AI can double your content output and reduce social media prep time from days to hours, but it still can’t write a decent media pitch.

Michael Smart, the “czar of PR” and CEO of Michael Smart PR, joins Greg Matusky to explore this paradox in the latest episode of The Disruption is Now. They delve into AI’s role in transforming PR work, from boosting productivity and enhancing junior staff skills to the significant challenges of integrating AI into established workflows.

Discover how tailored AI applications can streamline tasks and why strong leadership is essential to overcome resistance and fully leverage AI’s potential in the PR industry.

Watch now: 

Key takeaways

AI struggles to create effective media pitches

Michael underscores that AI cannot handle the subtleties of media pitching effectively. Generative AI often produces generic and impersonal pitches, starting with phrases like “I hope you’re well,” which journalists dislike. The personal touch and relationships built by PR professionals remain irreplaceable, as AI lacks the nuanced understanding needed for successful media relations.

AI significantly boosts PR productivity

The use of AI in PR leads to considerable time savings and increased output. For instance, PR professionals have reduced the time to prepare a month’s worth of social media posts from three days to one and doubled their content output. This efficiency allows PR pros to manage more work without sacrificing quality, enabling them to focus on strategic activities and client engagement.

Custom AI applications enhance specific PR tasks

Tailored AI tools can greatly assist PR professionals in specific tasks, such as identifying media opportunities or drafting structured content like case studies. By training AI on relevant data and processes, PR pros achieve high efficiency and maintain the quality of their work. Customized AI applications ensure that the tools meet the specific needs of PR tasks, providing targeted support and better outcomes.

Strong leadership is crucial for overcoming AI adoption resistance

Greg Matusky highlights the importance of strong leadership and a supportive culture in integrating AI into PR practices. Successful adoption of AI requires continuous education, a safe space for experimentation, and clear advocacy from leadership. These elements help overcome resistance, ensuring that PR teams can fully leverage the benefits of AI tools to enhance their work processes.

AI serves as a valuable tool for upskilling junior PR professionals

AI significantly aids in the development of junior PR professionals by providing structured prompts and feedback. This support helps junior staff improve their writing and productivity, leading to better performance and increased confidence. AI acts as a valuable mentor, guiding them in their early career stages and enabling them to contribute meaningfully to their organizations.

Key moments:

● Michael’s unconventional path to PR expertise (2:04)
● The essence of respectful media relations (3:28)
● AI’s limitations in media pitching (4:00)
● What lies inside and outside the jagged edge of AI capabilities (7:40)
● State of AI use among PR professionals (9:42)
● AI success stories (10:45)
● Treating AI as a partner (14:03)
● The biggest obstacle in PR adoption of AI (16:12)
● Chunking down processes to find AI opportunities (22:33)
● Training a case-study-writing GPT (23:53)
● How AI saved Greg 32 hours on a project (25:38)
● New opportunities from AI productivity (27:20)
● Future effects of generative AI on careers and society (30:26)
● Why Michael thinks AI won’t immediately eliminate jobs (33:26)
● The importance of change management for AI adoption (35:06)

Full transcript:

Greg Matusky (00:30) Well, welcome to another episode of The Disruption is Now, the podcast where we talk about everything AI, particularly in how it impacts communications and today how it’s impacting public relations. That’s certainly a love of mine because I’m also the president and founder of Gregory FCA. And I have on a really exciting guest. I call him the czar of PR, the prince of media pitching. He’s a gentleman who has taught more people in public relations how to approach the media and how to present to the media in a very respectful and effective way. Michael Smart is the founder of Smart PR, and he gives training all across this country, a PR publicist, and how to interface with the media. Michael, did I get that right, the czar of PR?

Michael Smart (01:17) Nailed it. Yeah. Thank you, Greg. I mean, I have never called myself the czar of PR, but I think I will start thanks to you.

Greg Matusky (01:22) Well, I also had the master of media relations, but I went with the czar of PR because it was more poetic. So anyway, it’s great to have you here over your course of your career. You’ve trained many people and advising them how to approach the media, which is very important in the world of public relations and continues to be media relations, I still think is a pillar of our industry because of the great credibility it confers on companies and individuals and you’ve even a lot of people in the firm here at Gregory FCA were very excited to hear from you today because they follow you very closely. Tell us a little bit about.

Michael Smart (01:58) I appreciate your support, your support of your agency through the years.

