As AI technology—such as ChatGPT and Google’s Bard–continues to advance, it presents both opportunities and challenges for businesses looking to create compelling content that resonates with their target audience. Joining us today is branding expert Mike Kim, who shares his insights on how to harness the power of AI to elevate your content marketing strategy.
Rich: My guest today believes marketing isn’t about closing a sale, it’s about opening a relationship. And this approach has made him a sought-after speaker, online educator, brand strategist, and really in my opinion just an all-around good guy. He’s also the author of the Wall Street Journal bestselling book, You Are the Brand.
Nowadays, you’ll find him looking for the next great place to scuba dive, all while coaching, serving clients, and recording his top ranked podcast, You Are the Brand. So he’s pretty much on brand with us. And today we’re going to be diving into artificial intelligence – AI – and the impact it will make on content creators and copywriters, with one of my favorite people in the whole world, Mike Kim. Mike, welcome to the show.
Mike: Dude, it is great to be here. Thank you for having me back. It is really me in the flesh. I am not a robot. It’s really me. I promise you, bro.
Rich: All right, I appreciate that. Because on Zoom, who knows, you could just really be a good deep fake for all I know.
Mike: Yep. It’s a weird world.
Rich: Yeah. And to be transparent to people who are listening, I literally had no topic in mind when I reached out to Mike to come on the show. I was just looking for a cheap excuse to catch up with him. So when I asked Mike, “What do you want to talk about?” He suggested AI. And if you’ve been listening to the show for a while, I love talking about AI and digital marketing. So we’re all in for this together.
So Mike, I’ve seen what some of what you’ve been sharing regarding AI. And I thought a good jumping off point would be me asking you some questions about what you’ve been posting, and you can just give me the deeper dive. Does that sound good?
Mike: Okay. Yeah. Cool. Let’s go.
Rich: All right. So you say that informational content won’t be much of a differentiator moving forward. That inspirational content is where it’s going to be. How do you differentiate informational from inspirational, and how do we know if our audience is looking to us for informational or inspirational content?
Mike: Yeah, good question. And I’m going to talk about this first question in context of ChatGPT, because that’s like the big thing. And this has been the inflection point for the world at large. Understanding that this thing is real, and this thing exists, and AI has been there all this time. And while it’s a great tool for sorting and structuring information, it almost feels like a digital intern, right? I think it lacks like three essential types of intelligence.
Number one, emotional intelligence. Number two, personal experiences. And number three, like a genuine point of view, right? Genuine perspective. Now, all that to say, Rich, there are human beings who also lack emotional intelligence. But you know what I mean.
So you have this content, and it could spit out scripts pretty well, like some of the stuff is pretty passable. But as more of that becomes commonplace, it’s going to be harder for people to find real emotional connection with the person who’s creating this content – writer, business owner, YouTuber, whatever it is. This always begs this philosophical question I’m going to throw this at you. If you have only talked to someone on Zoom your whole life, have you actually really ever met?
Rich: It’s a great question. Although I go back to olden times when people would literally just write long letters to each other and yet felt like they had some sort of connection. Obviously, there’s nothing like sitting down and breaking bread, having a glass of whiskey together or something like that, or going on an adventure with somebody, that’s going to be a much deeper connection that you have.
Mike: Yeah. And it’s so funny, when I poll people, it’s like half and half. Some say, yeah, we met, and others are like, no. And then when they meet in real life, you know what they do, right? They’re like, oh my gosh, it’s so good to finally meet you in person in the flesh. And they hug each other and all this kind of stuff.
And that’s I think something that I want to encourage everyone who’s listening, who feels a little bit iffy about everything that’s going on in AI. If you are in the human being business, like human-to-human business, creating that emotional connection is really important.
Personal experience, this is what we couch credibility on, is what we hang the hat of credibility on. Like we want to know someone who’s done it. If my physical trainer, the guy I work out with, doesn’t look good, I don’t think I’m going to pay him a hundred some odd dollars to work out with him, right? Just does he have experience losing weight, getting fit, so on and so forth, right? Credibility. And then that genuine perspective is so important, having a real point of view.
