The Answer to AI is EI with Nick Usborne

| 37-min read Stay updated

If you're worried about AI replacing you, I have the answer.

That's what I thought when I saw Nick Usborne's recent presentation at the AWAI Bootcamp.

So the first thing I did was invite him to join me on the Marketing Mentor Podcast to share his idea, which I think is kinda brilliant. (Listen here and below). 

Nick Usborne is an early adopter (and renowned copywriter) who has been using Artificial Intelligence for years. He even has a custom AI!

So it's not surprising that he has already developed an excellent course, Futureproof Copywriting, to teach you how to increase your value by leveraging both artificial intelligence AND emotional intelligence. (Get 10% off with promo code "BENUN64")

Since this is the Marketing Mentor Podcast, I wanted to know what he thinks about integrating AI into your marketing.

So in Episode #488 (part 1 of our conversation), we talked about:

  • What NOT to use AI for when marketing your services
  • How to use AI to make your content marketing quicker, easier and less painful

...and lots more (so stay tuned for Part 2).

Nick will also be joining me for an "Intensive" workshop on how to use AI in your marketing as part of the 2024 Simplest Marketing Program.

Nick asked his custom AI to generate an image for this episode, so here's what it generated! (It's pretty good but it definitely has that AI look!)

If you like what you hear, listen to more conversations between me and Nick: 

  1. Episode 361 on Conversational Copywriting
  2. Episode 368 on the Collision of Content Marketing & Conversational Copywriting

PLUS subscribe here and be sure to sign up for Quick Tips from Marketing Mentor.

Read the complete transcript of #448 with Nick Usborne here
(produced by a human, not AI!)

ilise benun

Hi there. This is ilise benun, your Marketing Mentor, and this is the podcast for you if, and only if, you are ready to leave the feast or famine syndrome behind, and I mean for good.

If you're wondering how to use artificial intelligence in your own marketing or, like me, are already overwhelmed by it all, this episode is for you.

I talked with early adopter and renowned copywriter Nick Usborne about how he's using AI to make his content marketing quicker, easier, and less painful, and about what he won't use AI for, too. So, listen and learn.

Hello, Nick. Welcome back to the podcast.

Nick Usborne

Thank you, thank you. You're right, it is coming back, isn't it? Thank you for the invitation the second time.

ilise benun

You're welcome. And actually, this is the third time. I had forgotten the second one, too.

Nick Usborne

Oh, wow.

ilise benun

When I did my research, I looked back and I searched “Nick Usborne” on my blog, and two podcasts came up.

Nick Usborne

Oh my goodness. I should leave the building immediately.

ilise benun

So before we get any further, tell us who Nick Usborne is.

Nick Usborne

Briefly. I'll just stick to the work stuff, I think.

ilise benun


Nick Usborne

So I started out as a ... it was my first kind of proper job, like non-manual labor job. It was 1979, I got hired as a junior copywriter at an ad agency in London, England. And that was it. Ever since then, ever since the first day in the creative department at that agency as a little shy trainee, that's it; I've been earning my living as a copywriter ever since, so like over 40 years now.

ilise benun

But you're more than a copywriter, right?

Nick Usborne

Well, that's my kind of core thing. So I was doing a lot of direct-mail stuff and I was doing print stuff, and then along came the internet.

So I created my first website in 1995, so that would make me an early adopter. And then from 1997, I kind of said goodbye to my print world and was just all 100% digital online from the beginning of 1997.

So yeah, my core skills is still as a writer, but I'm into user experience, I'm into design, I'm into certain aspects of the technology. So yeah, I have certainly gone broader. I've done some consulting, I do course creation, I do coaching. So yeah, it all stems from all those decades as a copywriter, but things have sort of broadened out more recently, I guess, over the last 10 years.

ilise benun

Yeah. And one of the reasons we're having this conversation is because you are an early adopter and we reconnected at the AWAI Bootcamp in West Palm Beach recently, and your presentation, I thought, was really interesting. It was about EI and AI. So talk to us, because as an early adopter, you've obviously early adopted AI. So just talk to us about each of those things, and I may interrupt you and ask you questions. But what is EI? Let's start with that. And why is it important?

