How Generative AI Is Reshaping Digital Strategies in 2024 with Leslie Richards, Chief Innovation Officer of Furia Rubel Communications
In this episode of On Record PR, Jennifer Simpson Carr goes on record with Leslie Richards, Chief Innovation Officer of Furia Rubel Communications, to discuss the biggest digital marketing trends to watch for in 2024 and the impact of generative AI on communication strategy.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: Welcome, Leslie. We are in a very exciting time. We started planning with our clients in the fall of last year for all strategies in 2024 and a consistent theme that came up in our discussions was the very quickly evolving, fast-moving digital landscape that we are all working in and how it’s impacting marketing and communications professionals and businesses generally.
One thing I’m always proud to share is that you joined our agency with over 25 years of digital marketing experience and that you’ve launched over 1500 websites in your career.
What does it feel like to be a digital marketer these days?
Well, I can tell you it’s always been a field for people who are curious and open to change because it’s a field where things evolve quickly and where new technologies change the way we work and the strategies that we employ. I will say in 2023 – and I think 2024 – it will be very much the same. The pace of that change has been exponential, and the potential, as well as I think some of the concerns around the technology that is staring us all in the face, is very much top of mind. But I think there’s a ton of opportunity for people who are willing and interested in leveraging that technology.
What are the biggest trends in digital marketing in 2024, that business-to-business marketers should consider?
Everybody’s probably tired of hearing about it, but without a doubt, AI is transformative. It’s going to transform every aspect of our lives and digital marketing is no exception. It’s already doing it. But we can talk in a little more detail about the specific areas of digital marketing and how it’s going to impact things and what the opportunities are for marketers as well as the pitfalls that marketers are going to have to be aware of as AI becomes more a part of our work process, our workflow.
The other trend, maybe less on people’s radar than AI, is the confluence or blurring of the lines between business-to-business marketing and business-to-consumer marketing. Because of the digital ecosystems that we all play in – the way that we look for a home or an apartment, the way that we order our food, the way that we look for entertainment, the way that in some cases we look for our significant others even, the fact that we are so immersed in digital interfaces as consumers – our expectations of our business-to-business interactions have changed. I think the blurring of those two approaches is something else that’s going to be very much in the forefront in 2024.
We work with many industries and many professionals who say, “But this industry is different.” What is the response to someone who might be thinking exactly that while they’re listening to this conversation?
There are absolutely specifics to certain industries, and understanding your audience and knowing that you’re speaking to them in a way that’s relevant and specific is important. However, because of the way that we interact with digital interfaces, our expectations about the level of performance, the level of quality, the level of sophistication of the interfaces, and the level of connection and personalization that has been established for us by the consumer interfaces, are going to be the expectations for those business-to-business interfaces as well.
I can give an example. If you have a business-to-business website, of course that website needs to address the specific concerns of your potential customers or clients. It is going to become increasingly a liability to have a website that doesn’t have the sophistication, cleanliness, functionality, and ease of use that people are used to in a consumer environment. It’s not going to be okay anymore to say, “Oh, our website is business-to-business. It doesn’t have to have visuals. It doesn’t have to have video. We don’t have to worry about on-page engagement.” That’s going to change.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: What we talked a lot about last year is that about 80% of the decision-making process is happening online. It is no longer just about having a digital presence. It is about having a strategy, truly understanding your audience’s behaviors and needs, and creating content that’s going to attract new clients and new talent with a compelling narrative, building trust, and standing out in a crowded marketplace. It sounds like whether it’s B2B or B2C, that strategy needs to remain the same.
Leslie Richards: Trust is the bottom line, and you establish trust through authenticity. It’s particularly important in light of AI. The authenticity of your content, your ability to address people’s concerns and questions with your content, and the authenticity of your voice are going to be very important, particularly as tools like ChatGPT, Jasper AI, etc. get used more and more. There are marketing agencies out there that are just pounding away on those interfaces and using them to generate a lot of content. I think in the long run, it’s going to backfire.
For one, Google can detect and understand when content is written by a bot, as opposed to a human voice. I think the other issue is that as humans, we can, on some level, have a sense of whether or not something has been AI generated. Is there humor? Is there specificity? Is there something that connects with you? All of those things are going to be more important as the content market gets flooded with content generated by these new tools.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: You’ve mentioned a couple of things: ChatGPT and Jasper AI. This generative artificial intelligence has been a big part of the conversation that we’ve been having. These things are moving very quickly, and it’s not a realistic expectation for the average business, law firm, or organization to expect that all its employees can stay up to date on what’s happening.
How can marketers and organizations stay on top of these emerging trends in technology and how they are impacting and changing digital marketing strategies on even a day-to-day basis?
There are resources that are pretty trustworthy that you can make a point to check into and read regularly. SEMRush, which is a tool for helping you with search engine optimization campaigns, has a great blog. HubSpot has great content on these topics. Moz. These are all good resources for SEO content. We love Jay Schwedelson at Worldata for email, best practices, and things like that.
In the end, the trends are going to move quickly and they’re going to evolve. What has remained true over several decades now is that quality content is the goal. Quality content is what Google is looking for right now. They’re prioritizing what they call EEAT:
They’re looking for ethical, high-quality content. Look for content that is very niche to your industry in your area of expertise, with original resources and original research. That’s very useful. Understand your content market and look for the gaps. What are people not talking about that needs to be said in your industry? These are the ways you develop content that can compete in the world of search and digital marketing. It’s not just search; we’re talking about opening an email. We’re talking about a blog that somebody wants to read. We’re talking about any of the content that we might put out on social media, etc.
Are there SEO updates that we should expect this year, and how can marketers prepare?
We’re already starting to see some of the big trends, and one of them is what people are referring to as search generative experience. This is a result of the fact that AI can now participate in responding to our search queries. For example, if you ask Google, “Who was George Washington?”, instead of just getting a list of websites about George Washington or American history, you get a very nice paragraph at the top of your screen that says, “George Washington was the first President of the United States. He crossed the Delaware. He did such and such.”
You may not need to click through. You may have your answer. The rise of zero-click searches will certainly go up as SGE, or search generative experience, becomes more ubiquitous. But there is an opportunity there because there are also links associated with that compilation of content that Google has provided to the end user, and so being one of the links that is a resource for that is going to be something that search engine optimizers are after. Right now, we don’t know for sure what that criteria is. We only have conjecture about how you get placed there, so people are watching that. It’s a developing area of knowledge.
But again, quality niche content that offers an answer to a direct question – these are all good guesses of what is going to help place people in those positions.
If someone listening to this episode wants to take one thing away from our conversation today – one strategy to implement, one conversation to have internally – what would be your takeaway for them?
Leslie Richards: Can I give them two?
Jennifer Simpson Carr: Absolutely.
Leslie Richards: The first would be quality content. Invest in quality over quantity. Quantity helps and it’s important, but quality first.
My second would be to understand the potential of these new technologies, embrace them, and learn to use them. There’s a saying going around right now, which is you will not be replaced by AI. You will be replaced by a human who has learned how to use AI effectively. So it is important to understand what these tools can provide.
Particularly in areas like the CRM predictive analytics around pipeline revenue, it is important to understand the data that comes in from all your digital channels and your automation platforms. Understand these tools and learn how to use them.
Jennifer Simpson Carr: I think those are important tips as people are coming back to the office from the holiday break and thinking about diving into actionable work that can make a difference this year.
Jennifer Simpson Carr