2024-06-17 12:03:44

Transcript

Welcome to The Free Ranger, a podcast about telling the stories that matter. On this podcast, we’ll be learning about storytelling from the people who turn important issues into stories: the writers, filmmakers, marketers, academics, and other professionals who weave together the facts to create compelling narratives that make a difference.
This week, we’re thrilled to welcome author and content marketing strategy consultant Robert Rose. Robert is the chief strategy advisor to the Content Marketing Institute and founder of The Content Advisory, a consulting firm working with global brands to co-create pragmatic content strategy plans. He is the author of three books including the best-selling Managing Content Marketing, and has been a featured keynote speaker and workshop teacher at technology and marketing events around the world.

Together, we got deep on what it means to be a creative in the age of AI; how to cope on an emotional and existential level when it feels like tech is always coming for the things you love to do; and how to find joy in creative work even as the activities involved in that work change over time . . .

Myles McDonough
All right. OK. We are on with Robert Rose. Robert, thank you so much for joining us here on the Free Ranger podcast.

Robert Rose
Oh, it's my pleasure, Myles. It's great to be here.

Myles McDonough
Glad to have you. So first question here. Last year, in a blog post titled The Future of AI and Content Marketing, you wrote that some people will likely use generative AI technology in a way that harms the creative process and creators. But it's just as likely that some people will leverage the technology to further the craft of writing and challenge the rest of us to use the tool to get better at it, to get us started here. Sort of a big picture question for you. How do you define the craft of writing. What does that mean to you?

Robert Rose
Wow, that's a a big question and one I'm not wholly qualified to answer, but I will answer it, I would say, you know the idea of writing is is synonymous with creation, right? And and. And there's a wonderful and in the article, I actually speak to it a little bit. There's a a wonderful way of thinking about writing and the why we write and where and how we write.

It goes way back to basically Charles Dickens and a critique that he got on his Pickwick papers from GK Chesterton and and the the the quote that they use a lot is is this is, which is GK, Chesterton said when thinking about what what Dickens was writing.
He said the whole difference between constructing and creation exactly this is that a thing constructed can only be loved after it's constructed. But a thing created is loved before it exists. So when I think about the craft of writing, I think about it from those two perspectives, right, which is 1.What are we actually creating? Are we creating something that is in our head that we love before it's actually formed into words on a piece of paper or on a screen, you know, where we're typing it? 

Or is it something where we have to construct it and it can only be loved after it's actually done, because the, that's the reason we're doing it? 

And I'll give you 2 examples of that one.

Is a novel or a play or a poem or ad copy or a thought leadership white paper. Something where the idea we love the idea and we want to form the idea and we're trying to communicate the idea. But we love the idea before it's even formed.
The latter would something be like a you know, think of a how to manual or a street sign or directions to, you know, the subway.

They are things that can be loved. They are things that ultimately can be, you know, wonderful in form, but really only after they're done right? The love for that thing can only really exist after it's actually been expressed. Because the reason for expressing it is usually because we have to inform or we have to get something out in terms of directional, uh, sort of instruction to the audience itself. And so we don't really love the idea.

So with those two lenses, it really informs sort of the for me anyway. The craft of writing and asking ourselves why and how and how much do we love this idea before it's actually created. And that becomes sort of our, you know the the the reasons why we put words to the screen.

Myles McDonough
Elsewhere on your blog you you reference the the 80s ad campaign for Dunkin' Donuts with Fred, the guy who keeps saying it's time to make the doughnuts. Getting up day after day. I was wondering, is there do you see a connection between that and this concept of created content versus constructed content? And I was wondering if you could expand a bit on Fred as a metaphor for that.

Robert Rose
Yeah. Well, and it's, I'm aging myself with that campaign, as I'm sure.

You know the the The thing is…What got Fred out of bed every day? I mean the the the commercial itself is. Is large, you know, it's come. It's come to be known. You know, when when we now say it, you know, time to make the doughnuts. Right. We think of it as sort of like, you know, it's time to get on the assembly line and churn out more widgets. You know, it's sort of used in that sort of pejorative way of saying, well, we gotta go, you know, gotta gotta go sit on the assembly line. You know, we're Fred Flintstone.

Waiting for the things to come by, you know, and all that, but the the whole point of the commercial was was that he was excited every day to get up and out of bed because what he got to do was make the doughnuts and his whole thing was time to make the doughnuts and he would get out of bed and he would sort of, it was his mantra, right. He would get into the shower time to make the doughnuts. Time to make the Donuts. Then he would get to work and he would be super happy about it. That's.