And so you asked me about like information versus inspiration. Now information’s just going to be even quicker to regurgitate. It regurgitates it, it sorts it, it structures it even. And this is where people are going bonkers, right? Because they’re like, oh my gosh, it spits out a bunch of email copy or a landing page from my website, because it’s taking information, sorting and structuring it.
But what it can’t do for you is tell your stories. And it can’t give you personal, like it can’t write your personal stories for you, and it can’t share your personal experiences for you. I think there’s an element of that we’ll always have to have, and I think the best brands will continue to do this well.
For example, you ever see Wendy’s Twitter account? Or Burger King? Yeah, they’re hilarious. She’s snarky. She’s a jerk. Talks trash to Burger King’s Twitter account. It’s hilarious. And I read that and I’m like, I don’t know why but I want a burger. That’s funny, right? And that’s what I say. I say that’s funny, which is an emotional connection, emotional response. And I end up overpaying for a burger that’s not that healthy, right?
So I think we’ve got to understand that we’ll probably need to do a little bit more of that. My audience is full typically of solopreneurs and personal brands, coaches, speakers. And yet in the agency side of work that I do, I’m working with dentist’s office and pretty typical brick and mortar businesses, and I’m like, hey, we got to have some personality in this. We got to share some of those stories. And I think that’s really important that we understand that.
Rich: It’s interesting what you said. And ChatGPT is this inflection moment for a lot of us. Because the first time I used it at least, it felt like magic. Like it was incredible. It felt like something out of a sci-fi movie. And I was telling you I actually created an episode based on me with prompts to ChatGPT, and then ChatGPT giving me answers back. And what I noticed after that little bit of time using it, is it started to use the same phrases over and over again. And not that you and I aren’t guilty of the same thing, but at a point where I started to really notice it so very quickly, for me the magic of it became almost generic and there was a sameness to the voice. And yes, I know I could make it sound funny or sarcastic or informational or whatever it is, but those are just different flavors that are always going to taste the same. At least. Where the AI is now.
So I really do like the idea of the fact that we’re going to have to inject some humanness and some empathy into our copy and our content if we want to succeed. Because once everybody starts using this, there’ll be absolutely no magic whatsoever. And all there will be is a sea of sameness, or those few people who actually show off their personality.
Mike: Yeah. You know what the big pivot for me has been, and I’ve always written like this. And now granted probably in recent years like half of my emails to my list have become a little bit more generic, not because I didn’t want to necessarily write that way or chose to write that way. It was just like, oh, here’s my last couple of podcast episodes or whatever. Here’s a recap, right? And what I’ve been doing lately, which I did very early on in the early days, was EFAB. And I write my emails EFAB, emails from a bestie. I got that from Laura Belgray. And you just start like, how would I write if I was sending a funny text chain to all my friends?
Now when you plug in some of my email subject headlines to an AI headline generator, it will say that my headlines are bad. But my open rates are like 35% to 45% with a big, relatively large email list. One of my best performing email subject lines recently just this past month was, “First dates. Oh God.” And I’m talking about the last first date I went on. And ChatGPT doesn’t know that about me. It doesn’t know my story. I can’t be like, hey, I just went on a first date re recently, here’s what happened, write a story. Like you could do that. You could do that, but I’m still having to type all the details into the prompt.
Another one was, “AI, tell me what to say to my wife.” And I was telling this story about literally how I was in my Mastermind group, we went out to dinner, we were talking about love languages, and the guys were like, “Oh yeah, I’m a words of affirmation person and so is my wife. But I don’t want to tell her words of affirmation because I never got them from my parents, so I sometimes don’t know what to say.” And they went on ChatGPT and said, “Write me a poem for my wife.” And the dude did it over a glass of wine on ChatGPT and sends it to his wife. And I just tell this story and people are reading this and like my open rates have just gone through the roof in the last couple months because I’m starting to get back to EFAB, emails from a bestie.
And that leads me into this second point that I would say about AI, is like the wisdom that we have as human beings, can we apply this knowledge? Yes. We know it’s knowledge. We need subject lines that get opened, but how do you apply some of these principles in a real-world context, in a real-world setting? And that’s where a lot of the creativity comes in. SO yeah, that’s just an example of how I’ve been fooling around with this and having a lot of fun and seeing really good results.