Nick Usborne

Can I start with the other one? Can I start with AI?

ilise benun

Oh, sure, yeah.

Nick Usborne

All right. So I started getting interested in AI about four years ago. I was doing a lot of work with chatbots and I was working with kind of native AIs from IBM and Google. And back then, it was very limited functionality and really, really tough to build stuff with AI back then.

So that was my first taste. And then last November, in November of 2022, late in the month, along comes ChatGPT—which was just like ...

I'd been using some other AI tools like literally the week before. And then along comes ChatGPT, and honestly, it was like I've been asleep for 10 years and woken up. The advance, the change, the difference that that made was extraordinary.

So naturally, wherever you find a rabbit hole, you can see me close by about to dive in headfirst with my eyes closed. So I kind of dove into that.

So I've learned a lot and I've worked a lot with AI. And I think as I look at it, I think it's also, it's a kind of survival imperative. If you're in an industry which you think might be impacted by AI, you really should definitely not be closing your eyes to it. You should be leaning into it to see exactly what it is and what the opportunities are and what the threats are.

Coming now to EI, which is emotional intelligence ... so this goes back to, I guess, 1995. Daniel Goleman wrote a book called Emotional Intelligence. And it had been around, it had been discussed before, but he really kind of formalized and gave it a structure.

And his premise basically was that, hey, for many years, we've thought that the most successful people—in life, in business, in entertainment, at home—are the people with high IQ, so cognitive intelligence.

So that's the intelligence test we're given as kids, which we probably shouldn't be because if you're told you have low IQ as a kid, it's not very encouraging. But yeah, he said, "Actually, no, it's not."

And he did a lot of work. It's a very dense, science-rich book. And he did a lot of work and went through a lot of research that demonstrated, actually, that the best leaders, the best creators, the most successful people don't necessarily have a high cognitive intelligence, but they do have high emotional intelligence.

So what is this thing? Basically, it is about being aware and open to emotion, your own emotions and the emotions of people around you.

And stop me if I'm going on for too long. But Daniel Goleman broke it down into like four domains.

So the first domain was self-awareness, being aware of your own emotions, which we think: Hey, that's easy. Of course, I'm aware of my own emotions.

But actually, we're not that good at it. You could be having a heated conversation with a colleague and they might say, "Hey, why are you so angry?" and you say, "I'm not angry." Well, actually, you are. You Just haven't figured it out yet.

ilise benun

And actually, yesterday, I was in a very rare bad mood, and I only knew because I kept reacting really badly to the things that were happening—and they're the things that happen every day, which are never a problem for me, but for some reason, yesterday, I was really angry when these things happened. But I agree with you that our own self-awareness, it's not a given, it's not-

Nick Usborne

I know, which is kind of weird, because you think of, like: Well, of course I'm aware of my own emotional state.

But actually weird, like your experience yesterday, suddenly you're surprised like: Hang on, I didn't realize I was angry.

ilise benun

Exactly. And then what am I angry about? But that's a whole other issue.

Nick Usborne

That's right.

And so, the second domain he identified is self-management.

So this is how we actually deal with that. So let's say you were feeling angry yesterday, and you were about to interview me for a podcast, and you'd say to yourself internally: You know what? I've got to just put that anger aside for a minute because I've got to do this thing with Nick.

So that's self-management.

And it could be like one of your kids or someone at work who always manages to get a rise out of you. Somebody at work says something that typically you would respond badly to it, but with more self-awareness, the self-management becomes part of that, like: You know what? I'm not going to rise to that. You know what? I'm not going to get upset.

The third one, and this is the hardest one, is actually social awareness, and that is being aware of the emotions of other people around you.

So perhaps the best way to look at that is just empathy; having empathy for those around you.

Again, let's take a business meeting, three or four people around a table in real life. How aware are you of the emotions of people around you? And again, you may think: Oh, well, of course I am.

