Discover how AI is revolutionizing industries, enhancing decision-making processes, and shaping the future of business strategies with AI business strategist, Rebecca Emery. She shares her valuable insights and tips for when (and when not) to use AI, as well as her predictions for the future of AI in the corporate landscape.
Rebecca Emery discusses her journey into the world of AI, how she helps small to medium-sized businesses harness the power of AI for business acceleration, and the accessibility of AI for the public and the need for businesses to understand how to use AI, beyond basic applications.
The challenges and risks of using AI in the workplace, the limitations of AI in terms of critical thinking, emotion, and humor, and emphasis on the importance of human intervention and critical evaluation when using AI-generated content to avoid potential risks.
The challenges faced by small to medium-sized businesses in utilizing AI tools effectively, the importance of getting everyone on the same page, understanding AI’s potential and limitations, and collaborating to develop best practices and policies for its responsible use.
How AI-enabled web browsers are changing SEO by providing direct answers to user queries, making traditional SEO efforts less visible. The need to adapt websites for AI-enabled browsing and the evolving nature of prompting in AI conversations.
Rebecca and Rich discuss various aspects of AI, including generative AI, predictive AI, personal assistants, and robotics. They also mentioned the importance of staying updated on AI advancements and considering the implications and benefits of using AI in businesses.
Full AI for Your Marketing Episode Transcript
Rich: My guest today is a marketing communications executive with more than 25 years of experience working for corporations and agencies in B2B and B2C markets. She successfully led communications efforts for multi-million-dollar acquisitions, helped launch new products and startup companies, and directed web, branding, digital marketing, and SEO programs.
She recently founded Seacoast AI, a training and consulting company aimed at helping small to medium sized businesses harness the power of AI for business acceleration. She earned an MBA from Webster University and is nationally accredited in public relations. She serves on the board for the Florida PR Council, and previously served on the board of the Florida PR Association, Space Coast Chapter, and the MIT Enterprise Forum of South Florida.
Today we’re going to be diving into AI and its impact on your marketing and PR in business, with Rebecca Emery. Rebecca, welcome to the show.
Rebecca: Rich, thanks so much for having me. I’m looking forward to this discussion.
Rich: I bet you that the t-shirts for the Space Coast Chapter were pretty damn awesome. If not, they should have been.
Rebecca: Oh yes, we absolutely love supporting the Kennedy Space Center and NASA and Blue Origin, and all those space-related programs down there. It was definitely a fun PR group to be a part of. And we had Port Canaveral, there’s tourism, we’re in Cocoa Beach, Ron Jon Surf Shop. There was just no shortage of things to talk about, especially from a PR perspective.
Rich: Excellent. All right. So as I said in the bio, you’ve been doing marketing and communications for 25 years. So obviously you haven’t been working with AI the whole time. What was the tipping point for you? When did you say, I need to create a company that’s all about AI helping businesses harness the power of AI?
Rebecca: It was this spring. If you think about it, some of the larger companies have had access to AI for years. They’ve been in development with it, working with folks like open.ai and different groups. But for the public, for the majority of us, we’ve really only had access to them since last November. And it was into December and over the holidays where I really started tuning into what’s happening here. And the first time I think that anyone generates some content with GPT, your job drops.
It’s pretty incredible to think that we have the world’s collective intelligence and centuries of experiences and things we’ve learned and information and all of that at our fingertips. For free and we can query it and ask it questions and have it generate things. And that all became very fascinating to me. I’ve always been an early adopter of technology. I’m very much a tech geek. And so for me, it was easy to dive into AI. I always say it’s like drinking through a fire hose every single day. There are new developments. There are new tools. Things are changing week to week, month to month.
And also too, I speak marketing, business, sales, public relations, communications, all of that. So to be able to bring these two together and help small to medium size businesses navigate how do you use AI successfully and how do you use it responsibly? It just seemed like a natural fit for me.