Content they it's what we find today with content practitioners and business, right. It's it's a fascinating thing where so many businesses we talked to have amazing people creating amazing things and quite satisfied with creating amazing things. But what prohibits them from creating the amazing thing isn't their ability to create amazing things. It's the business’s sort of on demand need for more content widgets, right? So.
All they want, all the business wants is more content widgets, right? To be able to populate social media or blogs or the sales funnel or whatever. It ends up being where you have these amazing creators who are not allowed to create because they're too busy creating widgets, content widgets to feed the pipeline and it's the, you know, it's the I guess the the provocation or the invitation in many ways to say to businesses: Let's take a step back, you know? 

Anne Handley talks about this a lot. Sort of the slow cooking movement of, you know, of our slow food movement of content and it's time, I think.
Despite the sort of pressure of AI to bring us more and faster and more iterative and just churning, churning, churning, churning, and how fast we can churn things out, it's time actually to use that pressure in a way that helps us slow down and maybe maybe think twice about what we're actually creating so that we can develop the deeper, more meaningful and be excited about what it is we’re actually creating on a day-to-day basis.

Myles McDonough
You say the use that pressure. You mean the pressure of the need for really great content rather than allowing that to push us toward producing more and more at an ever accelerating rate--

Robert Rose
I wish it was a pressure. Yeah. I wish it was a pressure to create better and more interesting and more engaging and more thoughtful content. But it's not right. I mean, it's a it's it's a pressure on the teams to just create more full end of sentence. Right. That more you know if it's great. Yay. Everybody's super happy that it's great and wonderful and thoughtful.

But mostly it's just like I just need new and more of it.

And you know, you see so many. I mean, how frustrated are you these days? You know, when you go and read a blog post or you go and watch a YouTube video or just about any form of content, and the first 3/4 of the blog or the first half of the video is something it's like I get it right. It's the the famous one, the the most, the the one that really gets me these days and and has been made fun of a lot is is recipes, right.
It's like you're looking up a recipe online for pumpkin pie, and you go, oh, I'm gonna click on that one for pumpkin pie and the 1st 3/4 are like pumpkin pie was invented in the 1700s, and the pilgrims brought pumpkin pie over and basically, did you know, pumpkins came from pumpkin pie, and pumpkin pie is about the pilgrimage that people made with spices. Ohh. Spices originated in India and. It's, you know keywords stuffed 3/4 of this article just word vomit and then you get to the value of what it is you're trying to create.

Right. And that so multiply that by thought leadership in B2B and thought leadership and B2C and trying to create engaging content and what you have is just a mess. It's just mess of content that's the pressure. Is that with AI we can actually create more of this that kind of content instead of say sort of saying you know what, instead of 25 blog post this week, we're going to create one and it's going to be great. And that's the that's the fight against the pressure that I see so commonly in business.

Myles McDonough
That's really interesting. You've got this difference between what AI is capable of and what it enables and what human beings are Uniquely capable of doing is a running theme in some of your work I've noticed.

Robert Rose
Sure. Yeah. I mean it's it's you know the whole.

And I think we're starting to see now you know, I mean, I don't even know that I would have said this three or four months ago where the fear that AI from a content creation perspective was so high of Oh it’s going to take our jobs. And content creators are going to be out of work. And I think what we're seeing now and this may just be a result of the technology flattening in terms of its evolution, or it may just be that we're finally recognizing how crappy it always was. 

You know that AI's content while usually well written is usually uninspired drivel, and so it ends up being really good for, for example, things that are constructed right when we think about content pieces that are constructed right like that how to manual or organizing a bunch of information into bite sized chunks so that you can actually understand it summarizing, a meeting, AI is great at that. Recognizing the patterns summarizing them into well constructed paragraphs and easy to consume content. 

What it's not good at good at is creativity. Obviously it's not good at sort of original ideas, synthesizing original ideas into something truly amazing or created right. The thing that we would love before it's ever created. And what I find is, is that this is in my own experience with using, you know, AI tools as well as what I observe in others is that you can get there.
It's not that you can't get there with AI. In other words, if I write the most amazing creative prompt that helps AI formulate it into words I might get there, but the point is, is that I had to actually write the thing before I could get the thing. In other words, I actually have to create the most amazing observation and synthesized idea first, yeah, and then AI can actually write a paragraph about that. Probably uninspired. Probably filled with adjectives way too many alliterations all the things that chat cheap.
And that's interesting, but much more interesting is how AI can help us construct things to give us more time to be more creative. That's where I find the real opportunity is how do we use AI to become a research assistant or a Co-creator of the constructed content, freeing us up to spend more of our time because we have to to create the content widgets more of our time, creating deeper, more meaningful things that then ChatGPT can help us summarize in a in a you know in, in an abstract or something like that.