Well, not so fast, because often we're not. I mean, I can think of situations where I've sat like that at a small business meeting around the table and I've been talking and other people have been talking. And I thought I was aware of the emotions of the people in the room, but then sometimes it's like an hour or even a day later, I'll almost get a little snapshot of someone's face in that meeting and I think: Oh my goodness, he was really upset when we talked about X and I just didn't see it.

ilise benun


Nick Usborne

So again, I guess we'd like to think that, hey...

At the event you referred to at Bootcamp, I actually asked the audience, "How many of you think have a high EQ?"

And over half the people put their hand up. And I didn't call them on it. But I can say to the same room, "Who thinks you have higher-than-average IQ?" and more than half the people ... so we tend to-

ilise benun


Nick Usborne

Yeah. We tend to say we're better at this than we actually are. So emotional intelligence is something that is ‘applied to.’ It can be applied to business. You know, good managers, good leaders learn about EI and they apply it work.

And we can apply it at home. We can be better partners, we can be better parents, we can be better brothers and sisters.

And the nice thing about emotional intelligence is that unlike with cognitive intelligence, you actually can study and think about it and improve and get better, which is great.

But as a writer, like two things happened to me here when I was thinking about this.

One, emotion has always been the kind of killer app for copywriting. We buy stuff for emotional reasons, not rational reasons. I get an ice cream because it tastes delicious, not because I read the ingredients, because if I actually read the ingredients, I probably wouldn't buy the ice cream. So it's not a rational choice; it's just pleasure, it's an emotional choice.

So copywriting has always been at its best when it touches people's emotions. But now we come back to AI, artificial intelligence, and I was saying how amazed I am by the quality of the output. If you put in some quality prompts, quality input, these tools can now ... and just like over the last few days, weeks, there's more and more things happening, and the quality, and the scope, and the opportunities are getting bigger and bigger and bigger. It's truly amazing. It’s super, super fast.

But there is what a, what I describe as ‘a sameness trap.’

So if every writer, and every company, every internal writer, every businessperson, every marketing writer and copywriter starts using ChatGPT and we all downloaded the top 20 prompts from our Twitter feed or from Google or whatever, now we're using the same prompts with the same tool, and the output is going to be similar, which is not cool.

As a copywriter, as a freelancer, you don't want to sound like other writers. And as a company, you've probably invested millions of dollars in creating a unique brand. Well, you don't want your company marketing suddenly sound like all your competitors' marketing. And that's a real danger, when everyone is using the same AI tools. It's kind of inevitable; there's this kind of leveling off.

So this is where I bring in emotional intelligence.

So I say, "Okay, ChatGPT, you've done a great job in so far as you can." But AI's read about emotions, it's read the script to “Love Story,” but it's never felt it. AI has never felt lost. It's never had a first kiss. It's never seen someone across the room and thought: Oh my goodness. So it doesn't have that firsthand experience.

And that is what, by becoming an emotionally-intelligent writer, but at the same time using AI for its productivity benefits and everything else, now we can make sure that our output is unique—because we're not just using the same AI as everyone else.

We're putting in this layer of emotional intelligence, which makes it unique, and interesting, and can preserve the company's brand. As a copywriter, I can still differentiate myself. Sure, I'm using AI, but my output, the work I'm going to do for you isn't going to sound like it was produced by AI, because that's not what I do.

ilise benun

So here's how I want to connect this, because I am not an early adopter, so that's why I was very eager to talk to you, since you are.

Nick Usborne


ilise benun

And, I've been trying to figure out how to bring AI and EI ... and let's broaden, actually, the conversation about EI beyond copywriters, cuz my listeners are designers, marketers, coaches, and people, ideally solopreneurs or small agency owners, marketing services, creative services. And I think everything you've said, so far, applies accordingly.