Greg Matusky (02:02) Well, tell us a little bit about how, let’s start with your story. How does somebody become so specialized in the world that there’s a demand for a full-time expert on approaching the media?

Michael Smart (02:13) Yeah, want to get rich, target a niche, right? You’ve heard that saying before. I wish I could say that I had heard it and I was strategic, but instead it was a nice, serendipitous path that led us to this day. I was a working PR pro, like all of your team, like you were back in the day. I went to professional development conferences back when we used to do those in person in big cities. And I would sit and listen to the presenters and I started to think, I think I could do this. And I filled out some RFPs. And I started speaking about the media relations successes that we were having and people liked it. And people walked up out of this crowd and asked me what I charged. And I made up a number off the top of my head. Right. And then I started flying around and eventually started making more on my vacation days, flying around, training people, how to pitch than I did from my full-time job. So then it was pretty easy to lean into this. And now rather than flying around to around the country, I run the largest membership program for PR pros called the Smart PR Inner Circle where people can learn from their desks.

Greg Matusky (03:17) And there’s a lot to be learned, particularly when it comes from the media. It’s always a mystery to people outside the industry. Someone once called it the black art. I don’t know if that’s accurate or not. But where do we…

Michael Smart (03:26) Well, I appreciate the way you framed my approach as respectful. I call it media friendly because that’s really the only way to succeed long-term, right? You can fool them once, but you can’t fool them twice. And the best PR pros have relationships so that it doesn’t matter what the subject line is of your email pitch. They just see your name. It’s Greg Matusky, I’m opening this and that’s when you can really bring leverage on behalf of your clients.

Greg Matusky (03:57) You know, it is interesting in this world of AI, we’ve had this conversation. It’s not good at creating generative AI is not good at creating pitches. And one of the things I mentioned to you, you can correct me, but I don’t think it’s ever been trained on that. There’s no training data on how to approach the media. Certainly, it’s one of the most guarded pieces of free speech in the world, interfacing with the media. I mean, there’s nowhere you can get into a media.

Michael Smart (04:21) Yeah.

Greg Matusky (04:26) A reporter’s email or even a publicist’s email. And that creates an interesting challenge, doesn’t it?

Michael Smart (04:34) Yeah. So, I think it has been trained on something because when you ask it to write a media pitch, 99 out of 100, it starts it with, “I hope you’re well,” which is comical because I once wrote an ebook about journalists’ complaints on Twitter, what they most frequently complain about. And guess what we titled the ebook.

Greg Matusky (04:45) Yep.

Michael Smart (04:58) Hope you’re well. Journalists hate hearing about in your emails. So it’s kind of like any info you get from a ChatGPT or any generative AI product on the first prompt, it’s the mediocre, most average content. So it’s probably seen some eBooks where people threw up, “I hope you’re well,” da da da da da. We in the Inner Circle, we have several hundred pitches that people have shared that are exceptional. But that’s behind a paywall to your point. Like you can’t just go and get these pitches to, for the, to train the bot.

Greg Matusky (05:37) You know, I even hate using the word pitch because I find that, well, I’m a big ChatGPT 4 user and when you use the word pitch, it reverts to a very commercial marketing speak because it thinks you want an ad or you want an email pitch.

Michael Smart (05:52) A sales pitch.

Greg Matusky (05:52) Yeah, sales pitch. And, you know, it’s been trained on a lot of great email marketing. So it defaults to that kind of approach, which doesn’t work because as you said, the subject line could mean nothing if.

Michael Smart (06:07) A sales pitch or an investment pitch, right?

Greg Matusky (06:07) If the journalist knows the PR person and realizes they’ve given good contact or content or access in the past, they’re going to listen to them. So in that case, as we mentioned on a pre-call, it could be one sentence, right? “Hey, would you like to interview my chairman about XYZ? He’s available today at two o’clock.” That could be a pitch.

Michael Smart (06:29) Or by extension, the flip side, you could be pitching a different beat that doesn’t normally cover, in your case, you guys do a lot of finance and you might actually have to spell out what SEC disclosure requirements means or something to somebody if they’re a healthcare reporter, for example. And the bot may or may not be fine enough to make that distinction. I think Greg, you and I are, we’re lapsing into a pattern that I’ve fallen into that’s caused some confusion among my audience. I know you’re interested in hearing about this, because I have made a career out of training people how to do media relations, which includes pitching. And I also now train people how to use AI. I think it’s a natural for them. If they’re not paying close enough attention to assume that I’m talking about using AI to pitch. But as we’re talking about, it sucks at pitching right now. I mean, maybe GPT-5 will come out next week and we’ll have to update this episode. But right now it is terrible at any form of communication that’s one to one, a narrowly targeted piece of writing that’s supposedly coming from one particular individual. And that’s the essence of a good media pitch.