Myles McDonough
That's very cool. Yeah, it sounds like you're thinking over the last few months in particular may have become a little bit more optimistic than it was back in the beginning of 2023 in that, Future of AI and content marketing article you mentioned the Keebler Ross stages of grief that a lot of us…I did have a question in here. I'm still curious about your answer. Did you have a grieving process when some of the first instances of the tools started coming out? And what did that look like for you?

Robert Rose
You know my grieving process. It's funny you bring that up. My, my grieving process was much more around. You touched on it in the very beginning where my grieving process was one of the challenges that we have seen over the last well, I mean millennia, but let's just look at the last 20 years as digital technology has really fundamentally altered our method of marketing and going to market with our products and services. One of the things that I've observed is that they are tools and tools can be used for good or ill and you know and and and it doesn't, you know the tools are basically.

Tools don't care, right? They they don't care whether you do evil with them or you do good with them. They're just tools. And so everything from uh, you know the the web to websites, to SEO, to search, to social media, to all of those are just tools of communication ultimately and have been used for good and for bad.
And bad actors and and, you know and and dumb people will make bad decisions with these tools. Just as much, and that was probably my biggest grieving process. I always hated from the very beginning. I hated, you know, even in early 2023, I hated the whole bumper sticker of, you know, you know, AI won't take your job, but somebody using AI will. I think that's BS. At the end of the day, because what it implies is that it you know somebody who who only someone who knows how to use this tool will replace your creativity. And that's just not true. And it's proving not to be true. 

And so the the more accurate way to think about that is that from a from a lesson from a much less cynical point of view is that AI is an important aspect of augmenting our talent and those that you can utilize and harness the power in a good way of the tool of AI are in a much better position to to, you know, to do good and interesting things, but you still have to do the good and interesting things, right? I mean, that's the that's the key, right? The the I've said this before, the creation of content, the creation of ideas has not been democratized the creation of content and the creation of new ideas has not, you know, going all the way back to Og and GROK in their caves, painting cave paintings, right? Some of you know, Ogs paintings were better, so he got more people to come to his cave and see his paintings than Grock did.

The distribution, the production, is what has been commoditized.

Everything from the printing press to the copy machine to the fax machine, to the web, to social media to now AI. These are just production tools that help us take ideas and get them out into communication forms in a faster way. It's still just as hard as it was in caveman days to come up with those original ideas to begin with.

Myles McDonough
That's really interesting.

Yeah, you mentioned forget exactly which piece it was, but somewhere you said something to the effect that folks who are selling generative AI tools are doing themselves a disservice by pitching them as these things that remove the drudgery from any particular task.

The reason being that the people that such products are, whether or not they're marketed to them, they're going to be used by copywriters and content strategists. And your quote was these people do not see the things that are being altered and replaced as drudgery. These are sources of joy for people.

Robert Rose
That's it, right? I mean, because the high you know the the and and and and I'm happy to say sort of on that going back to the Kugler Ross thing that I'm actually you know seeing a lot less of that these days which is which has been the good news. There are a lot fewer vendors out there doing that. But you know in the early days it was you know auto magically right all your ad copy. Right. So you never have to add write add copy again.

Well, The thing is, content creators that I know kind of like that. They enjoy that process, that there's an. There's a love of the creation of the thing before. It's a thing. It's a created thing. They love it before it's you know they come up with that idea and then they express they get to express that idea and then test it and see if it's going to work and see if it works. You know and resonates with audiences and all those things. 

So basically positioning yourself and this was the source of most of the fear that I saw was positioning yourself as, hey, I don't need you anymore, right? You don't need to be creative anymore. Use it. Hey, I can be creative for you. It's like I can't imagine that resonating well with anybody, especially creative people.

And so that was the mistake I saw. I'm seeing much less of that now, and I'm seeing technology vendors really get into the idea of it. You know, it makes you faster, it helps your team scale. It helps get to information, you know, and patterns and helps you rewrite. And, you know, doing all the normal things which is interesting because it's almost always the fact if you go back and look at the marketing of technology tools, right? Especially for those in creative practices. Right. Go back and look at everything from digital photography to Photoshop to web content management to, you know, all the technology that helps creatives do their thing better, faster, more.

And they almost always when the new technology comes out, they're almost always positioned as: Hey you can basically replace you know, you know the drudgery of your creativity with this thing, right? You know, think about Photoshop for a second. It was always, you know, in the very early days it was like:

We'll make you an artist. Basically we'll we'll we'll create you and make you an artist. Even if you're not one. And then. And. And of course the creative people went. Stop. That's awful. But then it slowly gets into efficiency. You're already an artist. We're just going to make you a more efficient artist. That's where the artistry and the sort of mastery of the tool comes in. 

