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Who's In This Podcast
Helen Todd is co-founder and CEO of Sociality Squared and the human behind Creativity Squared.
Cathy McPhillips is Chief Growth Officer at the Marketing AI Institute, overseeing marketing, growth, and customer experience, including MAICON and AI Academy for Marketers.

Ep54. Cathy McPhillips: The A.I. Midwest Prompt

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Ep55. Steve Dong: Ready for A.I.?

Ep54. The A.I. Midwest Prompt: Level Up Your A.I. & Marketing with the Marketing AI Institute’s Cathy McPhillips #MAICON

Cathy McPhillips is the Chief Growth Officer at the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute, a digital media and educational platform where she’s at the forefront of making A.I. approachable and accessible to businesses of all sizes. She oversees marketing, growth, and customer experience, including its annual signature conference MAICON and the AI Academy for Marketers

Her marketing journey spans decades. She started in Cleveland’s advertising agencies, founded a strategic digital marketing business, and led marketing efforts for organizations like the Content Marketing Institute and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.

Recognized as one of Folio’s Top Women in Media and a MarTechExec Woman You Need to Know in Martech, Cathy has also been an Ohio University Jerry L. Sloan Visiting Professional in Public Relations.

Marketing AI Institute is an invaluable platform for industry knowledge that it shares through media products, educational content, and events such as MAICON. Its signature conference is held in the institute’s hometown of Cleveland. Helen and Cathy will both be on stage this year alongside a host of fellow marketing leaders this September 10-12.

Marketing AI Institute is just one example of a growing network of Ohio and Midwest regional organizations committed to Responsible A.I. for a more intelligent and, ultimately, more human-centered world.

“We are not trying to have A.I. replace anything in particular. We’re looking at A.I. to augment some of the things we’re doing so we can be more human, more creative, and do the things we love doing.”

Cathy McPhillips

Cathy has a front-row seat to how A.I. is changing the trajectory of the marketing industry and how marketers can start to understand, pilot, and scale their own A.I. efforts. Cathy discusses A.I.’s role in content creation and the liabilities A.I.-generated content can create.

Since A.I. isn’t going anywhere, Cathy encourages marketers to embrace it, stressing the continued importance of human expertise and creativity in collaboration. Cathy also discusses the delicate balance between A.I. efficiency and human creativity in marketing and reflects on how creativity is evolving in the age of A.I.

This episode demystifies A.I. in marketing and provides practical insights for marketers at all levels.

Plus, you’ll learn what it means to Midwest Prompt!

Marketing AI Institute

Paul Roetzer, the founder and CEO of Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute, grew the idea out of a personal desire to streamline the agency he founded in 2000. He launched Marketing AI Institute’s precursor in 2016 as a blog and newsletter to share the things he and his team learned along the way. 

According to Paul’s founder story, he began the business with a genuine interest in A.I. and its potential to transform the marketing industry. Building his niche began as an uphill climb since A.I. wasn’t in the spotlight yet. Initially, progress was slow and steady. Paul approached industry experts, pitching the potential of A.I., but met with repeated rejections. 

Sentiment around A.I. shifted dramatically when ChatGPT dropped on the scene in 2023, though. Paul found people revisiting his ideas after seeing what generative A.I. could do with their own eyes. Although generative A.I. still represents just a portion of the vast A.I. landscape, it helped change the company’s trajectory by creating a sudden and massive demand for information about A.I. tools. 

Since then, the Marketing AI Institute has grown into a comprehensive media, event, and education company. The media division produces a variety of digital resources, including blog posts, eBooks, white papers, research, podcasts, blueprints, and webinars. Most content is freely accessible.

The company also runs a busy event schedule. Cathy and Paul host an introductory A.I. class monthly as a free educational resource. The company also hosts virtual summits, such as the upcoming AI for Writers Summit and the AI for Agencies Summit. MAICON (Marketing AI Conference) is their flagship event, where industry leaders discuss the latest cutting-edge trends in A.I. and marketing. 

The day this episode drops on Thursday, June 27, the webinar 5 Essential Steps to Scaling AI in Your Organization will take place at 12 PM ET.

More Intelligent, More Human, More Responsible A.I.

Cathy says that the Marketing AI Institute team shares a common vision of A.I. helping us become more intelligent and more human. 

