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Mitch Ratcliffe


Video creation generated in AI

Artificial intelligence is reported to be taking over the marketing world, or so the headlines would have us believe. Although it is hyped beyond reason – VC money encourages hyperbole – AI will accelerate progress toward personalized interaction, which must be anchored in ever-evolving digital content strategy to connect every touchpoint in the customer journey.
AI is a medium in the sense that Marshall McLuhan introduced 60 years ago – it is an extension of our sense of expression, something only geneticists and poets had explored before ChatGPT broke into the public consciousness. Creatives and content strategists must master AI, not turn our fate over to it, because large language models are squirrelly and unpredictable sources of ideas that can pivot from pleasing to toxic within a paragraph.


A marketer’s content strategy involves planning, developing, and managing content across many media. A cohesive strategy ensures your content is well-crafted and serves a clear purpose for your brand and your audience. It guides creative decisions to put the right content in front of the right people at the right time and through the appropriate channels. 


AI can assist content strategists, giving them new superpowers that let them respond to the market faster. Organizations that hand over their strategy to AI, however, will give up the direct connection with consumers that inform great content and customer experience.

History Can Be Your Guide


I remember the first content management tools and contributed to the design of several when "the web" was still capitalized and pages built mainly by hand. In those days, translating print layouts dominated the discussion, and a few bold pioneers were thinking about the relationship of one message to another – such as how a web page reinforced a message sent by email with a call to action to visit a site. 

Yet, the criteria for successful content then remained defined by print experiences: Was the web layout pixel-perfect? Then it was good to go! 

Looks counted before new functionality expanded the expressive palette again and again. Then along came streaming audio and video, social networks, online couponing, digital out-of-home, experiential marketing, and on-demand service expectations. Content strategy morphed to adapt to the demands of omnichannel messaging, then television and the web collided (the web won).

Even AI was sneaking into the mix by 2015. That year, I helped build a sales enablement platform, a kind of content management platform for sales teams. It did on-the-fly A/B testing of email and chat sales messages composed by humans in everyday sales situations. The right content converts sales, and the tool propagates the best-performing copy to thousands of sales reps, who could tweak it further, which gives the AI more to test. Their conversion rates jumped by more than 30% over a few weeks and stayed there.


No matter how “smart" AI makes them, content management platforms are just tools. They need human managers' oversight, contributions from marketers, copywriters, creatives, and sales experts. New inputs are essential to vibrant content, linking messaging across media and orchestrating a digital customer experience that now stretches from discovery to sale and on to post-purchase CX. 

Are You Building a Puppet or a Living Brand?


Another way to think of content strategy is as the practice of building an organization's nervous system, skin, and voice. Do you want your brand to behave like a human or a puppet?

AI cannot take over the task of representing your brand because, by its nature, it is derivative, limited to what it knows, trapped in arbitrary syntactic patterns, and prone to hallucinations. 

What does it do well? AI can test and personalize messages on the fly, assembling appropriate variations on words, images, and music to evoke a connection. But it cannot act like Robin Williams or Viola Davis, who improvise to keep the character evolving when the unexpected happens. 

And we all know the marketplace is defined by unforeseen events. Content strategy prepares brands for the unexpected by clearly defining the audience, which can be used to shape AI’s responses to remain on-brand: When a customer asks about a social issue that lies outside your messaging, for example, the AI must be instructed to cordially avoid the topic. 


Your Path to Omni-Channel Engagement Supercharged


Clearly defined audiences and messaging goals provide the foundation for a comprehensive brand experience across all channels. AI can make those connections, personalizing interactions under your team’s direction.


Content strategy helps scope investments in content by medium and identify gaps and opportunities to improve, giving your marketing team the basis for setting metrics, analyzing content performance, and making continuous improvements. AI can amplify and accelerate the process, but it cannot do content strategy on its own because it doesn’t develop new ideas, instead it reuses the content on which it was trained.


Excellent mimics do not make convincing leaders. A brand must lead with credibility and creativity while exercising a ruthless will to cut messages down to the essentials.


In the hands of a team of masters, AI can sing like a diva, versify like a laureate, and vary its song to tug any heartstring. The music is still written and will always be funded and approved by the marketing leaders responsible for creative development, media planning, and content strategy.

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