Corporate communications teams are building themselves into elite newsrooms on par with some of the world’s best media organizations, and this is happening at a time when content automation, according to recent predictions from the Content Marketing Institute, will be a major trend of 2020.
The rise of content marketing automation, like artificial intelligence in general, is set to impact communications teams everywhere by replacing or reshaping certain content operation tasks. Technological changes of this magnitude often lead to both fear and excitement, and that is likely to be the case here.
Consider this prediction from Andy Crestodina: “Automated editing is coming.”
By that, he meant far more than what tools like Grammarly offer. Need to create a personalized conversion path for a subset of your target audience? Or wish you could restructure an article’s code so it better aligns with Google’s latest search engine algorithm update? Many content marketing leaders believe this future is closer than it seems.
These forms of content automation are perfect examples of the modern human-machine workplace. Building that futuristic conversion path, for example, will demand both strategic editorial leadership and automation. As it has always been to some extent, the elite communications teams of tomorrow will be those in pursuit of symbiosis, not separation.
Automation, however, isn’t just improving on the editorial front. It’s moving into the creative arts, a realm many believed would be shielded from such technological developments. For a small glimpse into this area, here’s a poem generated by OpenStreetMap Haiku, which pulls together an array of data to create place-based haikus.
Wet to the bone / Looking at you from the 4th floor / Is it too early for a beer?
Some of the journalism and creative writing students I’ve worked with are scared; they believe technology is closing in on mastering some of the elements of their field. Assuming some aspect of their fear is true, what will modern editorial leadership look like in this age of content automation?
Here are a few tips for staying at the top of your game as technology changes the content landscape.
Stay curious about how the human-machine workplace is evolving.
Fear of automation is real, but editorial leaders must at once stay curious about the present and see the long arc of history. While the pace of change may feel faster than ever, leaders evolving alongside technology is nothing new.
Rather than let fear drive your decision-making, work to shift your mindset and develop habits of curiosity about what’s changing and why. One easy habit to form: Schedule demo calls with vendors of new content marketing technologies, even if purely for the sake of learning. When in the right mindset, continuous evolution can be one of life’s greatest joys.
Such curiosity shouldn’t start and end with technology. Editorial leaders must take seriously how they value their (human) value. I’m finding that empathy and creativity are increasingly listed as two of the most important qualities for employers. Doubling-down on learning new technologies while taking for granted (or otherwise not working to develop) what makes us human isn’t a smart path.
Lastly, while I don’t fully agree with the clear-cut distinction here, there’s a truth to what international editorial consultant Alan Geere said in an interview with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers: “Getting the right people in the right place at the right time doing the right thing (management) is relatively straightforward — and may even be a task performed by robot before long! The nuances of leadership, with an emphasis on how different interests meet, merge and are negotiated, will continue to be defined.”
Become a masterful collaborator.
The integration of various technology has and will continue to be a major hurdle for brands, even for those who feel they’ve been successful in significant elements of their digital transformations. This has given rise to tools across all industries that promise to serve as integrators; there are even tools claiming to be the integrator of integrators.
As new technologies enthrall the media and capture the public’s attention, the humble art and science of collaboration will increase in importance, especially for editorial leaders working in cross-functional capacities (as most do).
At its core, great collaboration is about the fundamental human qualities many of us would do well to spend a lifetime working to master: the ability to listen, communicate clearly, ask great questions and develop the wide-ranging skills it takes to consistently leverage the collective genius of teams. The best editorial leaders I’ve worked with have excelled in this regard, and I believe the rise of content marketing automation will make this more critical and more exciting.
The future is bright.
Editorial leaders are being hired just about everywhere these days, both by the media outlets you trust and by the brands that are producing the clothes you wear, the foods you eat and the medicines that may save your life. The best among them are able to do the following:
• Comfortably sit at the intersection of the human-machine workplace.
• Continuously develop a broad set of skills.
• Collaborate across departments and disciplines.
Imagine for a moment if Andy Crestodina’s vision of transformational one-click automated editing were to come true suddenly. Let’s even layer on automation’s impact on creativity, assuming creative and valuable machine-generated articles could be churned out with flawless copy in seconds.
What would editorial success look like in such an era?
I’d argue that it wouldn’t look all that different than it does today. And I’d bet those teams led by creative, empathetic, tech-curious collaborators would still lead the way.
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