Greg Matusky (07:40) And that really is I mean, there’s as many things that does well, and many things that does not do well. And that’s we were speaking before this about the influencer and professor at Wharton, Ethan, how do you pronounce his name again? Malik?

Michael Smart (07:52) Malik. Slado, yeah.

Greg Matusky (07:52) Malik. I just learned I’ve been saying it wrong. But Ethan has what he calls the jagged edge. And he puts on one side, everything that generative AI does well, he puts on the edge things that need to be manipulated, but still can.

Michael Smart (08:09) Right.

Greg Matusky (08:09) Have a result, then he puts outside of that things that does not do well. And so on the outside is media pitching, I think, although there’s workarounds that can be moved a little bit closer to the line, if you have some capabilities of knowing how to work the function, it doesn’t do humor. Well, I don’t think I mean, it’s never made me laugh with a joke, it just doesn’t do humor well. But it does so many things well.

Michael Smart (08:27) Mm-hmm.

Greg Matusky (08:37) Inside the jagged edge. And a lot of that has to do with, well, certainly content, which I think could be table stakes right now that if PR people don’t know how to use it as either an assistant or their co-writer, right, they’re really missing an opportunity and it’s they’re behind the eight ball. And then the secondly is, is the second part is, is workflow.

Michael Smart (08:59) Yeah, when you… I’m sorry, go ahead.

Greg Matusky (09:05) Really making workflow more efficient, which we can talk about. But go ahead, I cut you off.

Michael Smart (09:11) No, I thought I’m sorry. I thought you were done. You say content’s table stakes. I think you mean that it should be, but most PR pros are not using these tools at least to their full potential to produce content. And that’s where my AI training has been steered. I guess I’m known as a pitching guy, but what my mission is to help PR pros boost their communication results so they can get autonomy and where, when, and if they ever work again.

Greg Matusky (09:43) Michael, I want to go down that path. So where do you find, where are we in the people you speak to first on content?

Michael Smart (09:52) So you’ve probably seen the same studies I have, like Muck Rack has a state of AI and PR study that says two-thirds, 64% of PR pros have used generative AI in the last month. My experience is most of those are still at the dabbling phase where they, if they think of it, they go and ask the bot the question and sometimes it gets a good answer. They get a good answer. And other times they don’t. I think that’s great. I think everybody should do that. There’s a much smaller cohort 10 to 15% at least of the people of my followers, because that’s the only group that I have this kind of dialogue with, who are actually trying to get it to do their work for or with them. You use the term workflow. I’ll give you some of the cream of the crop success stories. So I’m not saying these are representative even of people who lean into AI. These are like the best ones I could find. We’ve got Caitlin who does social media. She usually takes three days a month to do a whole month’s worth of her consumer or a CPG company client’s posts like 18 posts. And she’s got that down to one day. We’ve got Emily who’s at a Fortune 500. I asked her before you started using ChatGPT four months before what’s a way you could gauge your productivity versus after. She hadn’t done this before. It turns out she literally doubled the content that she puts out. Their press releases are pretty significant. They’re data-heavy. She did three in the four months before, plus what they call market reports. Think of it as like a detailed blog post, data-driven blog post. And then she was like, no way I actually did six and four in the subsequent months. Once I started using ChatGPT and then last exam. Go. Yeah.

Greg Matusky (11:43) Well, that plays well into my theory. And you know, Michael, we’re big advocates here. And I was an early adapter. And I can tell you chapter and verse, great stories here within my own little world of how people have increased just not their productivity, but the quality of the product, of the work product. And as far as content, I think.

Michael Smart (11:50) Yeah.

Greg Matusky (12:11) You can come within 85% right now if you’re competent. What really amazes me is so many people think they should be able to sit down at a piano and play a Beatles song with generative AI. I mean, I see this over and over again. They try it. They go, it read like a high school essay. And they don’t understand all the features and all the capabilities and all the breaks and all the safeguards.

Michael Smart (12:14) Yeah.

Michael Smart (12:23) Huh.

