Skip to content

AI’s Marketing Power Is Mightier Than Its Pen

When ChatGPT launched in 2022, marketers jumped on the technology’s ability to generate content in a fraction of the time and effort it takes a human writer or designer.  

Almost as quickly, they found good reasons to question whether that’s a net positive.  

While concerns about privacy violations, factual accuracy, and the use of proprietary data made the headlines, savvy content leaders explored alternate ways AI could help fuel functional tasks and advance their marketing goals.  

We asked industry experts to share their favorite AI use cases and how their teams, brands, and audiences have benefited. Here are some invaluable roles AI can serve — and the preparatory steps you can take to achieve optimal results.  

An analytics partner with all the answers 

Content creators likely know how to collect performance data from Google Analytics and other tools. However, accessing insights scattered across multiple platforms or locked in function-specific systems can be tricky and time-consuming. Plus, sorting through a high volume of information often leads to only a few nuggets of actionable meaning, particularly when your team’s core talents lie more in the creative realm than the analytical.  

For example, Aha Media Group president Ahava Leibtag says their health care clients sit on a ton of data about their audiences and marketing performance. The sheer volume overwhelms her team’s ability to separate the signal from the noise.  

AI’s ability to aggregate data from multiple sources and extract vital insights changes the game. It can synthesize the information into a single source of analytics truth and quickly pinpoint audience trends and behavior patterns that even the most analysis-savvy marketers might overlook. 

The Marketing AI Institute’s chief growth officer Cathy McPhillips recommends prompting AI tools with focused queries to tap critical performance insights hidden or hard to discern without expert analysis.  

“You can ask it questions like, ‘Why are my open rates on these particular emails higher?’ or “Are there any common threads I’m not able to see?’” Cathy explains. She’s found this direct approach can also supply guidance on actions to respond to the findings. Cathy says, “Try asking your tools, ‘Where should I be focusing my optimization efforts based on the insight you just provided?’” 

“Prompt AI with questions like, ‘Where should I focus my optimization efforts, based on the insight you just provided?'”

AI-powered tools in Google Analytics 4 can even provide these directional cues on the fly. Marketing teams can configure it to send them notifications when it identifies performance anomalies. It empowers them to quickly capitalize on trends or implement course corrections — often well before they might have noticed the change during a scheduled analytics review.  

A research assistant that builds SME rapport 

A fountain of invaluable brand stories, product details, and experiences sits inside the minds of internal and external subject matter experts. Interviews are a great way to extract those details — but only if those experts participate.  

Some experts may be reluctant to help because marketers don’t always know what they don’t know. They often rely on Google searches for their pre-interview research on highly complex or technical topics. That leads to uninspiring, surface-level questions that experts may consider a waste of their time.  

Connie Smart, a writer and editor for the City of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, says AI’s research capabilities can give your writers an advantage in this area. In her previous role as a content specialist for Canadian Western Bank’s marketing team, she used AI to zero in on hot, current topics highly relevant to the interviewee’s experience level. 

Connie says adding AI to her research process has helped her compose more granular, targeted questions that put more trust and authority behind her interview requests. As a bonus, her AI research tools provided sources for the information, fast-tracking her verification efforts.  

Ahava notes another benefit her team received from adding AI into their research practices: It sharpened their ability to comprehend highly technical medical terminology and made it easier to communicate critical information to consumer audiences. “Our writers used to have to read through research studies on PubMed and try to figure out their meaning on their own,” she says. “Now they can use machine learning to synthesize and simplify that data instantly.” 

Yet, Ahava remains adamant that AI research tools should only be a starting point. The technology can gather and digest a lot of information, but it doesn’t always position it within the proper context. “Remember: Every translation is an interpretation,” she says. “Use it to steer you in the right direction, then do the actual research yourself. Later, you can go back into your AI tools and ask if there’s anything you missed or misrepresented.”  

“Every translation is an interpretation. Use it to steer you in the right direction, but do the actual research yourself.”

A deskside SEO expert that gives clear ranking guidance 

What AI tools might lack in originality, emotionality, or unimpeachable accuracy, they more than make up for that with their ability to fine-tune, summarize, and evaluate the search potential of existing copy.  