And I started doing a simple training. I challenged myself to do a simple training for the main PR council. And we did a webinar in March. And from that came business inquiries and more training inquiries, and just more opportunities to talk to the public through the lens of marketing, communications, public relations, nonprofits, small business. So again, serving a little bit as a translator/navigator, if you will. And it’s been interesting. And I think for me in my career, it feels like the right time to be making this pivot. I’m just super passionate about it.
Rich: Excellent. It is interesting. Because the first time I used ChatGPT, it was like magic. I think for a lot of people, they use ChatGPT if they’re somehow related to business, maybe they’re like, oh, I’ll be clever and I’ll have my next newsletter written by ChatGPT or something like that. And then that’s kind of where everybody plateaus, or most businesses plateau, and they’re just like, okay, what’s next?
And I think now we’re moving into the stage where people. Need to understand how to use AI beyond just having chat GPT generate their next email newsletter. So I’m glad there are people like you out there helping guide the way.
Rebecca: Absolutely. Absolutely. There’s a lot changing and a lot that you need to consider when using AI in the workplace. It’s one thing to be at home and generate something and use it for social media or for personal purposes, but it’s another when you’re representing a business and a brand. And we know that AI doesn’t always get it right. It hallucinates, completely makes things up, and it’s not human, and it lacks critical thinking and emotion and empathy.
In Japan, they trained AI to laugh at jokes, and they taught AI how to understand the difference between emoting a chuckle or a belly laugh and what the difference was. But they haven’t been able to teach AI to know what jokes it thinks are funny and which ones are not. And that’s what makes us uniquely human in the sense that we make those internal decisions based on our own internal compass and experiences and so forth. And so AI is just not there yet.
And I think that’s just an important kind of rule of the road when you’re working with AI to understand that while it can spit out all this beautiful content for you, and it might look good. Is it? When you start to read some of this content aloud, you’re like, oh, you could never put that out. It looks good on paper, but it just doesn’t sound realistic. And sure, you can ask it to be more natural and so forth. We’re learning how to tap all of this collective information, and we’re learning how to talk with it. We’re learning how to query data in a way that most of us without huge, robust enterprise teams-level tools, right? We have never been able to do this before.
And so I think we’re on the precipice of something exciting. It’s all very new. It’s been less than a year, but we’re learning some rules of the road and we’re learning some important things that I think we need to take with us. And I try and share that with businesses that I talk with and professionals that I talk with as well.
Rich: Yeah, when I think back to some of the superhero movies from the 80s and how amazing they seemed back then and how cheesy and fake they seem now, I almost feel like that may be what’s going on right now.
The first time you use ChatGPT, you’ve never seen anything like it, so it’s amazing. But just maybe a few months down the road, and for some of us even now, we’re realizing all that content is fairly vanilla and generic and will not help us stand out compared to our competition.
So with that in mind, and with the idea that a lot of big companies are ones that are built on AI, have already made some progress here. But thinking about the small to medium sized businesses that are just asking these questions. Now if a company is looking to bring AI into their business processes, where do you recommend they start? What are the first few questions we should be asking as business owners and marketers?
Rebecca: I think we need to look at a couple of things. First of all, from a business perspective, where can we gain efficiencies right by generating content more quickly in batch format? And where is that content intended to go?
I think it’s easy to start using AI to generate great social media that’s more engaging and it’s relevant and it’s contextual. But when you start looking at creating whole papers, articles, blog posts, things like that with AI without some kind of a human intervention, you put yourself at risk. We know that AI is not human. We know it doesn’t always have the answer. It makes stuff up, so we have to question it and check it again. Again, like I said, the content might look good, but is it real? Let’s talk about deep fakes. That’s coming right at us very quickly. It’s going to get more difficult to distinguish between human generated and AI generated. And I think that’s where you as a business need to really look closely at what you can use AI for now.
There’s different AIs. We have generative AI, and that’s the ability to generate images and text and so forth. And I’ve generated a few cats with three tails and humans with three legs. And when you start, you really have to give these things a critical eye, because AI doesn’t always get it right. But again, I think when you start putting in and you start creating bigger, more meaningful content, it really still requires critical sets of eyes on it. And you have to think about from a small to medium sized business, is this going to put my business at risk if I put out something that was generated by AI?