Greg Matusky (12:40) That you can put into it as far as rag, as far as data, as far as knowledge, as far as rules, right? That will make it very similar to your own writing. You can put samples of your own writing in and tell it to emulate it. You can ask it to critique your own writing and tell you who you write like. And when people do that, it always tends to be writers that they read a lot. And it only makes sense, right? They’re influenced by others. So I’m disappointed somewhat, I feel this wave of people who weren’t on board from the beginning, who are now jumping on it. And it’s not living up to this unrealistic expectation of perfection. And so they attack it. I don’t know, what are you seeing?

Michael Smart (13:12) Yeah, yeah, of course.

Michael Smart (13:26) Hmm.

Michael Smart (13:37) Yeah, I think that maybe that comes from the strange conversation around, and the media has driven this from the beginning, AI replacing jobs. And maybe PR pros are stuck on that word replace. It’s like, duh, no way. There’s no way it’s good enough to replace somebody today. So maybe that’s where that expectation comes of, of, of a ship worthy content on the first prompt, which as you described is totally impractical. The people that I’ve seen who, engage with it the most naturally, like they didn’t know how they would feel. And then they find themselves using it every day more and more. They use it as a writing partner. And when I look at their chats and I’m Greg, I know you love the study of writing. I think you’ve written a lot about it and, analyze some of your favorite writers like Malcolm Gladwell. Am I remembering that right?

Greg Matusky (14:26) Yeah, for sure.

Michael Smart (14:33) And I would, I find the process these folks use very laborious. It would be slower for me to go back and forth with a bot on writing a press release to the extent that they do. But for their, what, maybe it’s their level of experience in the field or how, how well or poorly writing comes to them. This is a big skill, this upskills them and their quality is better. The other, the other dimension that I’m exploring if it’s more with the way that I like to work is chunking down processes. And you alluded this with pitching. You said, maybe there’s an aspect of pitching that we can find a way to get the AI to help us with, not write the pitch for us. And, just as an example, I’ll give you an example for pitching and an example outside of pitching. For pitching, maybe I can crank out a three-paragraph media pitch that’s targeted and uses the right language and feel and style and approachability. Maybe I’ve been doing that for long enough that I using the AI would slow me down. But what if I had a custom GPT that had the most recent six months worth of coverage of my target media? And then I came to it and said, “Hey, our clients announcing a new chip factory in Arizona. How could that possibly connect with the depth and breadth of coverage of these journalists? Give me 20 examples.” And maybe one of those 20 will be one I hadn’t thought of that would be better than the one I was going to think of. And then I crank out the pitch from there. Right. So that, that, that highlights what I think is the biggest obstacle. This is just dawn on me after we did our pre-call last week, the biggest obstacle, the PR pros adopting generative AI in an effective manner.

Greg Matusky (16:11) Right.

Michael Smart (16:23) Is our avoidance of process. Okay, think how hard it is to get a PR pro to document a process of anything they do. And then compare that to like a computer coder or an engineer or an operating nurse. You know, they follow these checklists, somebody new comes in, they can see what the old person did. But we’re just like, read a bunch of their articles and write something that gets their attention, right? It’s not documented anymore. So I think if we do a better job of just set aside AI, just documenting how we do what we do, we’ll be more likely to dawn on us, that segment of the process, that’s ripe for automation.

Greg Matusky (17:04) Well, it’s interesting because I have a little different take, right? I think that the first time I’ve been at this for four years in AI, right? And we set up a generative platform before ChatGPT. And then the first time I saw it, like I saw November, December of 2022, I was joyous. I was, I giggled because I saw it and I said, finally, I can help other people become better communicators. And what triggered my mind was how flexible it was, right? Like if you’re a coder, you want two plus two equals four every time. But if you’re a writer, you know that you got five other people writing who could write just as good as you can, but may be dramatically different in the execution of a piece of content, right? So writers, I find, have very flexible minds. And they’re never overwhelmed by its inconsistencies. And they embrace this lack of process to experiment and try and come at it. Yesterday, I was playing around. I saw one of the worst news releases I think I’ve ever seen. And I just wanted to play with it. So I put it in ChatGPT, and I said, what’s the most interesting news in this news release? It didn’t come from me. I saw it on LinkedIn. I copied it and played it into LinkedIn to ChatGPT-4 and it said the really interesting thing is in paragraph four, it says the new initiative is being managed by a professional, a former professional athlete. And I said, that’s great. Now, can you take this, get rid of all, there’s so many words in this. It was purposely made to sound more important than it was, right? And slim it down and work in the fact that a former professional athlete is the manager of this. And that flexibility resulted in a much more interesting news release that I’m sure would get a lot of pickup if that athlete’s picture was now put in the release. So that kind of flexibility and lack of process for good writers, I think, is a net that good writers have an advantage. Now, for those that are at the junior level, right? Who need more support. And this is the whole debate between a Jasper and a ChatGPT. The fascinating thing with ChatGPT is it’s a generalized platform. It was released without any direction on what it should be able to do. That was up to you to figure out. Now Jasper came out and it was very templated. This is how you write an email. This is how you write. And I looked at Jasper and I said, that’s not me, man. That’s not.

