Council Post: To Create Content That Stands Out, Make Sure Your Foundation Is Solid

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Ed Breault serves as CMO at Aprimo, an industry-leading provider of digital asset management and content operations software.

When asked about his creative process, the late great jazz musician Wynton Marsalis said: “You need to have some restrictions in jazz. Anyone can improvise with no restrictions, but that’s not jazz. Jazz always has some restrictions. Otherwise, it might sound like noise.”

Marsalis was articulating a fundamental truth about creativity: The ability to improvise comes from fundamental knowledge, and this knowledge limits the choices you can make. This is true across disciplines, from music to marketing.

There’s a lot of “noise” on the digital front right now due to the boom in AI large language models. When people let machines essentially do their thinking for them, they end up with homogeneity. The only way technology can be used in a way that augments (rather than flattens) the natural contours of human creativity and knowledge is if it’s applied as part of a broader, preestablished structure and vision.

Structure And Value: Each Requires The Other

In a technological age, we often acquire an ever-expanding repertoire of tools to assist us toward our goals and a steadily shrinking grasp on the reasons why we should acquire them in the first place. Without a clear vision to guide an organization, a tendency emerges to recklessly obtain new tools to assuage the underlying sense of aimlessness. This leads to much of the digital sameness online—the noise born out of randomized acts of marketing.

Dedication To Core Processes: The Key To Becoming Inimitable

The point is that our best intentions don’t amount to much without proper structure and process. Tools such as AI can generate a wealth of insight, but they can’t instill work ethic or confect foundational values. So, what’s to be done?

It starts at the level of a viable content operations strategy. The success of a content ops strategy depends on the cohesiveness of an organization’s internal structure and vision—that is, the human attitude that underpins the technological application (or lack thereof).

Let’s take a step back for a second. Culturally, we tend to romanticize the idea of immediate divinization. For example, a spider bite that changes an ordinary boy into a superhero or waking up in an alternate universe with the entire unpublished Beatles anthology in one’s head. In the marketing world—especially as professional social media platforms convey it—we’re equally enthralled by the idea of rapidly implementing new technologies that lead to unprecedented growth. But here, as in other areas, deep knowledge and value-permeated organization are the keys to expanding reach in an organic, long-lasting way.

Using content operations platforms effectively can help solve the issue of aimlessness and technological overwhelm. Those that are successful will leverage these tools to optimize planning and execution among teams, maintain compliance in regulated industries, and utilize cross-application integrations that enable rapid production of personalized content.

Like music manuscript paper provides the organizational backdrop for the dynamism of rhythm and tablature, content operations provide the framework for managing an organization’s content life cycle from start to finish—while allowing for the dynamism necessary to hone a distinctive voice and brand.

Far from being a straitjacket, the “formality” of a robust content operations strategy allows for both greater dynamism of thought and the responsible use of emerging technology, which brings me to how we can approach ChatGPT as a form of amplification for what’s already there, rather than a substitute for what’s lacking.

Implications Of ChatGPT And Generative AI: Pros, Cons And How To Use It Well

AI is a collaboration station, an amplification method for human-powered work. You’ll only be able to harness the full power of technology like ChatGPT if your prompts are based on deep knowledge of the human side, after which you infuse the insights with a creative human touch. This is no small task. To be effective, it requires a great deal of brand and buyer awareness on the organizational back end.

Misused, a tool like ChatGPT can damage brand reputation by producing biased or patently false results that erode customer trust. Further, the content influx created by the “ChatGPT gold rush” is opening the door to countless potential issues around governance, challenging the capacities of outdated content operations strategies and data models. For all its benefits, democratized content production essentially eliminates the parameters that have helped delineate ownership and protected companies’ assets.

Generative AI requires the structure and classification provided by a best-in-class content operations strategy if the tool is to be used safely and effectively. Fortunately, DAM (digital asset management) with advanced metadata tracking, universal taxonomies and ontological organizational capabilities protects brands from poor, stolen or inaccurate output and supports content management at scale by providing AI traceability and auditing of usage throughout each step of the content life cycle.

Honor The Process, So You Can Disrupt The Pattern

It’s been said that “there is nothing new under the sun,” and that all art is derivative. I think this is true to an extent, but I believe that distinctive moments of creativity do exist where patterns are disrupted or rearranged. Generative AI excels at discovering and synthesizing patterns, and humans excel at identifying paradoxes, countermelodies and meaning (that is, the spaces where dynamism can emerge without compromising structure). Unlike a machine, we can play with intuitive knowledge. We see this in how masterful musicians like Wynton Marsalis can improvise on a piece without losing its central message.

Together, human and artificial intelligence can generate content that stands apart for its depth of knowledge and distinctive voice. It all starts at the level of the fundamental processes and values that undergird an organization. A robust content operations strategy provides the framework necessary to go from inspiration to ideation to implementation—and perhaps most important of all, it creates space for brand-defining improvisation.


Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?




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