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Christopher P. Willis on Using AI to Create a Better User Experience with Better Content
Episode 104th October 2021 • Data Driven • Data Driven
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In this episode, Frank and Andy speak to Christopher P. Willis about Using AI to Create a Better User Experience with Better Content.

Certainly, if you have ever you read instructions or product documentation that left you annoyed and confused, then you can appreciate the work he does with Acrolinx.


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00:00:00 BAILey 

Hello and welcome to data driven. 

00:00:02 BAILey 

In this episode Frank and Andy speak with Christopher Willis about how artificial intelligence can help bake brands create congruent content across cultures, languages and writers. 

00:00:13 BAILey 

One quick word of correction. 

00:00:15 BAILey 

Frank made the assumption that CPO was chief product Officer. 

00:00:19 BAILey 

Chris is actually Chief pipeline officer. 

00:00:21 BAILey 

In addition to being chief marketing Officer, Acrolinx currently does not have a chief product officer. 

00:00:28 BAILey 

Frank should know by now what happens when you assume anything. 

00:00:32 BAILey 

I'll have a chat with him later. 

00:00:34 BAILey 

For now, enjoy the show. 

00:00:44 Frank 

Hello and welcome to data driven, the podcast where we explore the emerging fields of data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence. 

00:00:52 Frank 

If you'd like to think of data as the new oil, then you can think of us like Car Talk because we focus on where the rubber meets the virtual road and with me on this epic road trip down the information. 

00:01:04 Frank 

Superhighway as always is Andy Leonard. 

00:01:07 Frank 

How's it going Andy? 

00:01:08 Andy 

Good Frank, how are you doing? 

00:01:10 Frank 

I'm doing great, I'm doing great. 

00:01:11 Frank 

It's a beautiful Tuesday morning here in the DC area. 

00:01:14 Frank 

We're recording this on September 28th and I can't believe it's already October. 

00:01:22 Andy 

Almost gosh, yeah, yeah. 

00:01:23 Frank 

Almost October. 

00:01:25 Andy 

It's it's been beautiful fall weather. 

00:01:28 Andy 

Past few days here in sunny Farmville, VA. 

00:01:33 Andy 

And I'm really enjoying that. 

00:01:35 Andy 

Got a lot of outdoors work done in the past few days and that's always a good thing. 

00:01:40 Frank 

Yeah, we just built the trampoline for the kids and that was a was a lot of fun. 

00:01:46 Frank 

'cause the. 

00:01:46 Frank 

Instructions were horrible. 

00:01:50 Andy 

Did you get one with that big net around it? 

00:01:53 Andy 

Keep from bouncing off and 'cause otherwise it should come with a coupon for a free cast. 

00:01:58 Frank 

Freecast and free healthcare that'd be funny. 

00:02:00 Andy 

Yes, yes, that's right, yeah. 

00:02:03 Frank 

Yeah, so without further ado I'd like to introduce we have this. 

00:02:07 Frank 

Awesome guest today. 

00:02:08 Frank 

We've been really lucking out on terms of folks coming to us and and suggesting guests for us, which is quite refreshing, actually. 

00:02:17 Frank 

So so today we have with us Christopher Willis, Acrolinx Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Product Officer. 

00:02:25 Frank 

Christopher is an expert in technology, marketing and brand alignment alignment with over 20 years of experience in with some of the world biggest tech names including Perfecto. 

00:02:35 Frank 

Kmag and Cambridge technology group. 

00:02:39 Frank 

And through his work at Acrolinx, he's become a renowned thought leader on the topics of content governance and brand alignment. 

00:02:46 Frank 

He's also an expert on AI and how AI can help. 

00:02:50 Frank 

Big brands can great create congruent content across cultures, language and writers. 

00:02:56 Frank 

Acrolinx creates tools for developing content that feels human, relatable, and compassionate. 

00:03:01 Frank 

It's already used by some of the biggest brands in the technology world today, so welcome to the show, Chris. 

00:03:09 Christopher 

Thank you, I'm excited about your trampoline. 

00:03:12 Frank 

Well, thank you. 

00:03:12 Frank 

Thank you. 

00:03:13 Frank 

You should come on down I. 

00:03:14 Frank 

I think you're on the East Coast somewhere in Boston. 

00:03:17 Christopher 

I am outside of Boston, yes? 

00:03:18 Frank 

Awesome cool cool you never know 'cause sometimes people will put where they used to live on LinkedIn and not update that so. 

00:03:26 Christopher 

Nope, haven't gone anywhere in what a year? 

00:03:27 Christopher 

And a. 

00:03:27 Christopher 

Half if not. 

00:03:28 Frank 

Right, right? 

00:03:29 Christopher 

A lot, not a lot of travel, yeah? 

