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Revisiting “Who Speaks For Your Business?” (Thinks Out Loud)

Group of people shaking hands on a deal to illustrate the idea of human connection and "who speaks for your business"

Sure, generative AI tools like Google’s Bard, Adobe Firefly, and ChatGPT are at the top of everyone’s to-do list at the moment (including mine). You should absolutely should add generative AI tools to your team, at least as a test.

At the same time, you can’t lose sight of your humanity, or that of your customers. Your customers aren’t only looking for content. They’re looking for connection. They’re looking for someone who cares. Ideally, they’re looking for you.

The question then is, "Who is ‘you,’ in the context of your business?" Who speaks for your business? Who speaks for your customers? Who provides that spark of humanity, that concern for others, that connection with others? Answer that question for your business — and for your customers — and you’ll never have to worry about losing them to AI again.

Want to know more? Be sure to check out the show notes and let us know what you think.

Revisiting "Who Speaks For Your Business?" — Headlines and Show Notes

Show Notes and Links

You might also enjoy this webinar I recently participated in with Miles Partnership that looked at "The Power of Generative AI and ChatGPT: What It Means for Tourism & Hospitality" here:

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Transcript: Revisiting "Who Speaks For Your Business?"

Well, hello again everyone, and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. This is episode 377 of the Big Show. And I think we’ve got a really cool show for you today.

What’s the Trend? Content Production is "Free"

I’ve been talking a lot about big trends that are shaping marketing and shaping digital marketing and shaping your digital strategy this year. And I think there’s a really important one we need to talk about. I have long argued for the importance of content, even in the current environment. And it’s easy to say that the emergence of artificial intelligence and especially generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Microsoft’s new Bing, Google’s recent Bard beta have changed the content game probably forever.

For one thing, content production is incredibly inexpensive, at least in theory (I’ll come back to that in a moment). I have argued for years that content has always been inexpensive. It’s that content that doesn’t work is expensive. Regardless, generative AI has the potential to lower content production costs dramatically, effectively to zero.

But Generative AI Has Its Own Costs

Now I said I would come back to why in theory it might not be cheaper. And what generative AI potentially does is increase your costs of legal guidance and liability insurance. We know that generative AI sometimes borrows from other people’s materials built into its training. And we’re seeing some companies say we need to protect ourselves and protect our users from that.

For instance, Adobe announced that its new image generator, Firefly, "quote takes art from its stock library and the public domain with plans to eventually compensate stock image creator." Similarly, NVIDIA’s new system. Picasso, "was trained Nvidia trained the technology on images license from Getty Images, Shutterstock, and Adobe, and plans to pay royalties."

So these companies clearly are saying we need to build some protections into this. I do think it’s funny and I can’t be the only one that thinks it’s funny that Nvidia used an artist’s name for their tool, Picasso… and I’m going to go out on a limb and assume without any permission. So I don’t know about you, but I think that’s kind of a hoot.

Using Generative AI to Create Content

The challenge here is that anyone can create at least decent content now. All you have to do is turn your favorite AI loose and reap the rewards. And there are plenty of ways that you can improve the content that those tools create. I will link in the show notes to some great tips from Ethan Mollick at Wharton on how to use AI to co-create and co-edit more effectively.

You should do this as long as you’re comfortable that you’re not plagiarizing someone else’s content, stealing someone else’s copyrighted material.

The Return of Mark Schaefer’s "Content Shock"

What we are seeing as a result of all of this, Is the very real emergence of Mark Schaffer’s long predicted "content shock"… or maybe not.

I’ve always been somewhat ambivalent about the idea behind content shock. Not because Mark is wrong. Mark is 100% correct. He is absolutely right. There is simply more content being created every year than your customers can reasonably keep up with. There’s very, very, very little way for you to cut through easily with the volumes of content that exist and continue to be created. The last numbers that I’ve seen show that every single minute creators on YouTube upload 500 hours of new content. If you watched YouTube for 12 hours per day every day, it would take you slightly less than 42 days to watch even one minute’s uploads. Meanwhile, during those 42 days, YouTube creators would’ve uploaded enough content to fill an additional 30 million hours. So you know that’s tough, right?