For Cathy, the best use case for A.I. is enabling people to fully shut down their computers at the end of the day to spend time with family or enjoy nature. By automating repetitive tasks, people can channel their energy into more meaningful and fulfilling activities. A.I. can enhance intelligence in certain areas, allowing us to be more human in others.

Take Cathy’s event planning process, for example. Even with the best tools and workflows for email distribution and event promotion, the most effective method for boosting attendance is still good old-fashioned personal outreach. Cathy spends hours sending personal invitations to her contacts. She tells them about relevant sessions, expresses a desire to reconnect, and emphasizes the value they’ll gain from attending. Genuine connection takes time, but by leveraging A.I. to handle other tasks, Cathy can focus on this outreach, which she truly loves. 

Cathy and Helen, who both live and work in Ohio, also discussed the growing movement of Midwestern A.I. enthusiasts looking to differentiate the region as a hub for Responsible A.I. development. They include people like Kendra Ramirez, who along with Helen co-hosts the region’s largest A.I. networking group Cincinnati AI for Humans, OhioX’s Chris Berry in Columbus, Ohio State Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, and Nicole McCaffrey of the Responsible AI Institute

Each in their own way, members of the Midwestern A.I. community are pushing back against the coastal mantra of “move fast and break things,” which Helen points out has broken society in its wake.

“We have a chance, one chance to get this right. And we want to make sure that we are on the right side of all of this.”

Cathy McPhillips

Cathy says that’s why the Marketing AI Institute team is selective about its partnerships, ensuring that collaborations align with their values and contribute positively to the industry. They are committed to ethical practices that allow them to advance the field while maintaining their integrity.

The collaborations they do accept within the Responsible A.I. community are stronger as a result. Instead of viewing other organizations as competition, they see opportunities for partnership and mutual support. Cathy believes that this collaborative approach is vital to Ohio retaining its many advantages in A.I. development. 

Challenges in A.I. Marketing

Despite the many ways that A.I. promises to make life easier, challenges abound, even in the tech-savvy world of digital marketing. 

Chief among them is the knowledge gap between companies that prioritize A.I. and those that don’t. Cathy recently saw this firsthand while presenting to a group of fellow leaders in marketing about the A.I. tactics she uses for podcast production. 

To her surprise, Cathy says that many of the participants weren’t familiar with fundamentals she considers basic.

“Education is a huge problem at some of these companies. Some of these market leaders are very smart, but they don’t have the time to invest to learn about it. So it’s just getting put on the back burner.”

Cathy McPhillips

To stay current, Cathy practices time blocking. She dedicates a few hours each week to explore new technologies, find use cases, and review new tools. She also participates in Slack communities and listens to the Marketing AI podcast, not necessarily to become an A.I. expert but to learn how A.I. can aid her role in driving company growth. 

Cathy emphasizes the importance of effectively prioritizing time. For her, this means focusing on tactical implementation rather than getting bogged down in the weeds of artificial intelligence. She finds that by relying on curated content from trusted sources and participating in community discussions, she can keep up with advancements and apply them in ways that benefit her work and the Institute’s growth.

Cathy says A.I. isn’t going away, and with so much free educational content available online, leaders would be wise to learn how their industry is changing. 

Tips from Piloting and Scaling A.I.

The Marketing AI Institute makes it easy to start learning, including the foundational courses Paul designed to help companies pilot and scale A.I. strategies. 

According to Cathy, a good place for business leaders to start is choosing a framework for deciding where to prioritize A.I. implementation. Depending on specific needs, a company could benefit from a problem-based model or a use-case model.

The problem-based model focuses on addressing significant business issues, such as increased churn, decreased website traffic, or declining sales. These are fundamental problems that need solutions, and the goal is to find an A.I. tool that can help resolve them more easily or quickly.

The use case model involves identifying specific situations where an A.I. tool could be beneficial. Cathy, for instance, started to think about using A.I. in her podcast production process by listing all 30 steps involved. That way, the team could share knowledge about where A.I. might be most effective, such as post-production. They then piloted the A.I. tool, measuring performance, efficiency, and other factors through benchmark tests. 

Once the data is in and approvals are granted, the next steps might include training the rest of the team, purchasing the paid version of the tool, or expanding its use. Cathy emphasized that starting with tangible use cases leads to better results than finding an exciting tool first and then figuring out what to do with it.