Rich: When I’m playing around with ChatGPT and other AI tools, because I do use a few, there are those things where, oh it’s really good for this, but it’s not necessarily so good for that. Or if you like writing like you do and like I do, some of these tools actually seem to slow you down. It’s like you’ve been riding your bike, and somebody put training wheels all on it all of a sudden, and I’m like, ugh.
Now for other people I’ve worked with who maybe don’t feel comfortable writing something, I can see how it can really help them come up with an email subject line or a social media header. But again, I just worry about that sea of sameness that people are just going to end up drowning in.
You talk a lot about personal branding, and obviously ChatGPT may have its own personal brand where it always says, “I’m just an AI model language”, whatever it is. And you’re telling some funny stories and you’re good at that. You’re good at being vulnerable, for lack of… ‘transparency’, you said. I think also ‘vulnerable’ isn’t a good word to use. For people who aren’t comfortable being vulnerable or sharing, or maybe they think they’re in an industry that would frown on that. What kind of recommendations would you have from creating content that would allow them to tap into these personal stories, but maybe still towing the corporate line or something like that?
Mike: Yeah. First of all, I think when people hear “be vulnerable” or “be personable” in your marketing copy, I think they feel like guys like me are saying you have to tell everyone your life story and your deepest, darkest secrets. And that’s not true. It doesn’t have to be epic. They don’t have to be these sweeping tales of courage or a victory or triumphant or tragedy. It could be super simple, like anything that you’ve changed in your life recently.
You just mentioned before we were talking on the call it’s like some of the conversations you guys have been having at the office about some of the things that have been changing. I will often talk about a new habit or practice. Like just yesterday I started my addition, my fourth copy of the Five Minute Journal, which is a little self-help gratitude journal. I write five minutes in the morning, five minutes in the evening. And this is now like literally my second full year of writing every day in these journals. Because every journal is like six months. That’s not necessarily super personal, like, “I wasn’t loved as a kid”-type of story. Something you observe, right?
Like maybe you are like out to dinner or like a conversation you overhear trends. This is a super easy one, especially for people who are business owners. They’re listening to treads. Why does everyone say now “humans” instead of “people”? Like, hello humans. Like what, right? I just noticed that. Why is that a thing? Something that, everybody loves but you hate. I literally watched a couple of episodes that new HBO show about that vacation resort, right? And I can’t even remember what it was called. Oh, the White Lotus, right? The White Lotus. And I watched two episodes, this is stupid, I can’t watch this. I don’t understand why everyone loves it. And that’s just now I’m saying this from my personal standpoint, but that is not a super personal story, right? That’s just something that I’m noticing. Everyone’s talking about this show and I’m like, what’s the big deal. And what does that do? That shares my perspective. I have a point of view. I don’t really like the show.
So it’s just some of that sort of stuff that I feel like doesn’t force you to literally tell everything about yourself. If you’re a company, a small business, whatever it is, it could be like, “Hey, we switched our labels.” One of my clients is a juice bar here in the New Jersey area. They’re doing really well, and they changed their labels. And I’m like, what do I email your list? They can get information on juice cleanses all day long. All right, let’s tell them a funny story about why we changed these labels. And so it’s just something like that that you can do.
I hope that those examples help. But no, you do not have to reveal your social security number and all your childhood trauma on your marketing materials. Not at all.
Rich: Yeah, so basically what I’m hearing is, you can be personal without necessarily bearing your soul. There’s a lot of stuff going on. That’s your personal experience. Maybe it’s something that you just got in the mail that you weren’t expecting.
I’m like frustrated beyond belief because we got a Victrola record player for Christmukkah this year and it didn’t work. So they said no worries, we’ll send you another. I get the second. The second one is too slow. I reach out to them like, how do I change the speed because it’s playing my albums too slow? They’re like, Ugh, try a new needle. I’m like, it’s brand new, why don’t you just send me a needle? And they say, we’ll just send you a new one. So now I have three Victrolas piling up and the new one doesn’t sound any better. That’s something that I’m not bearing my soul, but I doubt ChatGPT would’ve had that same experience.