Michael Smart (19:45) Thank you.

Greg Matusky (19:50) The way I approach these things. But for junior people, and this was borne out, you probably saw the Boston Consulting study, which showed the junior, the worst consultants using, who were educated in generative AI, saw a 45% increase in the quality and velocity of their work product and came within 4% of the top performing consultants in Boston Consulting Group when they did the study. So I think with people who are new to this, that type of process is very important and usually isn’t there. I think for people that are used to this, right, and know how to get to the meaning, the narrative, right, it releases you from lots of the data which cripples writers, and the data being the syntax, the Oxford commas, the verb tense, and it lets you just focus.

Michael Smart (20:50) Mm-hmm.

Greg Matusky (20:53) You know, going from the age of information, which is data, to the age of intelligence, which is meaning, which is communications, which is narrative, which is getting a response, right? That’s intelligence. I’m not so sure knowing how, you know, the right use of their or its is really intelligence. I think that’s data. And so it’s a fascinating thing. What I see is it comes back to me in my firm in many different ways. I have a young woman. She was an exquisite pitcher, very good at client relationships. Every review, it was a writing issue. She learned five prompts, five pillars of prompt writing, and her writing is now exceeding standard, right? Just how you lay it out. She needed that, she needed that format, that process, like you said, to reach that level because she didn’t know how to get there. So I think, I guess my point is, I think it’s very different for every kind of writer and every type of content creator. Couple things you said is really interesting to me. That was the up-skilling that I wanted to affirm from you is this chunking down. What did you mean by chunking down?

Michael Smart (22:23) Let me see if I can put that in the context. First of all, I love it when people on podcasts disagree. I think that friction makes for better outcomes. I think when I’m talking about, well, I think when I’m talking about process is different than you are, you’re talking about the writing process. I’m talking about writing as one step of like a 10-step process. So before you even start writing, you kind of intuitively.

Greg Matusky (22:23) And I’m not really disagreeing with you. What I’m trying to say is…

Greg Matusky (22:35) Right.

Michael Smart (22:40) You know, your senior media relations pros, they read a headline. They intuitively know that that is a news that they can tie a client to. They know they need to check with the clerk, check their, you know, you guys now have, comments already produced instead of having to go and ask the client for them and get that approved. So I’m talking about like, I was at an agency in New York a couple of weeks ago and, they just said, “Hey, how could I write a pitch about this?” And we realized you had to break down like first we need to gather a bunch of relevant stats and data and see which of those would be the most interesting. First, we need to pick a time element or three that we would try. And, and that’s what you need to fit it, start feeding into the bot instead of just saying, “Write me a pitch about why Florida is a good destination on World’s Oceans Day.” It gives you out bland drivel because you didn’t give it any more. Proprietary knowledge, but you can also use it to derive the proprietary knowledge and therefore write better prompts. That said, that was a pitch example. I don’t want to go against myself. Don’t use it for pitching yet. So, that was a little bit of chunking down. Let me give you, let me give you another example. I’ve been, I’ve built a custom GPT to write, to replace myself 15 years ago. I used to write case studies for this particular client. I had 16 of them. That’s perfectly clean. Training data, have the final, and then I have my notes that I used and I. We don’t want to get laborious on the process, but I train the bot to write the, take the case study from the notes phase to finish. The only reason it can do it successfully is they follow the exact same structure every time problem. The, the product that’s the, that’s the client’s and then the results. And he always uses the same sort of metrics and things like that. So to your point about creativity and flexibility, it’s not work. It’s not yet there where it’s giving me like scintillating creative work, but, but Greg, I got this to be 80% as good as me. And it takes 10 seconds.

