In the wonderful movie The Magic of Belle Ile, Morgan Freeman plays a novelist who has lost his passion for writing.
While visiting the small town of Belle Isle, he reluctantly befriends a single mother and her three daughters. Everyone helps her find inspiration to write again. When Finnegan, the middle girl, asks him to teach her how to be a writer, he repeatedly asks her, “What’s there that you don’t see?”
At first, she answers the obvious: “A cowboy and a horse”. But the novelist explains that he asks her to “find her own business”. He wants her to use her imagination to build her stories around the important things and ideas that are not immediately obvious when looking at something.
What’s there that you don’t see? @morgan_freeman asks a question from an aspiring writer in The Magic of Belle Isle. Now @Robert_Rose asks the content marketers question via @CMIContent. Click to tweet
I am struck by this concept because two recent things related to generative AI make me think of what is not seen.
AI does not invent anything
In Google’s recent announcement on the the inclusion of generative AI in its research results, he used a bad example to demonstrate it. As explained in CMI weekly newsthe research question was whether a family with young children and a dog would prefer Arches National Park or Bryce Canyon.
The AI-infused answer was impressive, but closer examination reveals that it doesn’t fully answer the researcher’s question. In this case, the AI-driven engine looked at available content (primarily park websites), “saw” what was there, and reported on it.
Now, the bland response isn’t solely the fault of Google’s new search engine. After all, that can’t explain why one park works better for this family than the other. The lackluster response, however, points to an intriguing opportunity for content marketers.
What should be in your content that isn’t?
In Google’s example, both national parks built their dog-related content with one goal: to explain everything dogs can’t do. They answer almost any question someone might have about following the rules.
What’s not in this dog-related content? A page (or even a paragraph) of all the wonderful things visitors can do at the park with their wonderful dog in tow.
You can ask the same question about your product pages, blog posts, content hubs, and resource centers. What are you not talking about on these pages? Google’s AI search results demo clearly shows how important currently ignored or missing content will be.
This brings me to my second thing – how AI could help you see what’s not there.
Can AI help us invent things?
Recently I played with AutoGPT And AgentGPTand variants of ChatGPT. When you enter a goal, these tools perform tasks to help you achieve that goal. For example, I asked him to read my book Killing Marketing. Then I listed five authors and asked the AI tool to tell me what I should have written in my book. Simply put: I asked him to tell me what was not there.
Note: He couldn’t read all of the books by the authors I asked about, as most are not available in ChatGPT’s large language model. Given the results, he based his response on synopses, reviews, and other publicly available material.
ChatGPT and its variants simply predict the logical sequence of words by examining the data. So while you can tell this answered more generally than my original query, the answers still taught me a lot about what wasn’t there, including the differences in style and wording between the authors. He also gave many topics and details that were not in my book. Some were interesting, like the lack of “step by step” topics and the oversimplification of “killing the marketing”. Other parts of the answer identified popular concepts, such as SEO.
Of course, the AI tool couldn’t – and can’t – judge whether these missing elements really matter. Did I not include this information because I chose not write about them? Or did I really miss something that would be important to include in a future edition?
AI, however, has provided a unique lens through which I can better see content that isn’t there.
Don’t confuse unanswered questions with what’s not there
It’s easy to confuse “seeing what’s not there” as a question that hasn’t yet been answered. For example, let’s say you’re the content marketer for a working farm focused on education. You need to attract students, teachers and families to visit, so you plan a FAQs about the experience.
You look out the window and see the farm, a field, horses and chickens. As you create the FAQ, you list a few questions: when are the animals fed, how often do the hens lay eggs, and what crops are planted in the field?
However, this list of questions does not go into what is not there. Why don’t the cows live on this farm? Why doesn’t the farm grow corn? Explaining what’s missing can sometimes be as important as explaining what’s there.
In your role, think about the last month of blog posts. Instead of assessing whether they answer questions completely your target personas might have, ask this question: what is the target audience not asking for that they should understand after reading this content?
Expand your imagination and use your priority focus to identify what is important and not immediately obvious after consuming your content.
Use as fuel for distinction
You fuel your brand’s distinction by seeing — and creating content — for what isn’t there. Content may not be an essential part of the buyer’s journey, but it can differentiate your content from others telling similar stories. For example, you could write an entire article about customers who aren’t a good fit for your brand. Or, if you’re selling a playpen, the separate item could be things to do with your pet while you’re here.
Undoubtedly, the evolution of AI is changing the research process. Whether it completely transforms search engines or applies personal content filters that only respond to what the person wants to know or presents new experiences to inform themselves, your content will mix and mingle with other content. on the same subject.
In all of these cases, the way forward requires distinction, and to create that, you can observe and write about what you can. And can’t see.
It’s your story. Say it well.
All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, feel free to add it in the comments.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute