Content Therapy is Managing Editor’s monthly 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. Email us your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How Can I Save My Job From AI?
Dear Content Therapist: A few months ago, I remember reading a question from this column that asked about artificial intelligence tools and what that means for our jobs in content marketing. The consensus from everywhere I looked was that AI would change the industry and change, but not take our jobs. But now it feels like we may have been wrong. There are even more AI tools — and ones that can generate humanlike SEO blog posts. I used to be one of the people saying that there is no way the AI could take our jobs, but now I’m not so sure. With many of the AI tools improving and being incorporated into companies and systems that we use every day, what should I do to ensure my job security? — THE NON-ROBOTIC CONTENT MARKETER
Paul Chaney: Thank you for your question. I do understand your concern. It’s shared by many marketers, and not without merit. According to a survey by Resume Builder, one in four companies has already replaced (some) employees with ChatGPT.
While I don’t want to give you false hope, I think of it this way: AI won’t take your job; someone who understands how to use these tools will. That same survey said the majority of employers see having ChatGPT experience as beneficial.
In a recent LinkedIn post, Ann Handley wrote, “It seems that most small businesses are experimenting with AI as an efficiency accelerator — taking over all the boring, labor-intensive bits of operations. Like troubleshooting code. Analyzing ad performance. It’s not about gutting creative jobs as much as accelerating efficiency.”
I echo Handley’s sentiment. ChatGPT or any generative AI (genAI) tool is about accelerating efficiency, not replacing creative acumen. As one commenter said, the “true brilliance of generative AI lies in fostering creativity and originality, not replacing human ingenuity through copy/paste shortcuts.”
Will AI change the way you do your job? Absolutely. It will increase your proficiency and productivity and minimize the time it takes to research information. But it cannot replace you. It doesn’t know your background. It can’t tell your stories (or those of the brand you represent). It doesn’t have emotions. AI can only mine its vast database to come up with, admittedly, amazing content. And even that depends on you!
The old computer adage “garbage in, garbage out” still applies. ChatGPT’s output relies on the caliber of the input you give it (i.e., prompts).
AI is now embedded in tools we use every day, from search to email to social media. Its use is inevitable and unavoidable. So, my advice to you is that rather than fear ChatGPT bringing about some career-ending dystopia, embrace it and other genAI tools to enhance your creative output.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Identify use cases for genAI in your content writing strategy.
- Establish a workflow that works for you and your team.
- Choose the right plan and resources to add to your toolkit.
- Address and troubleshoot challenges that come up.
Let me add to that several steps to help you grow in your personal use of genAI tools for writing:
Learn Basic AI Concepts
Start by understanding the fundamentals of AI, natural language processing (NLP), and machine learning (ML). Online platforms like Coursera and Udemy offer introductory courses.
Get Hands-On Experience
Start working with genAI tools. Start with simple prompts, and gradually move to more complex ones.
Keep Up to Date
AI is a fast-evolving field. Attend workshops, webinars and conferences. Follow relevant people and organizations on social media. Listen to podcasts and read blogs to stay updated on the latest developments.
Practice Ethical Use
It’s important to use AI responsibly. Understand the implications of genAI, including potential data bias, plagiarism issues and the risk of generating harmful or misleading content.
Network With and Learn From Others
Join AI communities, both offline and online. Engage in conversations, ask questions, share your work, learn from others, and get feedback.
Experiment and Learn
AI is about constant learning and improvement. Try out different techniques and learn from your mistakes.
Companies that apply these tools verbatim will, in time, find they aren’t the cost-cutting benefit they imagined. Instead, smart companies will combine these tools’ efficiency with the creativity of humans who understand how to use them. If that human is you, then you’ll stand a much better chance of keeping your job.
A Ping-Pong Table Won’t Cut It!
Dear Content Therapist: I work for an advertising agency as a content marketing manager. I’ve been in content marketing for most of my career and have seen it evolve tremendously since I started 10 years ago. The agency is fairly new (been in business for five years), and we’ve had some great success, but regarding creating a work-life balance it seems impossible. I understand as a newer company that there’ll be late nights, as well as subbing in on responsibilities outside my job description. But this company is taking “work hard” to another level. Their answer to this was free food and a ping-pong table. Honestly, we need a break, but I’m not sure how that can happen, especially with us onboarding even more clients soon. How can I help my team and the rest of the company take a minute to breathe so we don’t burn out and lose our amazing people? — THE MARKETER IN NEED OF A BREAK
Paul Chaney: There are two types of workplaces: those that have ping-pong tables, and those that don’t. The ping-pong table has become an archetype for a company culture that says we care about our employees. But that’s a myth. In reality, it’s a lazy attempt at building work-life balance. (The same with free food.) Companies that truly value their employees’ well-being take serious measures to achieve that goal.
So, how do you get your agency to embrace such a change?
Step to Take With Leadership
Leadership must accept the harsh reality that if your team doesn’t take a break, it will burn out. And that’s not good for anybody: your team, the agency or its clients. It’s incumbent on you to hold your agency to that standard. If you don’t do it, who will?
Sit down with the leadership and make your best case. There’s plenty of precedent that the lack of a healthy work-life balance makes employees less productive. Overwork can lead to errors and absenteeism.
A 2014 study found that at 48 hours or less, weekly output tended to be proportional to weekly hours worked. The study also found that employees who worked long hours experienced fatigue or stress that reduced their productivity and increased the probability of errors, accidents and sickness — all of which impose costs on the employer. According to the American Institute of Stress, an estimated 1 million U.S. workers are absent every day due to stress. Measure that effect on the bottom line!
Pinpoint the specific areas where work-life balance is lacking in your workplace. It could be long work hours, unrealistic deadlines, excessive overtime or a lack of support for flexible work arrangements.
But don’t just curse the darkness; light a candle. Find real-world examples of agencies that have successfully implemented work-life balance. Use them to show the benefits in greater productivity and employee satisfaction that resulted.
Next, offer suggestions for what your agency can do. Ask your team what would be meaningful to them. Younger employees will likely say greater flexibility, the opportunity to work from home (or anywhere) and unlimited vacation. But be willing to make an “offer in compromise” and accept less than you propose.
If you meet substantial resistance, suggest implementing a pilot program to test the impact of work-life balance, offering to use your team as the test case. (It may not only be your team at risk of burnout; other departments may face the same dilemma.) Carefully track results to show leadership after completing the pilot.
One thing working in your favor is that finding and hiring the best employees means more than a decent salary, health care benefits, a 401(k) and two weeks off each year. Competition in the job market favors companies that put a premium on work-life balance.
Steps to Take With Your Team
As a manager, you are primarily responsible for your team’s welfare. There are steps you can take even if leadership is reluctant to implement work-life balance policies.
Encourage your team to:
- Set boundaries. Don’t allow work-related projects to interfere with personal time.
- Get up and move around every 20-30 minutes to stay refreshed. Take lunch breaks away from the computer, and take time during the day to relax and recharge.
- Say no to projects if your people feel overwhelmed. (Reassure them that saying no won’t jeopardize their jobs.)
- Practice self-care by getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.
- Use technology, including AI tools, to increase efficiency.
Lastly, be patient but persistent. Refuse to get discouraged if changes don’t happen immediately. Every organization is different, and shifting the agency’s culture toward embracing work-life balance may take time.
Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed mental health provider, health care provider or legal professional.