Content Therapy is Managing Editor’s advice column, where Paul Chaney responds to your questions about the messy dilemmas content marketers face in their work. We are (obviously) not licensed therapists. 

Help! AI Is Making Up Quotes and I’m Worried!

Dear Content Therapist: I’ve embraced generative AI platforms to accelerate my content creation process and found them useful for various content types, such as speeding up email and social copy, SEO posts and more. However, I’m still running into issues where AI tools produce “hallucinations” or other incorrect information. 

This is particularly frustrating when I’m supplying the context to AI tools, such as a transcript. I’ve seen how these AI tools sometimes return false or exaggerated direct quotes from speakers, even when I’ve asked for direct quotes from the source material. Obviously, this could be very bad for our brand and my reputation! Could you provide strategies or best practices to minimize these AI hallucinations? How are you and other marketers ensuring the accuracy of AI-generated content in your work? — LOOKING FOR CLARITY IN CONTENT CREATION

Paul Chaney: I’ve encountered the same problem and was even called out on it once by an editor. Talk about egg on my face! I learned the lesson the hard way, but thanks to my faux pas, you don’t have to. 

The lesson: You can’t turn over the work to LLMs without providing keen oversight. Your expertise and guidance are essential to ensure the accuracy and quality of AI-generated content. 

The best way to work is as a partnership. Let LLMs do what they do best and you do what you do best. To quote Managing Editor’s publisher, Mary Ellen Slayter, “AIs generate; humans publish.” 

This partnership involves two components: 

Provide the Best Prompt Possible

The computer adage “Garbage in, garbage out” applies here. (I’m not saying your prompts are garbage.) But the better the prompt, the better the response. So, I would first examine your prompt and see if there are ways to improve it. 

Try this method: 

  • Be specific — the greater the specificity, the better the response.
  • Be clear — make your prompt clear and easy to understand. 
  • Be concise — not every prompt will be short, but don’t be redundant.
  • Be descriptive — the more criteria and context you provide, the better. 

Telling ChatGPT to pull quotes from a transcript doesn’t always work, as you’ve realized and other LLMs — Claude, for example — don’t always respond any better. 

Provide Editorial Oversight

The second component is to provide editorial oversight. This is crucial. Do your due diligence. Take nothing for granted and leave nothing to chance. 

Steps I incorporate into my workflow include: 

  • Fact-checking: Like any article published in magazines, journals or the news, fact-checking is a must. That doesn’t include just quotes; cross-reference numbers, names, dates and other factual information against reliable sources to catch inaccuracies.
  • Verification of source material: Check whether the LLM’s sources are credible and up to date. Inaccurate or outdated training data can lead to errors in the generated content.
  • Proofreading and editing: Proofread and edit AI outputs thoroughly using tools like Grammarly to catch spelling, grammar and phrasing errors — and use Quillbot or Easybib to check for plagiarism. Also, make sure the tone and voice align with brand guidelines.
  • Checking with AI detectors: A step I added more recently is to run my copy through AI detectors like ZeroGPT. It’s free. Quillbot also offers a detector. Keep in mind that these aren’t 100% accurate, but they give you some idea of what text you may need to paraphrase. (Quillbot also offers a paraphrasing tool.) 
  • Transparency: Many marketers are adopting transparency guidelines by disclosing AI-generated content to maintain trust and integrity with their audiences.
  • Ethical guidelines: Companies establish ethical guidelines and processes to mitigate risks like bias, privacy violations or spreading misinformation through AI outputs. 
  • Continually train: As AI models evolve, it’s essential for marketers to continually train their teams, refine processes and update guidelines. This commitment to continuous improvement maximizes the accuracy and effectiveness of AI-generated content. 

The crux lies in the symbiotic relationship between AI and humans — harnessing AI’s efficiency while upholding rigorous human oversight, fact-checking and adherence to ethical standards. This balance ensures accuracy and brand alignment, with each entity playing a crucial role in the content-creation process.

Keep that in mind, and you can leverage the collaborative nature of this human-machine partnership to your advantage in your AI-assisted content creation journey. 

I’m Not Used to Being On Camera — How Can I Get Comfortable?