Greg Matusky (24:51) Yeah, that’s the workflow process, right? Which I don’t think there’s enough concentration on. And that’s the one area where people say, well, it’ll never replace this or that. But there’s so much friction in what we do for a living. And we’ve come to accept it as PR professionals, right? We accept the fact that we might miss deadlines with the media, not be able to get back. We accept the fact that.

Michael Smart (24:53) Excuse me.

Greg Matusky (25:16) Some of us think we’re artists and every time you do a case study, it should be a different take, right? That’s a friction.

Michael Smart (25:21) Exactly, right, right. Yeah. Yeah.

Greg Matusky (25:31) Right, right, right. And it does that in amazing ways. I recently had a client and they asked us to update their crisis manual, which was done by who knows when or who knows where. And it was poorly done, right? But it had all the scenarios in it. And then I have a crisis manual that I cherish that I think is really well done. We did it, you know, within the last two years. And I simply ask it to take the scenarios from one and any good information that would be in there. Delete and get rid of all the unnecessary superfluous. There was a lot of warm-up in it, right? This is must have been done on an hourly basis because there’s a lot like what is a crisis and what have you went on and on. And it took that and it used the original template. And it was masterful.

Michael Smart (26:21) Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Greg Matusky (26:33) And it actually created additional scenarios, which I don’t know how it did that. It wasn’t the request. And that kind of thing, that was a 40-hour assignment, and that was cut down to eight hours.

Michael Smart (26:46) Yes. See that, that’s the problem when too many PR people here replace and they’re like, they don’t think about something still taking eight hours, right? They think that’s supposed to do it immediately. And I think maybe a word is augmenting instead of replacing us, it’s augmenting us.

Greg Matusky (27:06) You’re right. And why would it take eight hours? You still have to read it line by line. There were still elements where there was still an additional segment that I had to add to it. We had to add to it. But that’s a dramatic time savings. Now, when you brought up the young woman who had done her database blog posts, right?

Michael Smart (27:11) Mm-hmm.

Greg Matusky (27:34) She’s increasing the velocity of her work and the quantity of her work, okay?

Michael Smart (27:40) And just to say the quality is still there. It’s the same because that’s another, another, common misconception. I even had people when I asked my followers about, am I too bullish on AI? What do you think? For some reason, there’s an assumption that I’m talking about. You hit enter on the prompt, copy, paste, send. No, like you said, you still read it line by line and you still edit it so that it sounds like you people are worried about AI detection. It should never be, it will always pass an AI detection because you’re going to change it. So it doesn’t sound like an AI wrote it. You’re going to sound like you wrote it.

Greg Matusky (28:17) Right, and we have a whole training session here on detecting AI written pieces and what the tip-offs are, right? They’re the common words, the metrics, the delve, right? And people do this. They go, they study, there was a study that showed how common these words, words that weren’t common have become more common since AI. The vapid language, which makes an assertion and doesn’t back it up with a fact or statistic that unemployment is at a 20-year low or unemployment is low and they don’t give the actual number and that’s a tip-off of AI. And then always this really vapid opening that reads something like, “In today’s ever increasingly competitive world,” which as you know is the cheapest opening on the face of the earth, but obviously the training models have seen that many times, are all tip-offs.

Michael Smart (28:57) No.

Michael Smart (29:08) Right? Mm-hmm.

Greg Matusky (29:10) I find you can add it and think of the value of that example you gave. Now she’s doing six blog posts, okay? Do you really think her organization thinks less of her or more than her?

Michael Smart (29:25) Yeah, right. I even asked her because there’s more since she did that test, the sales team she’s on the comms team, the sales team has been asking her to write, to write tricky emails to customers, and update some content on their internal customer page. And I wrote back and I said, Emily, I hope you’re I hope you’ve got some boundaries in your life, you know, because you’re so productive now you’re going to keep getting asked to do this. And she said, it’s great. I know that my management sees this visibility and her choice in her career is to increase her output so she can climb the ladder. There’s another choice that I advocate to people as well, but either is fine. And that is if you increase your productivity, 25%, you can work 25% less. You can theoretically leave at three every day or take Fridays off because you’re getting done the same amount of work in less time.

Greg Matusky (30:22) I think you bring up a really important point, right? On the one hand, there’s going to be the emergence of these super creators. And I envision those as being 28 to 33 year olds, who are going to learn how to do everything quickly and at a high standard. So if you ask them to do a news release, they will give you the news release, the web copy, the white paper, they will give you the email, they will give you the test.