But my business is all about helping people market themselves, and I am getting questions, and seeing people experimenting with how to integrate AI into their marketing. And so I thought it would be interesting to go over the three tools of the Simplest Marketing Plan and talk about maybe the pros and cons of using AI—whether it's going to be just the same as everyone else, or there's some other way to use AI to enhance or potentially damage one's marketing—because I've seen both, actually. So are you up for that?

Nick Usborne


ilise benun

All right, so the three tools of the Simplest Marketing Plan, for anyone who has not memorized them yet, are high-quality content marketing, targeted outreach, and strategic networking.

So let's start with content marketing, because I know a lot of people struggle with writing blog posts or writing content, and they think: Oh, well now ChatGPT can do it for me.

So how are you thinking about AI as it relates to content marketing, pros and cons?

Nick Usborne

The pros is a huge massive productivity boost. So just to clarify, so I have That's me, that's my brand. My business has always been my name, and that's been my website for the last 25 years. There is nothing there that is written by AI. I might get there, but so far, for me, it's incredibly important that every line, every sentence on that website, be absolutely my voice and hopefully recognizable as my voice and my writing. So that's that. So there are certain places where, the way it is right now, I don't want AI to be a big part of content creation. That said, and this is very kind of time-sensitive, so I'm saying this today, is like this week ...

ilise benun

So, November 2023.

Nick Usborne


So OpenAI just made available to some people something called the ‘GPT Builder,’ and this will allow me to actually have my own private version of ChatGPT. And I can give it access to my Google Drive and my Google Docs and my hard drive.

And I can say to it, "Read everything, every post and article I've written over the last 20 years, and based on that, now write in my ..."

So I can have this customized version. So that's beginning to happen this week. So another huge leap forward.

In terms of general content for a business or a company ... so, I have some information websites that I have just for pleasure and it's got a passive income, and one of them is about mushrooms. It's called “Incredible Mushrooms,” and it's all about mushrooms, and there's hundreds of pages of content there. And I use ChatGPT. I've been using it quite extensively on that website.

So this is where I can say to ChatGPT, "Hey, give me 10 blog post ideas for my readers who are interested in mushrooms and fungi."

And it does. And they're usually kind of pretty obvious and I've usually written about them before. So then I go back and say, "Okay, do that again, but give me the non-obvious ideas."

This is one of my favorite prompt phrases, is “non-obvious.”

So then it comes back with these non-obvious ideas, and out of 10, there's probably two or three where I think: Well, that's interesting. I've never even thought of that. Never even thought of that.

So, there's that part of it, is that it'll come up with ideas that I'd never thought of, which is great in terms of content creation.

Then what happens is that, and again, it depends on the resources and availability of writers that a company has.

Let's say you're a freelancer, and I have these three bits of content I could now create. Do I have time? I probably don't. Historically, that's been my story, is like: Hey, here are three great ideas for content, but I don't have time.

But now I do, because now I'll go back to ChatGPT and I'll say, "Okay, write me an outline." Then I'll say, "Okay, write me a first draft of this, like 700 words, 800 words, whatever."

And it will do that, and sometimes it'll do something really well, sometimes not so much.

So I say, "Okay, again, but with a slightly more conversational tone." And then I'll go back and say, "Okay, I noticed we've made a whole bunch of claims in this article about the health benefits of mushroom supplements. Give me some references for any claims that we make here," which it does, and then it prints out and you get all these scientific references appear at the end.

ilise benun

But let me just interrupt you there because I've heard that sometimes the AI hallucinates and gives you things that aren't real or don't actually exist.

Nick Usborne


ilise benun

How do you handle that?

Nick Usborne

If it's something like, you're buying a coffee mug with a mushroom picture on it, then I don't really care if there's something wrong, because the stakes are like: who cares?

If it's something like a supplement, whether it's some kind of health claim, then I'll check. So I'm familiar with the topic. So a lot of companies, a lot of internal writing teams or freelancers, will be familiar with their own topics. You can often recognize when something's wrong or off.

ilise benun

I see.

Nick Usborne

When it provides me with the references, I click on each of them and I have a quick look at the reference. "Okay, yes, this is on topic; this is correct."

I've not seen a great deal of hallucination, and I think that's becoming less of a problem than it was like nine months ago, six months ago.

Where I come across problems is where I've been ambiguous in my prompt.

So I was writing this short ebook, and it had 10 chapters, and we'd been citing various experts in the text. When I say “we,” it was me and ChatGPT.

And so I said, "Hey, you know what? Why don't we start each chapter with a relevant quote from each of these experts that we cited?"

So it said, "Fine," and it did it. And I thought: ‘Oh, this is great,’ because these were the experts and they were saying something.

But I said, "Hang on, let me just check this." So I copied one of the quotes into Google to see if it existed, and it didn't. And I went back to my prompt, and my prompt said, "Write testimonials, relevant testimonials from the experts we've cited." I didn't say, “Find existing testimonials.” I asked it to write testimonials, write these quotes.

ilise benun

Make them up.

Nick Usborne

So it did exactly what I asked. So I might say, "Oh my goodness, it's hallucinating." Actually not. It's just ambiguity in the prompt. So the ambiguity in the prompts, obviously, can lead to faulty output.

But say those three articles that I posted I could now do for my mushroom site.

A year ago, it'd be interesting if I'd come up with a list, but I didn't have time for that. And sometimes, if I really wanted some content and I didn't have time, then I'd hire a human writer and I'd pay them $200 or $300 to write it for me.

So what's happened this year, in terms of content creation—and I know this applies to a lot of companies ... it applies to social media, it's blog posts, it's product reviews, product descriptions—all of a sudden, companies see that there is almost zero barrier to entry in terms of creation of content.

Like, I might not have bothered with testing subject lines because it's a bit of a pain. Now I can just go to ChatGPT and say, "Hey, give me five alternative subject lines that are super engaging and intriguing." And it will.

ilise benun

And then you decide which one you want to use.

Nick Usborne

Yeah, then I'll choose two or three and I'll test them next time I do something. Or I might do something, I could do the same thing with tweets. I'll feed it. Let's say I'll paste in an article or some content I've created and I'll say, "Hey, I want to share this content on social media based on this."

So I paste in the whole article or post. "Based on that, give me a dozen tweets or give me texts for a Facebook post” or stuff like that. And it does, and it'll come up with a whole bunch of them.

So as a writer in a hurry, I might come up with a couple of tweets. When I work with ChatGPT, I can ask for 20. And I can go back and say, "Okay, yeah, but let's have a bit more intrigue," and it'll do me 20 more.

And then I'll look through and I'll find the best one or the best two. And yes, they're better than what I would've done on my own, because I didn't have the time to write 40 tweets and choose the best. With ChatGPT, I do.

ilise benun

Yeah. So writers in a hurry, or freelancers in a hurry, or content marketers in a hurry, can certainly benefit. And we may not get beyond content marketing in this episode and may have to do another one on each of the other tools, because I have more questions—and one of them is, I'm thinking of a client, actually, who I'm going to be talking to later today, who apparently spent 10 hours writing what I would consider to be like a ‘cornerstone’ piece of content. I think that's the right term, right?

Nick Usborne


ilise benun

Like a very substantial piece of content, thought leadership, an idea that he's been working on. And he says, “It took him too long. How could he pump something like this out every month?”

And my thought is: well, for thought leadership, that's different from the kind of blogging or content marketing that we're talking about. For myself, I love thinking and having these ideas, and then figuring out how to articulate them, and then disseminating that information. And yes, I make time to do that, and he may not be able to make time to do that.

But I'm curious what you think about just that idea of, like, the real ideas, the ideas no one else is thinking of, the ideas that maybe EI comes into play here, too—where my own emotional intelligence gets integrated or my voice gets integrated into the idea.

What do you think of that, Nick?

Nick Usborne

That is coming. And like I say, with the GPT Builder, where you can actually customize and personalize this. And actually, it's kind of mind-blowing that I can have my own personal version and train it on my own—giving it for context everything that I've ever written.

ilise benun

Yeah, but that's the past. I mean, I guess the distinction I'm making, also, is between the past and old ideas, and new ideas that are consistently or constantly evolving and growing and getting richer and more clarifying.