Avoiding A.I. Liabilities in Marketing 

While the Marketing AI Institute encourages a culture of A.I. experimentation, not every industry sector or type of company can do the same. 

Companies in highly regulated sectors like healthcare and finance have to carefully consider their responsibility as custodians of client data and the reliability of a model’s output before implementing A.I. solutions. 

Cathy says that companies should have clear policies for using A.I. at work and communicate the technology’s risks to employees. 

Even with the Marketing AI Institute team’s wealth of A.I. knowledge, they’re careful about what data they put into A.I. systems. When forecasting MAICON ticket sales with A.I. assistance, they strip out identifiable data to protect customer privacy. Cathy says that the key is to balance A.I.’s productivity benefits with the need to safeguard customer data.

A.I. tools such as Adobe Firefly and Shutterstock’s A.I. image generator are touted as being safe for commercial use because, according to the developers, the models’ training data doesn’t infringe anyone’s intellectual property and the creators get compensated and control over their works. 

Nonetheless, Cathy reminds us that contract clients often expect human-created content. Using A.I.-generated materials could technically breach such agreements because content significantly altered or created by GenAI cannot be copyrighted under current law.

So, while A.I. can be extremely useful for generating content like social posts that don’t require copyright, caution is essential for generating blog posts, images, taglines, and similar brand assets. Cathy recommends consulting with an attorney if in doubt.

The Marketing AI Institute primarily uses A.I. for ideation and minor tasks, according to Cathy. For example, she uses ChatGPT to generate images for landing pages where stock photos are not ideal. 

How a Marketer For an A.I. Marketing Education Platform uses A.I.  

Is Claude better for copywriting or ChatGPT? Which image generator is most accurate? Runway just dropped a new update, should you switch over from PikaLabs? There are so many A.I. tools out there for the same use cases that it’s hard to know which tool will yield the best outcome. Cathy says that she likes to try a little bit of everything, focusing more on the output quality than the tool itself. 

Although ChatGPT is her go-to, she also works with Perplexity and Claude to see which performs best depending on the prompt, the day, or the topic.  

“The free [A.I.] tools are actually really good, start there. You don’t need to jump in and buy the tool, or three of them. Find the interface you like best, find the experience you like best.”

Her A.I. toolbox also includes Descript for podcast transcription, editing, and creating short video snippets for social media. Opus Clip is another tool that can generate short-form videos from longer content. 

When working with large language models, Cathy says she often finds it helpful to have a conversation. Instead of just instructing the model what to do and waiting for a response, you can ask the model for tips to improve a prompt or to help brainstorm ideas. Don’t be afraid to ask for adjustments if the output isn’t right. Cathy likes to practice what she calls “Midwest Prompting,” with plenty of please and thank yous and gentle corrections. As we’re using these LLMs, we’re also training them about human behavior, so using conversational politeness is encouraged by experts in the field.  

Creative Expertise Plus Creativity Equals Superpowers

Cathy says that the arrival of generative A.I. has given her even more profound admiration and appreciation for human creativity. 

“A.I. can help you, give you the superpowers. But the power that you start with is really, really critical.”

Cathy McPhillips

A.I. tools can help her and her team turn a podcast episode into 30 pieces of unique content across every social channel, but it takes a human to make sure everything looks good before it goes out the door. Cathy saw this firsthand at Marketing AI Institute, where adding a teammate with video editing skills helped enhance the podcast production process beyond what was possible just with A.I. tools. Before Claire took over much of the process, A.I. had helped Cathy produce and publish the show despite her “novice” editing skills. Knowing when and where to add fade-ins, fade-outs, images, or quote graphics, however, required a human with Claire’s expertise. While A.I. helped someone with limited experience produce a good-looking show, A.I. helped somebody with more experience produce a great-looking show. 

We’re big fans of the Marketing AI Institute’s podcast and all of their content and event, and hope to see you in Cleveland in September for MAICON!

Links Mentioned in this Podcast

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Thank you, Cathy, for joining us on this special episode of Creativity Squared. 

This show is produced and made possible by the team at PLAY Audio Agency: https://playaudioagency.com.  

Creativity Squared is brought to you by Sociality Squared, a social media agency who understands the magic of bringing people together around what they value and love: http://socialitysquared.com.

Because it’s important to support artists, 10% of all revenue Creativity Squared generates will go to ArtsWave, a nationally recognized non-profit that supports over 150 arts organizations, projects, and independent artists.

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