00:03:30 Frank 

Year and a half in the two week lockdown. 

00:03:35 Frank 

Well, welcome to the show so so. 

00:03:38 Frank 

Tell me about what so, so you're a CMO and a CPO. 

00:03:43 Frank 

That's that's, uh. 

00:03:45 Frank 

That's an interesting mix I I can see how the two are related, but can you explain kind of like what it is you do for acrolinx and maybe a little bit about. 

00:03:54 Christopher 

So I do a bunch of things. 

00:03:55 Christopher 

I I I joined the company to run marketing and marketing has. 

00:04:00 Christopher 

A lot of. 

00:04:00 Christopher 

Reach in this organization because of what we do and who we sell to. 

00:04:05 Christopher 

So I reach into pipeline. 

00:04:07 Christopher 

I reach into the product process on product marketing in there and come from a background where this approach really resonates and makes a lot of sense and the way that we collect and build and use data is very aligned to the way that I've. 

00:04:24 Christopher 

I've built content in the past. 

00:04:28 Frank 

Interesting, interesting. 

00:04:29 Frank 

So the the product at acrolinx it it. 

00:04:33 Frank 

It uses AI to create content. 

00:04:36 Frank 

So, so like what does that do is? 

00:04:38 Christopher 

Different so we are. 

00:04:38 Frank 

It kind of NLP. 

00:04:40 Christopher 

We're improving content, so we're we're about being improving the quality and effectiveness of enterprise. 

00:04:47 Christopher 

Content so the easiest way to think about what we do is everybody that writes everybody that owns a content organization, whether that's in a development group with technical documentation or product manuals, or marketing content enablement content, internal education. 

00:05:04 Christopher 

All these folks have a whiteboard in their office and. 

00:05:07 Christopher 

On that whiteboard are all the components of language, the way that they want to create their content. 

00:05:12 Christopher 

It's the tone of voice. 

00:05:13 Christopher 

It's the clarity level education level of their of their readers. 

00:05:17 Christopher 

It's the amount of compassion, emotion, inclusiveness that they want in their contents. 

00:05:22 Christopher 

The words that they want to use and that they don't want. 

00:05:24 Christopher 

Use, it's all up there on the whiteboard. 

00:05:26 Christopher 

They feel good about it. 

00:05:28 Christopher 

They've defined essentially the voice of their group or their organization. 

00:05:32 Christopher 

The problem with that whiteboard is that it's in their office and nobody can see it, and even if they could, we don't have a writers pool in the world anymore. 

00:05:40 Christopher 

We're all writers when you go to work, a byproduct of your work is. 

00:05:45 Christopher 

Content, and so. 

00:05:46 Christopher 

As a marketer I get my best content from folks that don't touch marketing. 

00:05:51 Christopher 

They're just smart people that can create so they don't. 

00:05:55 Christopher 

They don't care about what's on my whiteboard at all, and. 

00:06:00 Christopher 

When we were, I mean, the last seven or eight years you talked about. 

00:06:03 Christopher 

The potential for the digital shift, and I think everybody been using that as a marketing buzzword like digital shift is coming. 

00:06:10 Christopher 

You got to get ready and I don't know if anybody ever really thought it was coming, but it was a great way to so some fear into our prospects that if you don't modernize, the world is going to change. 

00:06:20 Christopher 

Holy crap March hit last year and the digital shift arrives and now you're only touchpoint with your consumer is through digital content for some period of time and it became really apparent to folks that how you commute. 

00:06:36 Christopher 

Gay matters and then all the things that happened last year from from a social standpoint. 

00:06:43 Christopher 

Language took on a very lead role. 

00:06:46 Christopher 

And how do you as an enterprise ensure that you're communicating in the voice of your audience? 

00:06:53 Christopher 

And that's where Acrolinx comes in. 

00:06:54 Christopher 

We look at terminology. 

00:06:56 Christopher 

We look at. 

00:06:56 Christopher 

It's style guidelines voice guidelines to be able to create this essentially central lexecon of how to communicate his business and then. 

00:07:07 Christopher 

Either your writers in real time use acrolinx in their sidebar and what in whatever authoring tool they're using, whether they're using something like madcap flare or Adobe products or Google Docs or Microsoft or anything in a browser. 

00:07:21 Christopher 

Uhm, you're able to use acrolinx in real time to check there your content. 

00:07:25 Christopher 

Acrolinx checks for all the components that. 

00:07:28 Christopher 

It's learned from your organization to create great content and provide you with the score. 

00:07:32 Christopher 

You can improve over time or through automation. 

00:07:35 Christopher 

So think in terms of continuous process, continuous delivery of content. 

00:07:42 Christopher 

I'm checking content in it's being scored delivered back to me. 

00:07:45 Christopher 

I'm making changes and it's rolling out at the speed of my. 