Because now it's like a painter can go oh, I don't need to go buy 4700, you know, different shades of blue. I can get that in Photoshop and digitally paint. That makes me a better version of me. That's the key. And it's funny that technology vendors over the last however many years have not learned that they have not learned that lesson. But it's the same. It's the same lesson we always learn.

Myles McDonough
Building off of that, I do have potentially challenging question for you that will build into some of the other.

Robert Rose
Oh, fun.

Myles McDonough
In that Chesterton piece again, the one that's commenting on Dickinson's Pickwick papers, he has this beautiful summary of…I think he's referring to the way that the text reads when you're just absorbing it, but it's also a beautiful summation of what it's like to write when you're in the zone, he says. From the first page to the last, there is a nameless and elemental ecstasy, that of the man who is doing the kind of thing that he can do.

Something that has been in my mind as a writer, as a content creator, watching these tools come out with the initial fear, grief and terror all the way down to where we are now, where we're getting slightly more realistic image of what they are, what they can do and what that might look like in the future.

Even if we do preserve the core from one iteration of technology to the next, there is always something lost from one move to the next. I think of the medieval monk doing calligraphy and copying out one book at a time. I'm sure there were guys who loved doing that. That was their favorite thing to do was to make those illuminated manuscripts with the colorful dragons on the side and take 20 years making 10 copies of the Bible. 

I think of myself, when I am … one of my favorite parts of the writing process is drafting is the typing out of one word after another, which I remember you mentioned in one of your reports, is something that's going to be pretty highly impacted by generative AI moving forward.

Robert Rose
Could be it can be. Doesn't have to be, but it can be, yeah.

Myles McDonough
Yeah. So I guess the question is, and I'm just curious to hear what your thoughts are on this.

As artists, as creators, how do we deal with these continual shocks to the system that seem to come more and more often as the years go on? How do we remember who we are and what we're all about? How do we remain hopeful Is one way of putting it on the one hand. And how do we, yeah, hold on to what we need to hold on to and learn how to gracefully let go of what we can't keep?

Robert Rose
Myles, we're going to need to open a bottle of something to get into this because this is, I mean this is, I love this conversation, you know. Here's the here's what I would say to that.

So I've been a writer and a creator. I also play music, you know, in in my, in my side life and and all of that and and and both writing and music and photography and image making have all seen these disruptive technologies come in and just change the way it's done right in one of the pieces I wrote, I talked about the idea of you know that that for a long time it's not, and this is not a new technology, but it was 15 years ago, 20 years ago, where I could sample Phil Collins, drum set and him playing it. Now I have Phil Collins strike on the I can I can duplicate and or I can actually improvise off of his famous, you know, in the air tonight, drum solo, right? Umm. And I can have that in my own music.

There are technologies now that allow me to. There are entire choirs that have been sampled with vowels and consonants, where all I need to do is literally type in the words and I can have a fifty person choir sing my words. I can so I I can notate it and write the words. And they'll they will. They'll sing it.

And the question is is does that change the nature of artistry? Does that change the nature of the satisfaction that we get out of doing that part of the thing? And I think it does. Of course it does it, you know, there is something for a painter that dips their brush into the paint into the, you know, into the into the uh easel that they're holding in their hand as they apply that paint to a canvas and you will not convince them that doing that digitally is better.

There are photographers that swear by 35mm film and you will not convince them that being that they'll be more satisfied if they were to be able to shoot 10X more pictures by simply moving to a digital camera the same way the same in writing with you and your drafts and the same with music, with me playing the piano and and and all those things. 

There is a satisfaction that each of us gets in the creative process about some part of the creative process that will be made augmented or more efficient with technology. And the challenge for all of us as creatives, as creators of, of, of content, in whatever medium we choose, is to latch on to those satisfactions and not give them up where they don't need to. 

That's what is really at the heart of the whole, you know, someone using AI will take your job. That's the heart of that bullshit because it's if you're truly creative, you will latch on to those things and create value independent of the tool.

And so, you know, one of the things I I don't love to write, like, unlike you, I don't love the process of drafting that first draft. I love having written. And you know, I my satisfaction is when that draft is done, that level of satisfaction of reading that draft is I love that part. I don't love the part of putting the words together. And I love the process of wordsmithing my first draft and and doing the small little touches of, you know, word paint here and there to make things really perfect, right. Just that right turn and and and just right that term of phrase that I want to be slightly poetic at the end of the blog post, right?

And that level of satisfaction is not going to be applied with technology. It's just not. And so I think hanging on to them is a good thing. And so you know, how do you how do you evolve with that? I think you you you just have to save the part of the creative process that makes you happy and makes you fulfilled. That's the that's the beauty of all of this is that it is just a tool you can choose to use it or not.