Dear Content Therapist: As a content marketing leader, I’m increasingly stepping in front of the camera, even if only virtually. Whether it’s interviewing my colleagues or other experts, presenting our latest research in webinars or being brought into client engagements, these appearances are crucial for our brand’s visibility and authority. However, I still feel uncomfortable being on camera and every video session is stressful. 

Some of this is in my own head. I agonize over my attire and backdrop, even when co-workers say it looks fine. But I’m also self-conscious about how I interview people and keep the conversation flowing smoothly. How can I make sure I am not only camera-ready but also feel like I am? — NOT READY FOR MY CLOSEUP

Paul Chaney: I had a conversation about this very thing earlier in the week. The person, a CEO of a small technology company, confessed to being camera shy. (Confidentially, so am I.) 

But using video one way or another is how business is done nowadays; COVID-19 made sure of that. 

Your question isn’t whether or not to use video — that’s a given — it’s how to make the best impression when you’re in front of the camera. 

Avoid These Common Mistakes

I used to teach digital marketing to adult learners at universities via Zoom. It was surprising to the point of hilarity that many of the students had no concept of how to present themselves on Zoom correctly. 

Some had virtual backgrounds but no green screens that they would fade in and out of. Others had lighting behind them from windows through which sunlight showed through, which overrode the lighting in front of them. They appeared as silhouettes. 

A few had no lighting at all; you could barely see their faces. Others were turned to the side so you saw their profile. And still others positioned the camera so you only saw the top of their heads.

I overlooked these common mistakes because I wasn’t teaching Zoom presentation skills, but a marketing professional in your capacity can’t afford to make them. 

The TL;DR version is to use the TEA method prescribed by Lorraine Lee, a top-rated virtual keynote speaker: “T” is for tech, “E” is for energy, and “A” is for aesthetics. Those are the essential categories to keep in mind, which I address in these tips: 

1. Remember That You’re Not a Movie Star

You don’t need to perform or act perfectly. Authenticity is more valuable than perfection. Be natural and focus on delivering your message clearly.

2. Trust What Others Say About You

Your co-workers say how you present yourself on camera is fine — believe them! Feedback from colleagues and friends can provide valuable insights into your strengths and areas for improvement. Use these perspectives to build your confidence.

3. Give Yourself Credit

Acknowledge your expertise and the effort you’ve put into preparing. Confidence comes from recognizing your value and the unique insights you bring to the table.

4. Act ‘As If’

Adopt a confident posture and demeanor, even if you’re feeling nervous. Acting confident can actually help you become more confident over time.

5. Be Yourself

The effervescent marketing expert Gary Vaynerchuk once told me, “Don’t try to be me; be yourself.” Your unique personality is your biggest asset, so let it shine through in your presentations.

6. Practice. Practice. Practice. 

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? You know the answer: Practice. Practice. Practice. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become. Rehearse your presentation to refine your delivery and ease any nerves.

7. Use Good Lighting

“Believe it or not, confidence can be greatly impacted by lighting and lighting is really, really easy to fix,” Lee says. “But for some reason, it’s often an afterthought for most people.”

Be well-lit from the front, avoid harsh shadows and ensure that your face is clearly visible. You don’t need to buy expensive lighting systems; a ring light will do fine, and sunlight is often best. 

8. Get a Quality Microphone

A clear and high-quality microphone ensures your audience can hear you without distraction. Investing in a good mic can greatly improve your overall presentation quality. These don’t have to be expensive, either. Many good mics are available for under $100. 

9. Position Yourself in Front of the Camera Properly

Framing is key. Set your camera at eye level to create a more engaging appearance. Avoid angles that look up your nose or down on your head. Leave some whitespace above your head and include your shoulders in the frame. 

10. Speak Clearly and Confidently

Articulate your words clearly and maintain a steady pace. Your confident voice can convey authority and keep your audience engaged.

11. Be Passionate About Your Topic

Your enthusiasm for the subject matter will be contagious. Passionate delivery can captivate your audience and make your presentation more compelling.

The more time you spend in front of the camera, the more confident you will feel — to the point where you don’t think about it. Use these tips to help you get a good headstart. 

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed mental health provider, health care provider, or legal professional.