My ambivalence though, stems from the fact that content shock has existed for years. I’ve stated previously, the term "information overload" itself was popularized in Alvin Toffler’s book, "Future Shock," way back in 1970. The idea itself goes back even further than that much, much further. Seneca the Younger once reportedly said, "you cannot read all the books that you possess," which is sometimes translated by me and others as "the abundance of books is a distraction." By the way, he was saying that somewhere around 25 BCE. Seneca wasn’t wrong, just like Mark isn’t wrong.

Wikipedia shows that there are roughly three and a half million registered ISBN numbers for books in the United States as of 2018. If you were somehow magically able to read two books a day, every day, you would finish your reading pile of books in roughly 4,800 years… and that ignores all the books and blog posts and TikTok and YouTube videos that would be released in the meantime.

So, yeah, there’s a lot of content out there and there always has been. You are never going to reach the top of anyone’s reading pile or viewing pile or a listening pile (he says on his podcast) if you’re not creating great content. That’s been true for a very long time and is increasingly true.

Great Content is Table Stakes for Your Business

Which brings me to the question, what is great content?

Here we are in March, 2023. What does great content look like? And how can you create great content that helps you cut through the noise?

"Hub and Spoke" in a World of "Free" Content

Before I answer that, I want to talk for a moment about the marketing chestnut, "Don’t build your brand on rented land." Because that’s one way people are trying to cut through the clutter. They’re using Facebook or TikTok or LinkedIn or Google or Amazon or or G2 or what have you to reach people that you can’t reach on your own. And that’s okay. I want to be very, very clear. I have said that you don’t want to build your brand on rented land. I’ve also said that there’s nothing wrong with using rented the land or paid media of some kind to reach customers for the first time.

What you don’t want to do is become dependent on the rules that those landlords, those gatekeepers, put in place between you and your customer. It’s fine to pay the first time. It’s a real problem if you pay every time. The whole "Hub and Spoke" concept I’ve referred to many times here on the show assumes that the spokes, the rented land, the third party channel are absolutely okay to use to connect with new customers.

Once you already paid once though, why would you continue paying each and every time you want to interact with your customers? Creating great content, no matter how cheap it gets, still has a cost. And putting that content to work through third party channels adds to that cost. If you’re paying to reach your customers every single time, that’s not great.

Great Content Builds Trusted Relationships Between Your Customers and Your Business

What you have to do instead is build a relationship with your audience that gets them to seek out your content directly. And this is how we start talking about great content because customers will only do that, they will only seek you out directly, if they trust you.

Great content has to be well researched, it has to be honest, and most importantly, it has to be trustworthy. It has to build a relationship with your customers.

Great Content Has a Human Face

And if you’re going to do that, you have to have a face for your content. When we talk about great content now, it has to be personal. It has to be one-to-one. People have to feel like you’re talking to them directly. That’s what they’re looking for. You have to ask, "who speaks on behalf of our brand?" You’re trying to build a trusted relationship with your customers, and they’re rarely going to enter into a relationship with, and I’m putting this word in quotes and caps, "a brand." But they will build a relationship with people who represent your brand. They will build a relationship with human beings.

They’re not just looking for content, they’re looking for connection. And the people who represent your brand can be your employees. They can be your community, they can be your customers, they can be influencers in your industry — and I don’t necessarily mean famous celebrities like the Kardashians or folks like that. I mean people who have some influence within your industry. They can even be people at other companies that you partner with.

What they have to be, though, most of all, is human beings. They have to be someone that your customers can connect with. You have to put a human face on your content. Why would anyone trust you if they don’t know who you are? Why should anyone trust you if they don’t know what you represent? Why would anyone trust you if they don’t see you, not just as a company, but as human beings who work for a company?

Who is That Face? Who Speaks for Your Business?