Mike: Yeah. And it’s a story and that tells me a lot about you. Do you like to listen to vinyl? I do like to listen to vinyl. And now I’m having this picture in my mind of, I bet Rich sits around in a leather chair smoking a cigar, drinking a glass of whiskey. Because you mentioned whiskey before, and you and I have had plenty of whiskey together. So I already know that about you. But I’m like, I could totally picture a wonderful New England evening sitting back in your living room, listening to vinyl, over a nice glass of whiskey. And that tells me a lot about you. I don’t think that’s far off. I think you probably do that.
Rich: That’s pretty close. Absolutely. Maybe not the cigar in house, but whatever. And yes, cannabis is legal in Maine, I’ll just throw that out there now, too.
But moving on. You suggest that human touch and connection are going to become more important in this AI world that we’re moving into, and that we should invest more in communities and collaborate with others. So what does that look like exactly? If somebody hears that piece of information, how are you doing it? And maybe how are you helping some of your clients do the same?
Mike: Yeah. One of the things that has always been a practice in my business is to get people together in person. One of the things that I do on the coaching side of my business, I run Mastermind groups. These are smaller 12-person peer facilitated, like self-enrichment groups, if you will. That’s my best definition off the top of my head that I can give. So I facilitate, I’m in charge of letting the people into the group, I run and facilitate the meeting. But really the strength is in the members of the group and how they interact with one another. And we take turns putting people in a hot seat, and they share kind of an obstacle or a challenge they’re facing. We all facilitate and peer coach.
And Rich, I’ve done this since 2016. This is seven years now that I’ve been doing this. And while I think our meetings are good, the group dynamics always shift to a completely new level when people see each other in person for the first time. And I tell them, on our next Zoom call, you’ll feel the energy is completely different once you get back. And chances are they’ve had countless count side conversations when we’ve been together that you could never replicate on Zoom, or you could never replicate if they even talked to one another on Zoom one-to-one. We’re laughing, we’re sharing stories, we’re having drinks. Some guy’s writing a ChatGPT poem and sending it to his wife, right? And these are just funny memories and you’re creating these memories.
And so what happens when you create memories? It stays in your mind, and you have strong associations with the people who you were created those memories with, and the people who helped you create those memories. The nexus, the person that gathered everyone together. And so now what’s happened over these years is that people associate me, for better or worse, with these experiences. And I feel like while I’ve been a marketer and a copywriter, I’ve been a business coach, I joke with them. I say that I feel like I’ve run emotional support groups for entrepreneurs. And they all laugh, but it’s true because these folks just do life.
And what kind of business model is that? I’m not sure. But it’s surely worked, and it has surely helped me, allowed me to broaden my reach and even my brand. So I would say anyone who’s in the events business, I think you’ll be okay. And anyone who isn’t in the events business or isn’t doing a little bit of in-person, try it. Try it while you can.
If you’re a local brick and mortar business, gather people. If you got to throw it together an event, do something special. We used to do open houses for the educational company that I used to work at, we’d would do these open houses every month. And there’s something different when somebody steps into the room, there’s some energy about it. And I think that people will pay for that. People want those experiences. They want to feel that kind of energy. You can’t replicate that on a Zoom call.
Rich: It’s interesting that you bring that up. Because of course you’ve spoken at the Agents of Change Conference, which is our regional marketing event that we have up here in Maine. And part of the reason I put it on was just to get people into the same room who have complimentary energies that wanted to achieve things in their business. And for eight years until Covid we were doing it, and we’re bringing it back this year and it’s exciting. And I was also putting on Tweetups for a very long time. Those kind of faded away before Covid. But now all of a sudden listening to you tell these stories, I’m like, man, really we should be doing more networking and should be coming up with more excuses to get together in public. Especially now that Covid is “behind us”. But yeah, great opportunities to make those kind of in-person and human connections.
One of the things I saw you say was that we should be more vocal about our values. And I’m just concerned here because we’ve seen people get in trouble for sharing what they think. I’m thinking mostly politics here, but you could include religion, gender identity, and whether or not Diehard is actually a Christmas movie. All of those things could cause a big blow up online. Are there any guardrails that you recommend here, or do you just suggest we let it all hang out?