Myles McDonough
That's beautiful. Thank you.

Robert Rose
Yeah, that's a great conversation. I mean, it's much, you know, we could go on for hours about that because that is…you know, it gets really into the philosophy of creativity and and you know, and and what is, you know, what is actually, you know, what is actually the the the process or the act of creativity? Is it the fulfillment part or is it the output part and, you know, it's that it it it in many in so many ways it has nothing to do with the output, right? It has that. 

Who is it? It's. I'm blanking on his name, the music producer, the famous music producer who just wrote a book. And there's a documentary on him and He he. I'll think of it here in just a second, he. He has this wonderful quote in this documentary where he says I didn't create it for you anything. Like it's a song that he produces or a song that he writes and and produces. I didn't create it for you. I created it for me. He said. So I created it for me, and if you happen to like it, if you happen to resonate with it, if you happen to, you know, enjoy it, fantastic, he said. But it's not for you as an artist. It's for me. I'm creating it because I like it.

And that's there's that, I mean that gets into a discussion of the philosophy of commercial art versus, you know art and you know and so big topics, but love it, love it. And as part of this.

Rick Rubin. Rick Rubin is the guy that I'm thinking.

Myles McDonough
Your organization is called the Content Marketing Institute, right? Word for word.

Robert Rose
Correct. That's it.

Myles McDonough
Yeah. So you're in the thick of it every day you are a person who works with other people and yourself as well. You find yourself between these two poles of on the one hand, being drawn into creative acts into writing into art, into music production, video production, whatever it happens to be. By these innate urges by these things that you would follow if you weren't paid at all. 

On the other hand, you have to eat. You have to pay rent and the market for creative work is dictated not by what the individual decides they want to make when they wake up on any given day, but what the company needs in. As you said, its constructed bits and bobs. Its little pieces that need to go out.

Robert Rose
Yeah, yeah.

Myles McDonough
So there is this, uh, perpetual tension there that I think a lot of us, uh, some of us are lucky enough to be able to produce things that we love while also creating constructed work at the same time. But yeah, every day you wake up and you have to find some way to balance between between the two just to make it to the end.

Robert Rose
Yeah, I you know it it. I wrote a post I don't know about three or four years ago asking the question if business should or could create art for art's sake right and and. And the question is, you know, can a business or should a business literally create things simply because they believe that they're beautiful and and and want to share a point of view on the world with no with no eye toward a business result right with no eye toward an outcome. And it's literally the creation is the point.

And it's an interesting question and and you know, and and people came at me with both both answers, right. It's not the purpose of the business to do that. Other people said yes, exactly. You could you of course a business should do that. You know, as part of its as part of its its requisite you know you know sort of existence, you know existential, you know, it should be a part of the contribution to society. 

And to me it's a really interesting, an interesting question, and it gets to when you get to that tension like within the business, like if you take it outside the abstract of the the business versus you know should it create art or not, you get into a situation where defining what good is right? Defining what good content is and the problem with that is, is that the definition of what good content is in a business perspective depends entirely upon the you know objective or the outcome that you want, right? 

So if I ask a for example, if I ask a TV producer. What's good content? They're going to say that, which puts butts in seats, right? Does it? Did it satisfy my monetization scheme to put butts in seats? Therefore, Kardashian is way better than an art film, right? Because it just puts more butts in the seats that will pay for that. 

If you ask a teacher or an educator what's good content? Well, they'll say, that which clearly imparts the right information and basically educates someone. Doesn't matter if it puts butts in seats, doesn't. If it's successful in educating someone to do something, or have more knowledge than they had before, then it's successful then that that was successful. If you ask a film auteur, or a artist creator, what is good content? They'll say that, which evokes an emotion, or that which satisfies the fulfillment of the of the emotion or the feeling that I was trying to evoke. Doesn't matter if it's sold or not.
And so you have to ask yourself in that content creates that tension that exists, that you so appropriately point out that sits in marketing. Typically marketing communications basically anything that business communicates, customer enablement, customer service, you know, customer onboarding, all parts of the journey, the relationship that a business has.

You have to say what is the ultimate objective of this content? Advertising and marketing, it's pretty obvious that it's commercialization in some way. It's putting butts in seats, but not always. Right. Content marketing has shown us that that's not always the goal. Sometimes it is actually to develop a deeper, more meaningful relationship with a brand.

And that can be a business objective and arguably should be a business objective. The problem is, is that it's not in most cases, it's not a shared objective, right? We don't know what the objective is. 