Nick Usborne

I guess. But let's say I do ... let's say I get the Builder and I feed it the thousands of articles and posts I've written over the last twenty-five years.

I can now say to it things like, "Hey, can you find patterns over the decades of ideas that I've consistently circled back to?"

I can't do that as a human. I can't read through three- or four-thousand pages and try to find those patterns. But this system with ChatGPT is really, really good at that analysis of massive amount of data.

I use it for sentiment analysis, as well, so coming back to EI. All right, let's go back to EI for a minute.

ilise benun


Nick Usborne

So a computer doesn't do emotion, but if you prompt it, if you ask it ...

So for instance, I often do surveys. I use, like, SurveyMonkey or some other tool, because I'm always interested in what my audience, or people I interact with, what their opinions are on things.

So I'll do these SurveyMonkey surveys. And then there's like “yes” and “no,” but then there's always this open-ended question, "Hey, share your additional comments here."

And the last one I did, there's something like 120 comments at the bottom. So I just uploaded them into a file and I copied them and pasted them into ChatGPT and said, "Hey, run me a sentiment analysis on this survey feedback." And it did. So it was actually explicitly looking for emotion.

ilise benun

What is a sentiment analysis?

Nick Usborne

A sentiment analysis, hey, if you do sentiment analysis in ... There's whole companies, there's massive companies out there that do this for big brands.

Basically, it's: What are people feeling about your product or service? What are the emotions people express when they come across a can of Coke, or a Ford motorcar, or whatever the brand is?

So sentiment analysis is basically analyzing the emotional response of your audience to your product or service.

So I can paste in a whole bunch of stuff. I wrote some copy like this. So this is where you can start getting some emotion into AI.

I was writing some copy for a blender. So I went to Amazon and, again, I copied, like, a hundred Amazon reviews for this blender. And then I pasted them into ChatGPT and said, "Run me a sentiment analysis on this." And it did.

It said, "Here are the positive feelings people have about the product. Here are some of the negatives."

I said, "Okay. On the positive side, what is the language people are using to express their positive feelings?" So it comes back and says, "Here are the phrases that consistently come up when they're saying something nice about the product in a positive way."

Then I go back to ChatGPT and I say, "Okay, based on the sentiment analysis and the positive language you've identified, please now write me a sales page for this product,"—which is absolutely freaking amazing, because as a copywriter, this is what I strive to do.

Whenever I'm teaching copywriting, I say, "Job One is to listen to your audience. Understand your audience. Listen to them. Understand their high and low emotions, how they respond to a product or service. Identify the language that they use—that they use, not what the company uses, but what the buyers use. What language do they use to express their appreciation for product?"

So this is what I've been doing for decades. Now, I can do it with ChatGPT.

So, again, when I say there's no emotion to a computer, if I instruct it to identify emotion within a sentiment analysis, it could do that. So there are ways around the no-emotion thing.

I asked it another time to write some emails, and I said, "Okay, but you're kind of leading with features. Can you rewrite this leading with benefits?" And it did.

And I said, "Okay, why don't we start with some kind of little story at the beginning?" So it did. It came up with an example of somebody doing something.

So I look at that, and I print that out, and I think: All right.

Then, what I did in that case is I thought of a story. The story that ChatGPT had opened the email with, it was just three or four lines. I found something equivalent in my own life and experience, so I rewrote it with my real story, all right? So I'm not actually just taking that email and sending it out. Very often, I'm taking the email and then I use that as a template for my own writing.

So okay, ChatGPT made up a story; I'm going to find a real story. Because if I start sharing a real story, there's going to be nuance in there.

Like, if you ask ChatGPT what its weakness is in terms of communication, it'll say that it misses out on the nuance of emotion, on regional differences in viewpoints, it's all the subtle points that it misses. And that's where EI comes in. And that's why when I get output from AI, I'll generally, like say with an email, I'll say, "Hey, that story, I got something like that." And I'll write the real story, and I'll get that nuance in there, so people actually feel it from me.

ilise benun

But if you gave the prompt to write a story, why wouldn't you just write the story?