Mike: No, I’d never say just let it all hang out. I think the guardrails are like if you know who your audience is. Like you mentioned politics, and I hate that analogy sometimes but because it is red or blue, right? At least here in the United States. And if you think about it though, these news networks make a lot of money and have a lot of reach by picking a side.
Years ago, two elections ago when I was living in DC, I don’t know if I’ve ever told this story. I was living in DC at the time and my family lives there, that’s why I was there. So was spending some time with them, living there, traveling out of there, and had an old friend who was in the military, did really well in the military. And we got to dinner, and he goes, “Hey, do you want to serve? I’m like, what? Now we’ve known each other since we were like 12 years old. He goes, “Do you want to serve?” I’m like, serve what? He says, “The administration. Do you want to serve the country?” I’m like, what? And I felt like I was in a House of Cards episode. I’m like, is this how conversations happen in DC? He’s like, “I can get you a politically appointed position as a messaging strategist if you want to serve the country.” And I was like, serve the country or serve this president, because I’m not sure I want to do that. And I was like having these, what do I do with my business? He’s like, you can do it, but you might have to give some of it up because this isn’t just a full-time thing. It’s all time. You’re working all the time.
And he said this so clearly to me, Rich. I was like, do you like the current administration? He said, no, but I love our country. And he goes to me, he is big military, this dude’s probably killed people. He’s like, it just comes down to you have to pick a side, and everybody who plays this game knows it. They don’t even necessarily disagree completely with one another. They just have to pick a side for the sake of it, because people are not going to do enough critical thinking to understand the nuance. And that how there’s a lot of overlap, which also made me really sad.
So what I would say to that long-winded answer is that if you pick a certain side, then go all in. If your company, your business, your brand has a side, picks it, go all in. If you’re universal, you’re trying to reach everybody. I’m looking at you Disney. I just got back from Disney. I was there about six, seven weeks ago. And we know what’s happened with them. With all the bills and stuff in Florida is just a very interesting and unique place. I can say that as a former Floridian, their market’s everybody, right? And so they got to toe the line. They got to be a little sensitive about this.
But again, if you have a side and you know where you stand, you might actually get more traction by being a little bit more vocal about what you value. Now, some of those values do not have to necessarily be divisive, right? They don’t have to be like, conflicting or brazen viewpoints.
For example, one of the things that I say like a lot of times in my business is like one of my values is self-education and lifelong learning. I’m going to be more vocal about that. I’ve always felt that way, I’ve just never said it. So I’m going to say that more. One of my values is generosity, time, money, energy. So I’m going to do that. I’m going to say more about that and why I value people who are like that. I might say I want to help, and this is my coaching business. I want to help 10,000 purpose-driven people make a difference in the world through their personal brand. Okay, great. That’s a value I’m going to be more vocal about that. Might be even a mission statement.
But just saying more of that is really important and I’m noticing it. The more I do that, the more my followers, my students, and my clients are saying the same things. Not the same things I say, but doing the thing that they’re being more vocal about what they believe. And I think that’s a good.
Rich: Yeah. And it also goes to the whole point of trying to separate ourselves and the copy and the content that we create from artificially created content. Because we have internal values that aren’t part of an algorithm. Like we just have, or maybe it is an algorithm, but we’re getting a little esoteric here. But the bottom line is we have values. Put voice to those values, where again, ChatGPT is programmed to be as neutral as possible. It is the white bread, it is the vanilla oat milk of the world. And that’s not probably where we want to be if we want to stand out online.
Mike: Yeah. And it has to be that way for what it is. If everyone on the planet is going to use it, it has to be that way. And I know that there’s some crazy instances where it spits something back that’s like super weird or whatever. And it’s I saw some people say it writes nice things about Joe Biden, but not about Donald Trump or whatever. And they’re going to need to work all that out. They’re going to need to figure all that out. But you’re absolutely right, and it is the vanilla. It’s going to make some weaker writers a lot better, that’s for sure a hundred percent. And that’s not a bad thing, I think, if we up level the level of writing overall in the world. But yeah, you got to figure out how to stand out from that sameness.