There's a great example of this just from literally this week in the news to the Snoop Dogg thing where that went viral back in November with the Solo stove brands and remember he he put out a tweet saying I'm giving up smoke. And it went completely viral and mainstream news covered it. It was funny, and it was you know, it was provocative and it was the whole thing. And it turns out it's an ad for smokeless stoves, right? And he does a video, a YouTube video, where it's literally just him in front of one of those smokeless stoves saying I'm giving up smoke. I don't like my. I don't like my clothes smelling like smoke. I don't like, you know unhealthy benefits of it. Now, now I'm sitting in front of my smoke with stop haha, funny, viral joke, emotional laughter, inspiration, blah blah blah.

They just literally this week fired their CEO because what it didn't do with that wonderfully emotionally evocative brand awareness emotionally develop a relationship with your audience ad campaign didn't do was lift sales and so. Whose fault is that?
Who? You know the the question whose fault is that? Is it the fault of the marketers who set false expectation? Maybe. Is it the fault of the CFO or the CEO who expected this wonderfully brand focused ad to lift sales within six weeks? Maybe.

The fault lies really in the lack of ability to get to solve that tension that you're talking about. What is what are, what does good look like what? What is good? And that's where we have to really focus as businesses is to really understand what does good look like, what is good content in that in this in this context, because if we don't define that, it doesn't matter how much you can measure it. If you don't have an aligned objective it, it doesn't matter.

Myles McDonough
Sure enough. All right, all right. To bring it back to AI for a little while here.

So having gone where we've gone this wide-ranging conversation, another sort of a general question here, given everything that we've discussed, knowing that we have to cope with the fact that AI can sort of, uh, there is this huge qualifier, but AI can sort of do the kind of thing that we can do within certain contexts in very limited ways.
What does it mean to be a writer in the age of generative AI? From this point moving forward? What does that look like? What does that feel like? What? What are we going to be doing? What's our role?

Robert Rose
Yeah, I think it's. I think there's two things that I point to which is, one Is the is the true value of a writer of a creator is not the production of the words on the screen. It's not the ability to create a draft, right, you know, and and you would recognize this as a writer, you others would recognize this. The, the, The true art of an of a writer is being able to take an inspirational or valuable idea and express it.

And that just isn't duplicated by AI, that's just not duplicated by AI. The expression part is, but the creation of the idea isn't and so leaning hard. So I think AI is actually a very good value creator for writers. In other words, it is. It is an instance where it becomes It it becomes a tool that makes writers and the true value of becoming a writer more valuable right than before, because it makes you appreciate the fact that the genuine value is taking the idea and expressing it well.

And so whether the writer chooses to use AI to do that, or whether the writer chooses not to use AI to do any of it, or something in between, like where there's an overlap kind of doesn't matter, right? The the value is in the idea well expressed, right? As I say, it's your story. Tell it well, right. So the, the, the, the story is the value. 

Telling it well is the secondary value. And so that to me, leaning in as writers on that particular, like, getting deep in your subject matter expertise, getting deep in your ability to generate wonderfully creative ideas, getting deep in your capacity to go be inspired and create interesting things Is is 1. 

The 2nd and this pertains more to business than it does sort of the art of side of things which is getting beyond being good at putting words together. What I mean by that is that in so many ways, because the the business demands more widgets the key skill is to become skilled in something else besides writing. In other words, to start to become, you know, I mean the common way to think about it these days is to become more T shaped, right where you know you have a broad set of knowledge or skills, and then you're deep in one particular area that's the T shaped idea.

But what I think when it comes to writers is where am I? Where am I expanding my skill sets to become more valuable than just someone who strings words together? And that might be in another creative aspect, right? It might be writer, videographer, writer, photographer, writer, musician, writer, something else. Or it may be writer, expert in healthcare, writer, strategist in business strategy, writer Slash, you know, expert in finance.

You know, finding that other area where you can synthesize those two things to become unique, uniquely talented is, I think what what what we have to start thinking of as being content creators is how do we bring all those skills together in a unique way because that's something AI can't do either.

Myles McDonough
Also, in that future of AI and content marketing article you wrote, “while the fear of being replaced is almost certainly legitimate,” again, as some caveats on that over the last year, but the rest of the quote goes “that fear will only be made real if creators choose the wrong way to be changed by technology.”

Question for you. What is the wrong way to be changed by technology and follow up to that What is the right way to be changed by technology?

Robert Rose
Technology. Yeah, I mean and and that's you know, I mean we brought so many philosophers into this wonderful conversation. That's a Mcluhan idea, right? I mean, Marshall Mcluhan idea, which is the idea of you know that any new medium you know we we create the medium and then we are forever changed by it, right. So in other words, every time we create so it won't be how we change AI, it will be how AI changes us that ultimately you know determines its future. 