Nick Usborne

Because I'm interested to see what it comes up with. It's like having a companion. It's like the first time in almost 40 years that I've actually had someone on the other side of the desk to talk with and bounce ideas on.

ilise benun

That's interesting.

Nick Usborne

And that to me ... I do a huge amount of brainstorming with ChatGPT. Remember, this is the smartest, most intelligent, most articulate partner you can imagine. It knows almost everything there is to know in the world, and it can access it in a microsecond. This is the smartest person or smartest thing you'll ever have working at your side. I respect that, so I ask its opinion.

And it's way smarter than people think. That short book with the quotes I talked about, the e-book, I challenged it. I said, "Hey, this thing we say in chapter eight, shouldn't we introduce that in chapter two? Because I feel it should appear earlier."

ChatGPT came back and said, "Yes, you're right." So I said, "Okay, rewrite chapter two with this included," and it did. And then it said, "By the way, we now need to look at something in chapter four, because that was based on the fact that we hadn't talked about this yet." So it did some forward-thinking for me.

I didn't explicitly prompt and say, "Hey, do we need to change anything in the intermediate chapters?" It came back to me and said, "Oh, by the way," or equivalent.

And again, I was just dumbfounded like, "How did it do this, because that's not how that engine is meant to work?!”

ilise benun

So okay, Nick, we are going to have to-

Nick Usborne

I know. I'm getting over-excited. I get it.

ilise benun

That's all right, that's all right. Relax. But we are going to have to wrap up this episode, so obviously we're going to have other ones because we've only talked about content marketing and kind of barely scratched the surface. But I have two questions for you before we say goodbye.

One is, again, bringing it back to marketing, right? If freelancers, copywriters, designers, photographers, whoever, want to integrate AI into their content marketing for themselves, then—and maybe this is similar to the baby step question that I'm going to ask you, and if so, we just have one answer—but what should they do? What should one do if they want to start integrating AI into their content marketing?

Nick Usborne

Okay, first off is do not use AI in your client or prospect-facing content. If you're writing something to a client, if you're writing like prospecting, don't use AI, don't use AI tools.

ilise benun


Nick Usborne

Because everyone else is doing the same, and companies are already coming back and saying, "You know what? I had 10 proposals come in this week and they all sounded exactly the same."

And they sounded exactly the same because somebody is using a top-20 prompts on how to grab new clients. So don't do that. You've got to be unique. You've got to maintain your own ... you know, you’ve got to differentiate yourself. You cannot sound like other people. So I would never use it in client- or prospect-facing communications.

ilise benun


Nick Usborne

I do use it in content.

Now, like I said, I want to use my own voice for Now that doesn’t mean to say that I don’t  use ....

I use AI extensively, as for brainstorming, for research, for, hey, give me an outline.

So probably most of the posts and articles that are written in the last six months has been this collaboration ... is like, I'll do some research, like: Hey, here are my last 10 blog post headlines. Based on that, what do you think I should write about next?

So, it's just like chatting with a friend across the table, like a work colleague, right? So I'm doing the research, then I say, "Okay, can you find-"

ilise benun

Or a marketing coach, maybe?

Nick Usborne

Yeah, yes, or a marketing ... .

So I use it for brainstorming, and then I'll say, "Hey, do me 10 potential headlines for this idea, then." And it does. And I say, "Okay, give me an outline, a structure for this piece." And it does. And then I write. So I've been collaborating up to that point. I don't want AI actually writing that final piece. I want it a hundred percent my voice. But I use it. It really speeds things up because it helps me identify good topics; it helps me think of different ways of introducing with a headline; it comes up with some interesting structural ideas for me.

ilise benun

So collaborating and brainstorming, but not for the final output, essentially?

Nick Usborne

Unless it's something like if you're working with a client or  ... hey, if I’m writing ...