Rich: I would say on the making mediocre writers or poor writers better, yes, it will definitely create better content. But it’ll only make better writers if people actually take a look at that content and try and learn from it and then improve it. And we’ve said here internally for a while that it’s like Wikipedia. It’s a great place to start, but it’s not where you want to finish.
So for us, it’s like yes, we can save time as marketers by cranking out ideas for topic clusters, to then write the blog post. We can even use AI to do some keyword research to help us around those ideas. And it can even go as far as writing out that first draft. But I would never allow my team to publish that draft, like they have to add the voice of the client. Or if we’re writing for ourselves, our voice into that to make it really valuable. Because otherwise, it’s again, that sameness. With all that being said, like I said, it has helped us, and it is a time saver in many ways.
I’m curious, in your exploration of AI, have you found some tools that you like using and that you’re putting into your regular content creation processes?
Mike: Yeah. One of the most helpful things that I’ve found, and from what I understand I’ve heard some updates about this in just the last week, meeting summaries, podcast recordings, and show notes. Oh God. Who wants to write those? And I used to pay somebody to write those. And so what I do is I will do an interview on Zoom. But I have an app on Zoom called Fathom, fathom.video. It’s free, it’s like otter.ai, very similar. It transcribes the entire interview. It actually points out which questions I asked the person I’m interviewing and transcribes it. And there’s a little button that I click, and it says ‘AI summary’, and I click it and it spits out seven bullet points. And I look at that and I’m like, let me clean this up. Boom. I have my podcast show notes.
I might even take those seven bullet points, throw them in ChatGPT, and say, “write me 10 headlines around these bullet points.” And you’re done. You’re saving a lot of mental space now. I think I’m a pretty good copywriter, but writing my own headlines for my podcast is not what I feel is a great use of my time. And not just time, but my mental energy, because that’s finites. The older I get, I don’t know man, I get just more tired easily, right? So I’m like, I don’t want to spend my best thinking energy on stuff like this. I can edit, I can look at it and say, that’s wrong. I would replace this word and I can do that very quickly. That right there has, is going to save me hundreds of dollars a month paying a writer to do that, because that’s what I’ve been paying a writer to do and it’s going to save a lot of mental bandwidth.
Transcripts. It does some really good work with summarizing the transcript. So that’s one place that I’ve been seeing it. A lot of throwaway collateral, pieces of copywriting can be sufficiently done by AI, a webinar, a reminder, right? An email that confirms that you’re registered for something. It’s like the tedious stuff that nobody really thinks about, but you have to fill the buckets to smooth out the process with your clients and your buyers.
So it’s stuff like that right now that I’m using it for. I’ve even used it this way. Like I knew that there was a book that I’d read that had some really good thoughts on it. And I’ll say, “Hey, give me the top 10 quotes from this book”, because I’ll want to do a book review. And maybe I read five books on personal development, and I don’t want to go back into my Kindle or into my physical copy and rip the one-liners. But I read that book.
Again, cool regurgitator and searcher and structuring the information that I need. Boom. Like that. Super helpful. And I can crank out that post. Because the whole point of the post is to recommend a book, and I can do that rather quickly.
So yeah, those are some of the really low-level things that I’ve done that have helped me Using Chat GPT and some of the other AI tools out there. Yeah, that’s made a lot of the process faster.
Rich: Awesome. Mike, this was great. Loved having this conversation with you. If people want to check you out online, where can we send them?
Mike: You’re listening to podcasts. You can come over and check out my podcast, it’s called You Are the Brand. I know folks listen to about five to seven shows a week, so maybe gimme a try for a few episodes, see if it’s relevant.
And I’m on LinkedIn and on Instagram. Those are probably the best places to find me. I will answer your DMs if you hit me on those channels. Then of course I’ve got a book. I can’t talk to you through the book, two-way conversation. But as you mentioned, Rich, it’s You Are The Brand.
Rich: All right. And we’ll have all those links in case you want to slip into Mike’s DMs as well. But Mike, it’s always a pleasure to see you. Thanks so much for your time today.
Mike Kim is a personal branding expert that helps thought leaders lave their mark on the world. Check out his book, his podcast, and connect with him on LinkedIn and Instagram and start a conversation!
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 25+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.