00:07:48 Christopher 

Development process. 

00:07:50 Christopher 

So at the base of what we're doing, when you think about where we're at, it's it's really about taking content in stream of characters, extracting that content, buying the context of that, identifying. 

00:08:03 Christopher 

Uh, your tokens either at the word level at the sentence. 

00:08:06 Christopher 

Level and then adding in the linguistic data underneath that around morphology and compound analysis to understand what's. 

00:08:14 Christopher 

In the content that we're we're looking at identifying terminology and and variant detection and then laying patterns on top of that, our proprietary secret sauce to be able to provide that. 

00:08:26 Christopher 

That feedback of whether or not your content is correct on character on tone on terminology, and then that feeds back. 

00:08:34 Christopher 

To users in the form of guidance. 

00:08:37 Frank 

Interesting, so it guides the people who are creating the content doesn't necessarily generate the content for them. 

00:08:45 Christopher 

We don't override and we don't right because customers. 

00:08:47 Frank 


00:08:49 Christopher 

If you think in terms of who our customers are. 

00:08:51 Christopher 

Our our customers tend to be the largest technology companies in the world, so think top 20 global technology companies almost every single one of them uses acrolinx and. 

00:09:02 Christopher 

A piece of guidance might be useful, it might be on purpose, so as an example, when I write through my system and I write the word software. 

00:09:12 Christopher 

It says Are you sure you didn't mean platform? 

00:09:14 Christopher 

And why does it say that? 

00:09:15 Christopher 

Because in my world, if we're talking about our product, I don't want my employees to call it software, it's it's platform. 

00:09:21 Christopher 

It's an extensible platform with integration pieces and an API. 

00:09:24 Christopher 

I don't want to sell it as software. 

00:09:26 Christopher 

But I might have meant to say software. 

00:09:29 Christopher 

So I don't want to. 

00:09:30 Christopher 

I don't want to enforce that rule. 

00:09:32 Christopher 

I want to provide guidance and if you agree with that guidance, you implement that guidance. 

00:09:37 Christopher 

We have the technology to override that, but in almost every case that doesn't make sense to the customer. 

00:09:45 Andy 

So is the input for the content is it? 

00:09:46 Frank 

What is this? 

00:09:46 Frank 

What this? 

00:09:50 Andy 

Is it spoken or written or all of the above? 

00:09:55 Christopher 

All of the above, so we can take in. 

00:09:57 Christopher 

I mean, there's a number of ways to teach the platform to be your editor. 

00:10:04 Christopher 

One is to pull mass quantities of content. 

00:10:07 Christopher 

Give me all your great content. 

00:10:09 Christopher 

What does it look like? 

00:10:10 Christopher 

Identify what you think is good and we're going to read through that, and the system will read through all that content and start generating guidelines. 

00:10:15 Christopher 

Based on what you believe is great content today. 

00:10:18 Christopher 

Uhm, there's also the ability to just go in and into our interface and set guidelines so you can set a tone of voice you can identify how lively you want your content. 

00:10:29 Christopher 

Today there are challenges to all of those methods because over time you're going to learn more, and that's part of what I've really been aiming to. 

00:10:39 Christopher 

Evolve with the product is. 

00:10:42 Christopher 

Gartner, the analyst firm, has said that 50% of of marketers, people that set the company voice are. I don't think this is the word they use, but I. 

00:10:52 Christopher 

Will use guessing. 

00:10:54 Christopher 

I have a good idea of what my audience wants to hear, so I define my tone of voice. 

00:10:58 Christopher 

I define the words that I'm going to use I I think I know what people want to hear. 

00:11:02 Christopher 

And if I use acronyms. 

00:11:05 Christopher 

Go ahead and I take all that information that I've gathered, and I teach acrolinx to to help create content like that and the output of acrolinx is an Acura link score so you're aiming for 100. 

00:11:17 Christopher 

Most customers are aiming for 80. 

00:11:18 Christopher 

You want to be 80 or better. 

00:11:20 Christopher 

80 means good, 90 means done, numeric value of of good and done, so no subjectivity. 

00:11:26 Christopher 

It's just it is what it is. 

00:11:28 Christopher 

This is either on my guidance or it's not on my guidance and. 

00:11:32 Christopher 

If I get 100 acrolinx score on a piece of content, well by God, that's going to perform fantastically. It's exactly what I think. 

00:11:41 Christopher 

My audience wants to hear and how I think they want to hear it. 

00:11:43 Christopher 

The important word in. 

00:11:45 Christopher 

There though, is I think. 

00:11:47 Christopher 

I think that. 

00:11:49 Christopher 

Where I want to aim to get to is the ability to create a feedback loop from my audience. 

00:11:54 Christopher 

So think in terms of support...




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