Your customers want to connect with people with human beings, not with a faceless corporate entity. My mantra lately that I’ve been talking to people about is that faceless is foundationless. Faceless is meaningless. Faceless is friendless. Faceless is hopeless. And faceless is futureless. It has no future.

So you need to think about how can I put a face on my brand? How can I put a face on my business in a way that customers want to connect with those people? By the way, I mentioned that the face can be your employees or your community or your customers or influencers or other companies you partner with. It also can be all of those.

How You Can Speak For Your Business

You have to start by thinking about who your customer is. What are the personas that matter to your business, and what are those customers’ needs? What do they care about? How can you engage them in a conversation around those things that they care about?

Then think about who’s best positioned to talk with those people. Not just "the personas," but the actual people those personas represent. The roles will vary based on the business you’re in.

It could be people in customer service roles like customer success leaders or concierges or community managers. And yes, your community managers should play a role here regardless. That’s kind of their whole gig.

It could be subject matter experts, like product managers or researchers, or if you’re a restaurant, your chef or wine steward/sommelier. It could be leaders within the organization, your CEO, or your chief technology officer, depending on who you’re trying to reach.

And depending on the size of your organization, it could — and arguably should — be all of these folks and more.

There are people within your community who might be perfect to talk about your company. And in some cases, they’re probably doing that anyway.

Provide People Tools to Speak for Your Business

You want to help encourage them to do so in a way that works for you and in a very human way, no matter who it is. They shouldn’t simply be reading a script. You can teach an AI to do that. Okay, fine. Yes, maybe get them some training on how to communicate with your community. Definitely provide them with some guidelines of what they can talk about in public and what you’d rather they didn’t. Help them figure out how to handle the tough questions and when they need to call for help. Give them the appropriate tools and resources to know what to do when they feel like they need to call for help.

Empower People to Speak For Your Customer, Too

And especially, make sure that they’re not just speaking on behalf of your brand, but they’re speaking on behalf of your customers too. Give them the tools and resources within the company to turn to when they hear about problems or situations with that they’re not equipped to handle on their own. Where do they go? Help them understand where to go so that those problems can be addressed.

I talked last week about one of the big trends is that customer experience is cool. Customers experience is only cool when you actually help your customers when they have a problem. Don’t just provide a face and a voice, but a friendly ear and a shoulder to cry on.

Remember, faceless is friendless. Faceless is futureless. These folks are there to provide your company a face. Don’t make them translate everything they say into "corporate-ese." It’ll piss them off. And if it doesn’t, you don’t have the right people talking on your behalf. It will render them faceless and it will do nothing to cut through the clutter.

They can then use all the content tools available, whether writing or email newsletters, or audio or video, short form, video, whatever comes down the road over time.

Conclusion: Digital Marketing Trends — Who Speaks For Your Business?

But they will be the people your customers will want to turn to. What’s important is that they have a voice. They have a face. They’re human.

They’re someone your customers can come to know and trust. Otherwise, you’re creating content that no one will care about. We are living in an age when technology can create all the content we could possibly want and more. What we need to offer is not content, but connection, humanity, a real face, a real voice, a real person, or people who speak for your brand.

The big trend you need to remember is "Who speaks for your business?" And I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to hear your answers to that question.

Show Closing and Credits

Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week. I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for this episode as well as an archive of all past episodes by going to Again, that’s Just look for episode 377.

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Show Outro

Finally, I want to say one last time how much I appreciate you tuning into the show every single week. I would not do this show without you. I don’t do this to hear myself talk. I do this so that we can have a conversation and build this community.

It means so much to me that you choose to be part of that community. It means the world to me when you listen and you comment and you send emails and you reach out to me on social and we keep the dialogue going. So please, let’s keep the dialogue going. Keep the emails coming, keep pinging me on LinkedIn, keep pinging me on Twitter.

I love chatting with y’all about this stuff all the time, and I relish the opportunity to continue to do so. So with all that said, I hope you have a fantastic rest of this week. I hope you have a wonderful weekend and I will look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well be safe, and as always, take care everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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