Michael Smart (30:30) The note for the spokesperson. Yeah.

Greg Matusky (30:52) They will give you the PowerPoint copy. Right, right. And that individual will become indispensable. All of a sudden, they will have far exceeded the expectations of the organizations. And you’ll become the CEOs, you’ll become the shadow CEO, right? Because you know how to do all this. The second is, I do think we’ll have to make a decision as a society that if these tools are really this productive. What are people going to do with their extra time, right? And hey, if they want to watch Netflix and play video games, that’s one thing. But how about spending more time with your family? Or how about going on that seven-mile hike tomorrow? Or how about making sourdough bread for the family? Or how about becoming a better volunteer, a better uncle, a better brother, a better sister? I mean, it’s going to really…

Michael Smart (31:40) Yeah, right.

Greg Matusky (31:51) Bring up a lot of alternatives that I don’t think have been in the marketplace. And I think at the same time, it’s a tool for building self-esteem. And by that, Michael, I mean, this is a tough business to learn. And kids come out of college today, they’ve all had participation trophies, right? The hardest message you have to convey to a young person is, it’s just not good enough. We got to work on it more, right? Now, when you hear that for four years of your career, it’s demoralizing. When you get back a heavily redlined piece of copy, when you can break through that and do it without the back and forth, I just see that. And this is something I don’t see anyone talking about as a real augmentation to someone’s self-esteem that I’m…

Michael Smart (32:20) Yeah. Yeah.

Greg Matusky (32:46) That I’m of value, I’m contributing earlier in my career. The CEO depends on me as a 25-year-old person to write their op-eds for major daily newspapers all of a sudden instead of, I take notes on calls. So there’s a secondary value here. In that time, we’re gonna have to decide what we do with it. And if it does take jobs, we’re going to have to figure out, do we have a universal basic income? Altman’s calling it a basic compute. You get a percentage of total compute.

Michael Smart (33:21) Yeah.

Michael Smart (33:25) Can I give you my take on that? I think it would be a really nice problem to have to have this be so successful that we have to rethink society. I have two reasons why I don’t think that will happen at least in your or my lifetimes. One is that technological adoption always takes way longer than we think. I remember 1999, when people first started streaming video on the internet and everyone said, my gosh, TV is dead.

Greg Matusky (33:25) Yeah, for sure.

Michael Smart (33:52) And we’re in 2024 and there’s still people still buy TVs and they’re still over the air networks. Obviously we’ve moved a lot away from the old model of 1999. And their streamers exist, but that’s taken 25 years. The other point is there’ve been huge technological labor-saving developments in the past and they haven’t put us all out of work. The biggest one would be the shift from an agrarian society. In the late 1800s, over 90% of Americans were farmers. Right. And you don’t have 90% of people out of work. Now we all got different jobs, which are probably better. So I think something similar will happen, where the technology will enable new and higher forms of work that will be even more beneficial to society and to your point about self-esteem and still provide that sort of character building reward as well.

Greg Matusky (34:49) Well, I vacillate, right? Some days I think, I mean, when it does something really well, I think to myself, Michael, this is going to change everything. Then when it needs a lot of work, I say, no, it’s not going to change much. But there’s another reason that when you said that technology takes longer than we expect, right? The change management is extraordinary.

Michael Smart (35:01) Not there yet. Yeah. Yeah.

Greg Matusky (35:19) I mean, to get change in my own firm with AI, first of all, I had to be the advocate as the owner of the firm. I have to know as much as anybody in the firm about it. I need to address every question. I need to be a student of it. I need to set up a safe place where people can use it and be rewarded for great ideas and to bring those forward and create this coalition of the willing, as I call it, those that really want to learn. And that’s been the biggest challenge, right? And I’m pretty proud that I think we’ve broken, we have two training sessions a week in AI, and they’re attended by 80% of the people in the firm. That’s pretty good considering client calls and meetings and whatever. So people are really interested in it. I think the message has always been to my people is that I’m not doing this for me. You know, I’m 63.

Michael Smart (35:55) Down.

Greg Matusky (36:13) This is my second act. I’m doing this to make sure that you’ll have a career for the next 30 years. And I can do that by having you master this technology, right? And you’ll go somewhere else and you’ll have a I’m sure you know, you’re not going to stay with Gregory, I say the rest of your life, but God love you, right? You’ll remember me and you’ll remember what we’ve done for you. Okay. So that’s my second message. The third message is that you’re going to hear a lot of negativity.