It could be as innocent as a LinkedIn post, right? Great. Trying to get things done and let’s get this out. And then all of a sudden, one of your colleagues puts it through an AI content detector, and it says 100% created AI. They might call you out publicly on that and that could cause you a little bit of public embarrassment. Or worse, think about that lawyer that needed to write a brief, used GPT to write it, everything looked good, he submitted it, and the judge is like, there are six cases in here that literally don’t exist. And now this lawyer is going before the court himself to have to defend what he did.
So we can go very quickly from, yay, it’s generating great content, to whoa, we’ve just fallen off a cliff. And that, I think, is the scary place that small to medium sized businesses are trying to traverse. They’ve got employees excited to use these tools. And sure, it pumps out all this content. I can make a year’s worth of social media content sitting down in one fell swoop. That’s great. However, that is the same content that you’re using to communicate with your public, with your customers, with your partners, with the community. And if you don’t get it right and you get it wrong, it can really go downhill very quickly.
So I think those are the areas where we have to think, not just plagiarism, not just am I copying someone’s already copyrighted works, not just can I use this, can I sell it? But you really have to understand that for small to medium sized businesses, everything is on the line every day. With large businesses, too. But especially these smaller folks that don’t have IT people, that don’t have chief technology officers. This is why I’m focusing on this area because larger enterprises, they have IT. They have IT departments and smart, tech-savvy folks. Small to medium sized businesses, we’re wearing multiple hats, we’re doing it all. And that is really where the rubber meets the road for me when it comes to AI and small business.
Rich: When you’re talking to these companies, do you find that everybody’s either on board with AI or no one is, or are there different people who are at different levels of acceptance when it comes to AI? And if so, how do we deal with that variety of opinions within our own team?
Rebecca: Absolutely. That is a very common thing, Rich. In fact, I found that when you sit down with a group of leaders, business professionals, everybody has a different take on it. Whether they’ve only read the headlines or used it very successfully themselves or anything in between. And business owners, we tend to be a little bit more skeptical and concerned and keeping an eye on the horizon, making sure we’re not going into an area that could cause our business issue.
So when I’m doing executive training, for example, one of the things I talk about is before you can understand how to use it responsibly, before you can create best practices and policies within your business, everyone needs to be on the same page. And that’s where some of my group training comes in. Because I’m able to bring everyone, in a simple hour, bring everyone together on the same page to understand.
What is generative AI? What is it not? What can it do? What can’t it? Where are those pitfalls and how do we address them? Once everyone has an understanding of the potential and the possibility, then we take an exercise, and we look at everybody’s individual role. I might be wearing a marketing hat, a sales hat. I might be in HR, I might be out in customer service, or I’m developing new products. Everybody has that different lens.
So then you start to think about, how could I use AI in my role? And then as you start to think about how we can use it maybe in more silos, then we start to be able to have a more meaningful conversation about how can the business as a whole leverage AI to provide some business acceleration. And once you have all of your internal stakeholders on board, then you can start to start mapping out policies because each individual will have had different experiences. And there are some good best practices to implement so that when you finally come together to have those conversations, you can really map out good best practices, understand which tools are safe to use and which tools are not, and so forth.
So I think I always advocate for get your team on the same page. Get them using it and trying it and testing it and thinking about it from their role. And secondly, as the company as a whole, and then bring them back together and have them start to map it out because I think for small to medium sized businesses, it does require that communication, collaboration and understanding inside.
Rich: All right. Now with generative AI, which is basically the content marketing arm of AI, if you will. A lot of people believe that creating search engine optimized content is a click or a prompt away. What do you feel about the impact of AI on SEO? Is it just a matter of asking ChatGPT to create some SEO copy for us, or is it that we can use AI to help us along the way, or this is maybe an area where AI should be avoided at all costs?