I have a website about coffee; I have a website about mushrooms; this is about what is the best way to make coffee or something. I'll use AI almost a hundred percent till the cows come home on that kind of content.

ilise benun

Because you don't need it to be as good, or as strong, or as high quality as the stuff on Nick Usborne?

Nick Usborne

It's not that; it's the voice. I'm trying to protect my brand. I've spent 40 years building the brand of Nick Usborne. And the way I do that, I'm a writer. I express it in my writing, and occasionally when I'm speaking, but basically when I'm writing. So I don't want to mess with that.

The quality of the content I create for my content-rich sites, like mushrooms and coffee and stuff, it's not lower quality. It's just not in Nick Usborne's voice. And I don't mind. If I'm talking about mushrooms or coffee, I don't mind if it's in Nick Usborne's voice. The quality isn't low. The quality is sometimes quite much higher.

ilise benun


Nick Usborne

Because it can access everything. It can access all the knowledge on something.

One other thing I wanted to throw in, if we've got an extra 10 seconds, is one thing I've learned by looking at EI and layering in this emotionally-intelligent writing is I've also thought: Oh my goodness, I wish I'd thought of this 20 years ago, because I should be applying EI to my client relations—how I talk to prospects, how I interact with clients.

I know I've been guilty of sometimes thinking: Hey, a client's a client. It's my contact person. They give me the brief. I send the work. They write the checks. Stuff like that.

But of course, it's not the case at all; that person is a human with perhaps complicated and a difficult relationship with some colleagues at work, or maybe her manager is giving a really hard time this quarter or whatever. And I think sometimes, as freelancers, we forget that people working in companies are people like us, and they have bad days and good days.

So if I would go back to redo the last 20 years, I would try to be more emotionally intelligent in my dealings with and communications with prospects and clients.

ilise benun

And finally, then, is that something AI could help you do today? Or is that something you have to work on within yourself?

Nick Usborne

It's both, it's both. Hey, I can get ChatGPT and say, "Hey, I'm a freelancer. I work with client companies. What are the 10 complaints companies have most often about working with freelancers?"

I don't know the answer, but in 30 seconds, I would, if I just asked ChatGPT.

So I can research stuff like that. But no. Mainly this is on the emotionally-intelligent side. So if I improve my level of emotional intelligence, as a writer, that's going to help with my copywriting. And it's going to make sure that when I have artificial intelligence plus emotional intelligence, everything I produce will still be unique. It'll still be different. I'll still be differentiating myself or my client's brand.

In terms of dealing with my relationships with companies, with my contact people, with my clients, then that is going to be all emotional intelligence. It's like when I look back, you know, I sometimes thought to myself: Hey, I wonder why some freelancers keep clients for 10 years, but I don't?

And it's probably because those other freelancers are more emotionally intelligent than I am, so they build these really, really deep relationships with their clients and prospects.

ilise benun

Interesting. All right, that seems like the perfect place to ‘put the bookmark,’ as they say.

And why don't you tell the people where they can find out more about you and everything that you offer?

Nick Usborne, and you'll find my blog there, where I talk about all of this extensively.

I have a course called “Futureproof Copywriting,” which basically is the how-to of ... well, it's in three parts. It's one, dive deep into AI, because it's super powerful. Two, understand what emotionally-intelligent writing is. And the third part of the course is how to then blend the two so you're writing with AI plus EI.

ilise benun


All right, Nick, well, to be continued, of course, for podcast episode number four for us. But just thank you so much, so far, for sharing all of that, and I'll talk to you again soon.

Nick Usborne

Thank you very much. Thank you.

ilise benun

Wow, we didn't even get to a baby step this time, but stay tuned for part two and maybe even part three of this conversation. There was, and is, a lot to talk about.

So if you want to build a thriving business on your own terms, the first step is to sign up for my Quick Tips at Once you're on the site, you'll find lots more resources, including my Simplest Marketing Plan. So enjoy, and I'll see you next time.

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