And what I find is is that the wrong way to think about that is to say: You know, if you're in the business right now of your entire business is writing manuals, for example, that's all you do. That's all you've been interested in. That's all you do. That's all you know? Yeah, you're you're likely to be changed by AI in a bad way, right? You're just. 

I mean, if if you do something, you know it's the same thing as if you're a typist, right? If you were a typist in the age of computers, you're probably not doing well right now because it changed us in a way to say that I don't need a typist anymore. I don't need Lino typist. I don't need, you know, all those things unless you do it for art. Right. There are plenty of people who still use printing presses as as analog art. 

But from a business perspective, if you're in a business that you can really identify that you're not, that it's easy to replace you with constructed ideas of a why then you need to think about how it's going to change you, because that's the cause the wrong way is to say it won't it? It won't change what I do. 

It will change what you do. It will it. It has to change what you do because it will replace some tasks. So all if if all you do is that one task. If your whole job is to develop film you're in a bad place right now, right? You. That's you're, you're you will. You were changed by the technology in a in the wrong way.

In the right way is how do I? How does AI augment what I do. And that goes back to our discussion on the fulfillment side of things, right? It's like you love putting drafts together. You love drafting. How does AI change the way that I get satisfaction? Or does it change the way I get satisfaction? 

You may choose, you know what I'm going to put that initial draft together and then I'm going to use AI to maybe bounce a few ideas off of rewrites, right? Perfectly fine and and probably quite productive. I've found I've found that AI rewriting paragraphs of content can often provide really great turns of phrases and Nuggets that I hadn't considered, and as a Co writing partner, AI can be very great, but it's that initial it's finding those places that augment and make me more of me, right. 

One of the things I can't remember if it was in that blog poster or not. I said the lesson is to ask ourselves, the doctor Seuss Question, which is there's no one you easier than you, right? And so the key is how to ask AI, how does it make you more youer, right. How does it how does it augment me and make more of me, that's the real value of being changed.

Myles McDonough
In the near future. What parts of the writing process do you think will be most impacted by AI?

Robert Rose
In the short term, it's hard to say. In the long term, right? That's just, I mean, I would be guessing in the long term the short term and when I may say short term, I mean year two years, right, you know, so it's it's depending on your lens, I suppose that's long term but but but in the short term I would say the parts of the writing process are the construction bits right? So it's where we're seeing companies make the most strides in terms of efficiency right now is in having AI construct content that has to be constructed right that, you know, personalization is a great one, right? Iterating ABC versions for AB testing or, you know, iterating versions for personalization, you know, against different personas.

You know those kinds of things. You know, the sort of mass production of content right at scale. That's the one place the 2nd place that I'm I'm even more interested in is the refinement of the research process. And that's hard right now because we don't trust it. We don't trust AI. But I think as trust becomes less prevalent as an issue in generative AI it's where I find the most value right now, so that initial. Is this a good idea? Sort of? Or is this an idea worth pursuing? Or how would I actually think about that as a research assistant? That to me is the biggest opportunity and I'll give you an example of that. 

I was trying to. I was writing a And I remember I remembered I wanted to open it up with this idea of being, uh, 1° off. Of course you know. So if you're 1° off course, you know, and I remember hearing this back in the day, it's like you're 1° off course, after an hour, you're like X amount of miles off course. And after two hours, you're by amount of. And I said, I can't remember what that was.

And I couldn't. I googled and Googled and Google and couldn't find anything on it and finally found a reference to it which was called the 60 and 60 that pilots use and it's basically for every 60 minutes that you're 1° off course, you're 60 miles off course. So but all I could find on that was the fact that it was if you then course corrected. 

In other words, so if you're after 60 minutes, you're 1° off course you're 60 miles off. But. If you then stay in course correct to stay 1°, off course you'll be 120 and then et cetera. But what the key is, is that what if you go from that one and now all sudden you're 2 and now you're 3°? Of course now 4. Now you're 5. How does that exponentially work? Right. So after a long flight, how many miles? Cause if you do the math, basically, if you're 1° off course, if you fly from New York to Tokyo, you're like 120 miles off course. If you stay 1° off. But if you if it starts to, you know, exponentially diverge. 

Well, I couldn’t find the math. So I went to ChatGPT and I and explained the issue and blah blah blah. And it brought back all of the calculations it brought back. Here's how it would work. Here's what it would be. Here's how many miles it would be. I then ran that by somebody who knows math cause I'm not a good at math. I said, is this right? And he said, yeah, that's exactly right. And I'm like, this is fantastic. And it was. I ran with the idea.

So it's that kind of thing that I think really helps the writing process. It helped me augment me, right? It helped me take an idea that I couldn't quite grok, and it got my head around it. And I think that's probably the in the short term, the two biggest opportunities we have.