Rebecca: Actually, there’s a 4th concept there. I think the 4th concept is AI is going to change SEO forever. It’s changing, and here’s why. We now have these AI enabled web browsers. Go to Bing, you want to ask it a question, you want to chat with it. You can ask it questions. It gives you back a small answer. It tries to answer your question, right? Generative. It’s trying to predict the next word. It answers your question. You no longer have to sift through URLs and paid ads and go looking through page after page to find what you’re looking for. It tries to bring you that answer. And if it brings you that answer, what do you do? You’re off and running. That’s it.
So now, all of this hard work that we’ve done with SEO to improve our rankings, and bring our ads higher, and bring our organics higher, the user never looked at any of that. Why? Because they got the answer. And there might be little notations underneath that say, well, I got that answer from here, I got that answer from this source. And perhaps if you’re lucky enough, the company name. But how do we start to optimize our websites?
These websites that we’ve invested in for years building good SEO and long tail keywords and all of those good things, how do we adapt our websites for this next generation of AI enabled browsing? And that’s the real question. And I’m constantly keeping an eye on that and building a list of good practices in that area because it is changing. And as more people start to go to these AI enabled browsers, you’re seeing less and less ads. And you know Google is behind this trying to monetize it. You know for sure they are. But we’re not able to see quite around the corner yet what’s going to happen.
So with regard to SEO, you can use generative AI to do a lot of things. If you’re a solopreneur and you don’t pay, let’s say you don’t have a subscription to SEMrush or something, you can go out and do some great keyword analysis on your competitors, on the market. You can use tools like ‘answer the public’ to find out what today’s top questions are, and then work with that information. But I think how we rank for the AI enabled browsing is really going to change SEO. And I imagine that the big SEO firms out there are, they’re all over this. And there’s more to come. This story hasn’t quite unfolded yet, but it’s certainly something that we need to think about with regards to all the investments we have in our websites today.
Rich: All right. So much for getting the best results from tools like ChatGPT are through better prompts. I’ve even seen some people put ‘prompt engineer’ on their LinkedIn profile. Which may be getting ahead of the curve. But what advice do you have around improving our own prompting?
Rebecca: Absolutely. I think when we think about prompt, we think about that big, when we first start working with it, write me a blog, write me a tweet, right? And then we think about that big, that one shot mega prompt. “I want you to act as a copywriter, and, and I’d like you to write based on this information” and, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, right? And you try and jam it all in that prompt, and it’s trying to figure out of all those words and all those tokens. It doesn’t understand the weight and the value of what you’re looking for, so it’s weighting things equally, trying to, again, predict what’s coming next.
I’ve moved from one-way prompting to contextual two-way prompting. So I start my conversation with, “I I’m setting out to accomplish this task and I want to work with you in the following way. I’m going to update some brand information for you, some background content, and I want you to pause. I’m going to upgrade a little bit more information and I’m going to give you the context on that too. Then I want you to ask me some questions. If I were to be developing a plan, I want you to ask me questions. What do you need in order to develop this plan?”
So then it spits out some questions for me and I sit there and I literally answer them. “Okay, I’m going to now answer your question, but I don’t want you to generate anything until I’m done because I might have further questions for you. You might have further questions for me.” We start to have a dialogue with this information. All this is a dialogue with data. We’re just having a conversation with data.
And so I think what we’re seeing with prompting is we’re seeing this change to very contextual two-way conversations that get much better output much more quickly. We’re also using things like GPT Plus plugins. We’re able to now interact with PDFs. We’re able to generate Mid Journey prompts using great plugins. We can even ask, “what is a great flight to go to Miami tomorrow?” And through Expedia’s plugin, it will start to query that for you.
I think browser enabled chat is changing how we look at prompting as well. Because that is different. They’re not giving you unlimited back and forth. They’re giving you five shots. And by then they’re going to point you to a website, and they got to move on because they’ve got a hundred thousand people in the queue behind you. So that’s changing as well. And then I think when we start to look at plugins and extensions and things like GPT sheets, where we can use GPT like an Excel value and we can give it a series of, “These are the colors, these are the names. Now I want you to output tweets based on these two things.” And it acts like an Excel function and it just spits it out.