These skills make it the ideal SEO sidekick for your content creators, helping them identify search trends and capitalize on ranking opportunities. Not only can this save your team precious time, but it may reduce spending on third-party SEO tools.   

Mario Peshev, CEO at Rush and DevriX, notes that you can pull search volume data in Google Bard as you do with paid SEO management tools. “Our editorial teams use Bard to evaluate article competitors and suggest high-volume keywords we can use during content updates,” Mario says.  

In her Content Marketing World 2023 presentation with SEO consultant Alli Berry, Connie Smart suggests using AI to analyze competitors’ content to see what’s driving their strong performance. By creating a model of those commonalities, marketers can optimize meta descriptions, title tags, headlines, and other critical details that impact content discovery.   

But lest you become too reliant on AI tools for search optimization, Mario points out that both Google and social networks are watching and adapting their algorithms to thwart those who attempt to game the system: “[They’re] getting smarter in capturing buzzwords commonly generated by AI and de-ranking content or profiles.” 

A communication aid that reduces collaborative friction  

AI’s ability to instantly generate relevant topics related to your keywords makes it a great brainstorming buddy. Prompt it with the concepts and key points you’re looking to cover, and it can surface unique angles and approaches your team may have overlooked.  

It can also be a handy reference tool, much like a thesaurus, when your writers are struggling to express their ideas distinctively. Cathy McPhillips says she inputs her content and asks the tool to show her ways to clarify the focus and improve the phrasing to resonate more strongly with the target audience.  

These wordsmithing skills also come in handy for internal team collaborations. It can facilitate smoother conversations between writers and designers on visual content or when you need to get buy-in from executive management on new content formats. It can help express the creative vision in ways the stakeholders and creative partners can more easily understand, embrace, or execute.  

Don’t forget: AI tools are basically large learning models with a user-friendly interface. The more you use them, the better they get at understanding your unique voice and points of view. Cathy says, “I’ll input something like, ‘Here’s my finished product. Please learn from this and use it next time I ask for help writing something in my tone.’”  

What your AI assistants need to fulfill their promise 

Like your carbon-based content team members, your AI tools will perform better when you set them up for success. A big part of that involves partnering with AI vendors who train their tools responsibly and ethically. Still, Cathy says marketers need to hold themselves accountable for the quality and value of the content AI helps them produce: “We need to be the stewards of how our brand uses these tools. Keep that top of mind at every step of your work.” 

“We need to be stewards of how our brand uses AI tools. Keep that top of mind at every step of your work.”

Before prompting AI tools for assistance, make sure you have these foundational elements:  

  • Governance standards. Create a list of content dos and don’ts that align with your organization’s policies for working with AI. Include your brand’s standards and procedures for fact-checking and source verification, along with the contact details of a team member who can answer any questions. 
  • A “pause” plan. Be upfront about any responsibilities the team can pause or delegate during the AI ramp-up period and how you expect them to reallocate their time after AI is up and running and augmenting their workload. 
  • Brand training. Train AI tools on your strategy and brand-positioning documentation. If company policy allows it, ask the creative team to input samples of their content so the AI tool learns to generate output consistent with their unique tone, voice, and style.  
  • A prompt library. Share examples of prompts that led to performance improvements with your content stakeholders and collaborators in other functional departments. That helps build cross-team alignment on your brand’s standards for content quality and message consistency.  
  • A measurement strategy. Outline how to gauge the performance of AI-assisted content to determine if it helps move the marketing needle in the right direction.  

Get smarter about working with artificial intelligence 

Just because AI can create your content doesn’t mean that’s the most impactful way to use it. As these leaders have learned, a smarter approach lets artificial intelligence handle the technical tasks at which it excels and leaves creativity in the hands of humans.  

Jodi Harris

Jodi Harris

Jodi Harris is director of content strategy at CMI. She describes her role as a combination of strategic alchemist, process architect, and creative explorer. Prior to this role, Jodi spent over a decade developing and managing content initiatives for brand clients in the entertainment, CPG, health care, technology, and biotech industries, as well as for agencies and media brands. Follow her on Twitter at @Joderama.