Not to mention all of the sort of just derivative content that we can that we have to sort of do as our day-to-day job that can get you know the the webinar abstract and the podcast transcription and the you know and the language is a huge one language is a big one, right translation and localization that's maybe the biggest, coolest thing that I've seen AI do.

Myles McDonough
One last philosophical uh emotional question for you.

If you were face to face with a writer who, maybe go back a year and they're in shock of with the development of the release of ChatGPT for the first time.

How would you tell them to think about their role as artists and writers moving forward? What advice would you give them? What words of encouragement might you give them anything at all?

Robert Rose
I would in implore them to lean into the derivation of the word author. You know, author in its original derivation meant authority or source. And so as long as you are the source of interesting things. The trusted source of interesting things. You will not go wrong. You cannot fail if you are a trusted source of interesting things, and so whatever you can do to maintain, augment, improve the becomes the mission critical job.

And that's it. It's it's. How do I maintain my So what that means is that you have to think about the risk of efficiency and scale versus quality. Because there is a risk there, right? The the the more scale ultimately the less interesting. It's just it's just a function of quantity, the less interesting you will be.

So creating that interest, you know, scarcity in interest is, is is an important thing. So being conscious of your choices about what it is you're creating in the world and becoming a trusted source or maintaining yourself as a trusted source of interesting things, becoming an author.

And becoming an authority on the topic of which you speak is job number one.

Myles McDonough
So we got a couple of light questions here. You were an English major in college. The original question I had down here, who were some of your favorite authors, people that you think are must reads? I would throw on to that as well. You mentioned your interest in music and creating music. I'd love to hear who some of your favorite musicians are people who you'd love people to listen to.

Robert Rose
Ah boy, but this, this, this could be a whole episode 2 of itself. OK. So from a classics standpoint. You have you have to if if you're reading the class. So I would think it was lit major to be clear. So it it it and and so Shakespeare is of course you know and of course. You know you have to read Ulysses in the Iliad, and those of you, that's that's sort of foundational for everything. Tolstoy, I I know a lot of people don't love Tolstoy, but I absolutely adore Tolstoy. I got really into. I have a whole. I have a whole talk to literally go on for half an hour about the comparisons of Anna. For Anna and Mark.
In fact, that's the way I used to end my marketing class, as my workshop was, I'd say I'd give you a free I'll give you a free book for coming to my class and you can choose. You can choose Anna Karenina, which I will sign and tell you why I think it's the most apropos book for marketing teams out there or my book anyway. So that's the.
I mean, there's so many classics we could go through from a business perspective.

I am a student mostly you know, if you if you looked at the authors that I've referenced almost all the time. I am a student of pretty much the Harvard Business School. So that includes people like Theodore Levitt and Peter Drucker and Clayton Christensen as well as Rita Gunther McGrath, who I think is maybe the best business author out there right now. Her book, the end of competitive advantage is just maybe the best business book I've read in a decade.

Let's see. I mean, I can regale you with a whole list there as well because I am totally a student and and and read books like crazy.

On the music side I'm look, I'm an 80s guy. I'm an 80s kid. I grew up in the 80s, so 80s is the best decade of music. Full stop. Don't at me because that is the there's no argument to be had there.

So I'm I'm a new romantic, so everything from Depeche Mode to Duran Duran to Howard Jones to New order to, you know, David, David Bowie, Kate Bush, you know, the 80s was my was my decade for music.

Myles McDonough
That's awesome. Thank you for sharing that. Yeah.

Last question, anything you'd like to plug today, anything that people should be aware of anywhere you want to let people know to go?

Robert Rose
Oh, that's very kind of you, you know nowhere in particular the the business website where we do all our consulting is content advisory.net. I engage a lot on LinkedIn. I'm a big LinkedIn user, so I would love to connect with people there if they want to connect and just chatter about all the things that we talked about for sure.

And then we have a we have my book, which is entitled content marketing strategy is out now and there's an accompanying website which is content marketingstrategy.com, which has all the templates and freebies that come out of the book.

Myles McDonough
Excellent. Robert Rose, thank you so much for jumping on the Free Ranger podcast and joining us to talk a bit about writing, AI and everything in between. Today. I had a blast talking with you.

Robert Rose
Thank thank you for making this a different conversation. Thank you for making this fun and interesting and different than the normal marketing podcast.

[outro music]

If you enjoyed this podcast, please be sure to subscribe and share it with someone else who’d like it too. 

The Free Ranger is a production of Free Range Studios, a storytelling and innovation agency helping mission-driven organizations promote social good. If you’d like to learn more, please visit us at freerange.com.