And I think another thing where I’m starting to see prompting evolved too, is you can start to ask AI to output things in a table format. You can ask it to output word docs. There are all kinds of things you can do and it’s evolving and changing. And I would say improving every day, but there’s still a lot to come. So when I think about prompting, I think about the first iteration of just asking it a question. But now we’re really trying to get to the core of how do we make our prompts more effective and perhaps more repeatable so that we get the best results every time.
Rich: All right. We’ve sent most of the conversation around generative AI. But beyond generative, what other aspects of AI should we be thinking about as both owners and marketers for our companies?
Rebecca: Oh, that’s a great question. First of all, I think a good one is predictive AI. There are over 600 universities today that use predictive AI. And what do I mean by that? They have maybe 10,000 applicants this season, and they have to let 3,000 new freshmen in the door. And they have $4 million in scholarship money that they can supplement that to ensure that those students can afford and come to school and be successful. And they’re trying to make these massive decisions on a huge level in one fell swoop.
And so predictive AI is allowing our universities to turn those dials up and down and test how the outcome would look like before they actually pull the trigger. And so I think there are areas like predictive AI that will be very helpful for businesses as we go along. I don’t think you can rule out our personal assistants that we use like, you know who and you know who I don’t want to light up on this call. But the idea is that we use these on an everyday basis and you’re going to start to see more advancements in those areas, too.
And then I think the other area that we all have to be thinking about is robotics. And you think about Sophia AI, for example, it’s a humanoid robot and it was founded in 2016. And recently, it sat down and had a conversation with Will Smith. We’re really starting to see robotics kick into gear.
And I think for some businesses, I was talking with a business owner who makes pies and cookies and all kinds of things. And she sells them all over the country and she has to ship them. And we talked about maybe just using sort of machine scanning to look at the size of the pie, the weight of the pie, the color of the pie. Is it consistent? Is it consistent with her brand? Those types of things for a small business can save a lot of money. So we definitely have to look beyond generative AI. It’s just that generative AI is that first free thing that we’ve all had access to on a massive level. And I think that’s really what’s shaken the market so far.
Rich: All right. Rebecca, there are many more questions to ask, but thankfully, you’re going to be presenting at The Agents of Change conference this October in Maine. And you’re also leading a workshop all about leveling up your AI skills the following day on October 5th. So people should grab tickets to that. But in the meantime, where can we send people who want to learn more about you and more about Seacoast AI?
Rebecca: Absolutely. I think you can send them to seacoastai.com. And I am in the process of rolling out good content there and hopefully some training. And I think there’s also a great resource that I use called the AI exchange. And if you haven’t seeing Rachel’s Tik Toks or seeing her YouTube comment content, I highly recommend it. She’s just a fantastic creator. She has a really great service, and she keeps me updated every day, every week on what’s new in AI. And I trust her analysis and she’s creating an incredible little business for herself. And it’s wonderful to see all of the amazing creators out there who are doing great things with AI. So lots of good places to get information.
And I think just keep abreast of this. There is so much changing that it’s really important that if you’re going to be using AI, there’s a whole lot of considerations that you need to take into effect, and you’ve got to be keeping an eye and ear for the pulse. So that’s where involving your employees, too, is very important.
Rich: Excellent. Rebecca, thank you very much for sharing your expertise with us today. I will see you in October and look forward to keeping up with the AI train.
Rebecca: Sounds good, Rich. Thank you so much. And I’m really looking forward to the conference and also the workshop. And I’m excited to help people level up their AI game. And I think we’re going to have a lot of fun, so thank you.
Rich: Perfect. All right.
Rebecca Emery is an AI business strategist helping weed through the pros and cons to using AI for business, as well as help businesses determine where it will pack the biggest punch for them in the day-to-day, as well as for future growth. Check out her website, and be sure to grab your ticket to the AOC conference to hear her speak on all things AI.
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.