:

  • Is this another harbinger of “the singularity,” the hypothetical moment in time when machine intelligence surpasses and supplants human intelligence?
  • How soon does this mean we in the content creation and editing business face total replacement by artificial intelligence (AI) bots? Are we becoming dinosaurs of the Internet Age?

It seems to me that the answer to this question is “no.” Or, at the very least, “not yet.”

Given predictions that one-fifth of the world’s jobs are poised for extinction by 2030, the future draws close.  Luckily for us human writers and editors, content is much more than rules-based words strung together to be “readable” or to “scan correctly.” This calls to mind the iconic Spider-Man quote, “With great power comes great responsibility.” As guardians of the proper and compelling use of words, we—the human content creators—have unprecedented HUMAN-only responsibilities.

They begin with our clients. Clarity and consistency in language are the first and most impactful ways that stakeholders—customers, employees, partners, and investors—experience a brand. Sloppiness is a liability. Use of nuance for maximizing positive target audience experiences is mission-critical. It has never been truer that you do not get a second chance to make a first impression. Other products, other brands and other options are a click away, and bad experiences of any type can go viral instantly.  

It’s a matter of more than just good punctuation and grammar. A colleague observed, “Updating automated spell check and basic grammar is useful. But letting an AI govern sentence rhythm and subordinate clauses will drain the voice, color and originality from a piece. As long as the written document is used to convey insight, opinions or impressions or to grapple with the emotion of new developments, human writers will never be replaced.”

Another colleague added, “Consistency brings coherence and polish. As with many AI innovations, these new Grammarly capabilities are an opportunity to make the jobs of human writers more interesting, fun and challenging. Tools like Grammarly will ensure cleaner work, so the author’s message is not lost in distractions from errors. Bottom line: writers and editors will never be obsolete. The mediums and tools will change, but communication requires an understanding of human interaction and the ability to convey emotion — an art requiring a human connection in order to be authentic.”

I am in violent agreement. Grammarly’s enhancements facilitate faster time to consistency. However, they remain tools. “I’ve read articles an automated system wrote about my daughter’s softball games based on stats we input,” explained another member of the Bospar Content Team. “They got the stats right, but the stories made no sense.”

Machines will get more human-like. They will increasingly have their place. However, their complete substitution for all content creation and editing seems like science fiction.

The real test of copy is that it is found compelling—by human audiences. Fortunately, for the foreseeable future, the human pen will be mightier than the AI sword.

AI-Powered ‘Intelligent’ Marketing Will Keep It Real

AILast year I attended the Marketo Marketing Nation Summit and had the opportunity to be entertained by keynote speaker James Corden of the CBS Late Late Show and of “carpool karaoke” fame. Central to Corden’s talk was the importance of truth and transparency in both comedy and marketing. And aside from the obvious irony in today’s era of alternative facts and fake news, he made a great argument for keeping things real.

In addition to Corden, the buzz at the summit was all about the latest trends in marketing tech, particularly artificial intelligence (AI). Comments about AI’s ability to facilitate listening, personalization and campaign management at scale floated around the halls and meeting rooms, causing almost everyone to wonder about the possibilities. And as the months since the event have passed, it is clear that marketers can leverage AI to make our craft more “real” and help businesses and brands achieve true credibility with customers—while delivering measurable benefits in reach and scale.

Already Improving the Customer Experience

AI, particularly when combined with big data and analytics, will help drive the meaningful customer conversations that ultimately lead to sales. And while some might view AI as impersonal, its applications are starting to achieve ubiquity (think Siri) and widespread consumer acceptance while delivering improvements in the overall customer experience.

As I write this, I am making a hairstyling appointment using an AI-powered chat bot that is texting me about my stylist’s available times later today. Small businesses like my hair salon will increasingly use lightweight and simple bots and virtual assistants to handle simple tasks like appointments, and these tools can help scale customer service efforts while freeing up resources. In this case, the chat bot can schedule another haircut—and drive the attendant revenue—without any human intervention. The immediate service delivered by my hair salon’s bot is just as good, effective and real as if it were delivered by a human, and it lets me know that the salon is making a good effort to serve me.