Michael Smart (36:33) Yeah.

Greg Matusky (36:41) And there’s a lot of forces that want to be in opposition to this, right? Lawyers want to be in opposition to it because they’ve made a living off hourly billing. And if this cuts down on hourly billing, they’re in trouble. So they’re going to be bringing up copyright left and right, right? The media is going to be in opposition to this because the media doesn’t want any, wants to be the intermediary. They don’t want any direct people, any direct..Whatever, Google is going to be in total opposition to this, because it really does threaten search and the ways they may have made revenue and their slow adoption in many of AI arenas is testament to that. And then thought leaders are going to want to be negative because they’re experts and if this ends the era of the expert, they’re in trouble. And PR people are going to be in opposition to this because they want clients to think that there’s some magic going on, right? They don’t want to be transparent with the client because in the end, this is a grinder business, right? This isn’t a lot of magic. There’s more grinding, persistence, being able to take nos than anything else, right? So in that environment, change management becomes really important, something I’ve never faced before.

Michael Smart (37:54) Right.

Greg Matusky (38:07) And it’s all it’s every day. You just have to be constant. I mean, we do a newsletter on AI. We train on AI. We give webinars on AI. We talk about AI. We challenge each other to use different tailored prompts. We share it with one another. And then you get buy-in and all of a sudden people are coming to you with ways, you know, it all starts to percolate up where people come to you and say, “Look how I use this to show a client where their interviews went off track.” Right.

Michael Smart (38:16) Mm-hmm.

Greg Matusky (38:33) Where they went off the talking points and a reporter would have eaten them alive. And they saw this in the finished product and they changed their approach, right? So it’s a weird world we’re in and it’s transformational. And I just think what you’re doing, Michael, is very important. And I want to thank you for that, right? I want to thank you for doing the transition to AI. Because if you don’t, if you’re, if we don’t have people like you, a lot of these firms aren’t going to be around in five years. I mean, I’m deadly serious about that. They will be acquired or they’ll be gone because other firms will do it more productively, efficiently and professionally. Those are my thoughts.

Michael Smart (39:20) Well, I can say it, but when you say it as someone who’s got skin in the game, it carries that much more weight to the people who matter, who, as you noted, are the CEOs and leadership. There’s another, see for publicly traded communications head who talks all the time about how she uses AI just so that her team knows it’s okay. And then she won’t be looking to replace them because they’re using AI.

Greg Matusky (39:46) Beautiful.

Michael Smart (39:50) And, and, you know, their team and your team, you haven’t got to the point where you’re like, “My gosh, we’ve automated a third of our work and we don’t need all these people,” or, or even “We can sign on a third more clients,” not there yet. But there, when this, when these types of changes come, like I remember advising a Fortune 100 Corp comms department who was bad mouthing social media. Like, why would you ever help? Make a post and let people make negative comments about your brand and let that stand that like that, that shifted virtually overnight, right. Within a year. And if you hadn’t been keeping up on social media, you had a big learning curve and that will be the same case times 10 when this shift eventually sweeps communication as we know it aside.

Greg Matusky (40:36) You want to put a bow on that. I shared with you the case study about the crisis manual, right? Yesterday, the vice president who’s on that account shared with me an email from the client that was glowing because that project was done in two weeks for them. And it was preparatory. They weren’t facing a crisis. They just wanted to get their ducks in the row. And all the while, the rest of the work continued, right? So that’s an example of increasing.

Michael Smart (40:42) Mm-hmm.

Michael Smart (40:50) Mm-hmm.

Michael Smart (41:03) Mm-hmm.

Greg Matusky (41:05) The velocity and the quantity while maintaining the quality and results in a long-term client that says please and thank you all of a sudden instead of where’s that manual, right? So again, look, I wanna thank you for being with us. It was a great segment. I really, really enjoyed it. I think again, if we don’t get this message and we don’t connect and network with people who are inside the coalition of the willing, the naysayers are going to win and that’s going to be bad for the industry. I really believe that.

Michael Smart (41:40) I appreciate you having me on Greg. And yeah, let’s help our communications peers be the leaders of AI rather than have some people from other industries come in and replace us because they’re being augmented with AI.

Greg Matusky (41:55) Absolutely, we’re the storytellers, we should control this and not IT or legal. All right, thanks for being with us, Michael, great segment. Take care.

Michael Smart (42:00) Amen. Let’s go. My pleasure. Take care, Greg.