An Army of Sales Reps Without the Overhead

For large enterprises and online retailers, keeping AI “real” and genuine isn’t quite as easy as my hair salon’s chat bot. But the key similarity is that AI can deliver rich, contextually appropriate customer conversations and, importantly, deliver them at scale. This is because AI and big data can track, parse and organize information associated with customer touches, ascertain expressions of interest, and feed customers information at the right time and place in the sales cycle. Employing AI is like having an army of sales development reps, without the associated overhead.

Two discrete technologies in the AI realm do the heavy lifting to ensure that the right message is getting through and the right actions are taken. “Advisory” AI can help target customers and make recommendations (think ad re-targeting and Amazon’s recommendations engine), while “Autonomous” AI mimics human behavior to supplement the work of humans. For example, Autonomous AI can serve as a virtual sales assistant, persistently and courteously following up with prospects until a warm lead is ready to hand over to a real salesperson for a close. Virtual sales assistants never call in sick, and they never abandon a lead.

The Best of Both Worlds

Obviously, Advisory and Autonomous AI will each have a role and will be used by different types of B2C and B2B enterprises for different applications. But the value delivered is real! Advisory AI delivers more free time for live reps to interact with warm leads or for hair stylists to cut hair, while Autonomous AI can deliver amazing scale and at the same time harvest customer data for predictive analytics. Also beneficial is the potential for improved coordination between marketing and sales, particularly at the program and campaign levels, which means that more leads will get moved into the funnel, fewer will be abandoned, and ROI can be calculated with greater accuracy. AI technology and the human-like way that it interacts with customers and prospects will only improve in the future and so will its ability to work with unstructured data, like emails and social postings that leave clues about customer interest and intent. Natural language processing will also play a larger role, and AI communication will continue to be more effective, natural and, yes, “real” over time.

What’s the bottom line for all of this “real-ness” that AI will bring to our jobs? I’d suggest that marketing professionals, focused on data and analytics, are shifting focus to a higher level, one in which data and machine learning enable a return to marketing basics—listening, providing a great customer experience and nurturing leads—by combining human supervision with artificial intelligence to successfully leverage the best of both worlds. And like comedy, timing and judgment will play an important role. Now THAT is intelligent.

This article first appeared in MarTech Series.

How AI Will Impact PR

AI Advice from BosparThis article first appeared in PRNewser.

Artificial intelligence: it’s everywhere.

In our movies, in our homes. It’s running our thermostats and our online radio stations—not to mention thousands of different business applications we use every day without realizing it.

In many ways, it is making our lives better and jobs easier. Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg, and there is a building anxiety about how AI will affect said jobs.

I decided to get some insight into how AI will likely affect the PR industry. I turned to John Bara, president and CMO of Mintigo, a leading predictive marketing technology company. His view is that AI is and will continue to be a huge ally to PR professionals. Here’s what he had to say about it.

AI already runs our newsfeeds

“What many people don’t know is that artificial intelligence is already affecting what news we are served via our Facebook feeds and news recommendations,” says Bara. “For example, many were blown away when Donald Trump won the presidential election because the news they were being served—based on machine learning of their likes and dislikes—all showed pieces that catered to their individual point of view. If someone had a strong distaste for Trump, it would reflect in the news they were being served, leading them to believe that no one liked him. The reality is that the news we are getting is becoming tailored to us, and, therefore, we have a less balanced perspective.”

AI will enable more targeted messaging

“At the core, the art of PR is to match the message to the audience and generate economic benefits through advertising, subscriptions, etc. Big data and AI will continue to help the PR industry better understand a readership’s core attributes,” explained Bara. “Think of it as digital DNA, not unlike 23andMe for human DNA. By better understanding the digital DNA, the message can be tuned to the audience, and advertising and offers can be optimized specifically to an individual consumer in real time.”

AI will enable us to pitch more effectively

“If publicists aren’t getting a true read on what the overall trends are, they will pitch the journalist population ineffectively,” says Bara. “Savvy publicists will use AI to their advantage by zeroing in on very specific journalists. Rather than doing a napalm strike of pitching, the effective publicist will use these technologies to find the right journalists, at the right time, on the right channel.”

AI can help keep messaging on point

“PR professionals should harness the power of Big Data and AI to match messages to the appropriate audiences,” concludes Bara. “The technology already exists—it’s just a matter of putting it to use effectively.”