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AI should be your agency’s friend, not foe

In this episode, Chip and Gini discuss the widespread apprehension about AI in the agency world, urging listeners to embrace the technology rather than fear it.

They emphasize that AI will not replace jobs but will change the nature of work, making tasks more efficient and allowing for more strategic focus. The conversation also explores how agency owners can leverage AI to create new service models and improve client offerings.

Key takeaways

  • Gini Dietrich: “I don’t think AI is going to replace us. I do think it’s going to change the way that we do our jobs. It’s going to make us more effective.”
  • Chip Griffin: “One of the things that I hear is, it’s going to cut down our rates. Well, like for like, it ought to. If you’re not doing something new and different and additional, you absolutely should charge less for the things that AI is helping you do faster, because that’s what happens with all technology.”
  • Gini Dietrich: “Technology is coming at us really fast, and the way that we adapt to it is what’s going to set us apart.”
  • Chip Griffin: “Instead of freaking out about artificial intelligence, you need to use the other kind of AI – actual intelligence – to come up with a plan to move forward.”



The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

Chip Griffin: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin.

Gini Dietrich: And I’m Gini Dietrich.

Chip Griffin: And Gini. I don’t have a witty opening. I just have a message for people. Stop being afraid of AI.

Gini Dietrich: Amen. Yes, totally agree. 100%. Yes.

Chip Griffin: The amount of hand wringing that I see, not just in the agency world, but elsewhere around AI.

Gini Dietrich: In general. Yeah.

Chip Griffin: You know, it’s going to take our jobs. It’s going to mean that we can’t charge clients as much. We’re going to lose business because of it. The we’re going to get scammed and conned because of it. It’s, I mean, just all of these things, it just take a deep breath folks. Take a deep breath. You don’t need to go out and disclose everything.

You don’t need to go out there and, you know, put it into your contracts that you use AI. Have you used a grammar checker? Yeah. Okay. Do you put that in your contracts too? Do you use interns? Do you put that in your contract too? I mean, come on folks. Let’s take a deep breath.

Gini Dietrich: I totally agree with you. And I think that I don’t, I agree that it’s not going to replace us.

I do think it’s going to change the way that we do our jobs. It’s going to make us more effective. does that mean that we can charge clients less? No, because we’re going to be doing more strategic, thoughtful work than like the tactical administrative stuff. And the way I like to think about it and the way I present it to our clients is.

What are some of the things you, you have to do that you don’t enjoy doing? It could be anything from media list development to data research, to metrics reporting, to results reporting, to drafting presentations, like there’s all sorts of, what I would call administrative tasks that we have to do daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, because they’re critical to our jobs, but not necessarily things we enjoy doing.

That’s what AI can help you do. So rather than say, well, I have to sit down and I have to pull all the reports from analytics and then I have to look at the metrics and figure out what changed. Like AI can do all of that for you. You don’t have to worry about doing that kind of stuff. And then you can focus on the things that you really enjoy doing.

If it’s strategic work, if it’s writing, if it’s, you know, Google ads, if it’s PPC, whatever it happens to be that you enjoy doing, you can focus on that.

Chip Griffin: Absolutely. And I mean, there’s so many benefits that potentially can be had from it. Now, I mean, you know, one of the big things that I hear is, well, you know, it’s going to cut down our rates.

Well, like for like it ought to. Right. Like, if you’re not doing something new and different and additional, you absolutely should charge less for the things that AI is helping you do faster, because that’s what happens with all technology. Correct. And back when I started in the agency world, we charged people for photocopies and faxes and the time that it took to do those things.

Gini Dietrich: Right. Yes.

Chip Griffin: You charge people for that today? No, and you shouldn’t because you’re not using copies and faxes and things are faster. When I started out in the agency world, I spent every, every morning going through newspapers with an exacto knife and cutting out stories and taping them onto a piece of paper and photocopying them and then sending those as faxes.

All of that was billable time for the client project. Whether you billed by the hour or factored into your project cost, it was all there. You don’t do that anymore. You get your Google alert or your alert from some other system and you just have it and you forward it along a lot faster. You should absolutely charge less for that work than you did 30 years ago when it was all manual.

Gini Dietrich: Right. Yeah. And so exactly that. When you think about, okay, if it’s, if we’re going to spend less time doing all the things that we’ve talked about and more time doing the things that we’re really good at or enjoy doing, then yeah, you’re going to charge less for those administrative tasks, which to your point, you should, And more for the things that the outputs that actually result in moving an organization’s business forward. And clients are gonna be happier with that.

I mean, I’ve used this example, the example of the client of ours that does the hour long webinar every week and how it used to take us two weeks to create all the assets for one webinar. And now it takes us like 45 minutes. We have, the budget hasn’t changed, but we’ve shifted the work that we’re doing and we can do more strategic work that quite honestly, we’ve had on the backburner for a couple of years because we haven’t had the time or the budget or the scope to get to it. And he’s completely happy because he’s getting things a lot faster, he’s communicating to his audience more quickly, and we’re getting to do more work. So it hasn’t reduced our fee, but it has reduced the way or changed the way that we do the work.

Chip Griffin: Right. Because you’ve continued to evolve. And I think any agency that is not continuing to evolve, whether it’s AI or anything else, you can’t do business the same way that you did it 5, 10, 20 years ago. You have to change. Your audiences are in different places, the technology is different that you use to get your work done, the workforce is different, all of these things contribute to the need to evolve and adapt and come up with new things that you can be doing that are more effective than the things that you did those 5 or 10 years ago when it was a lot more difficult to do certain tasks.

Gini Dietrich: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I, I mean, to your point at the very beginning, stop being afraid of it. Stop wringing your hands. You know, I think every, there was a conversation about it in the Spin Sucks community. And I think some people are really worried about things like, what if we get scammed or what if somebody uses our voice or what if somebody uses our likeness?

Well, Guess what? There are bad actors no matter what and people are going to use all of this to scam people just because that’s what they do. It’s not any different than them scamming people with phone calls or with mail or anything else. It’s just a different way of doing it.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, I mean, it, you know, does AI come up with some more interesting ways of doing scams?

Sure, absolutely. But people have been being scammed for centuries. People even today are still being scammed by simple things like phone and mail and email.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, yeah.

Chip Griffin: You don’t need the fancy AI stuff to get there. If you’re susceptible to being scammed, does the AI make it a little bit easier? Perhaps, but it also is something that’s out there no matter what.

And for folks who are worried about that, you need to address the whole culture of scamming, not the technology around individual pieces, because otherwise you’d just be playing whack a mole. And what are we going to try to do, just get rid of everything? You can’t get rid of all technology.

Gini Dietrich: Right, right.

Yeah. And I think, you know, I think there’s a pretty big opportunity in here for agency owners that we’re not necessarily thinking about. And I did a recent Spin Sucks podcast episode on this. but I think there’s an opportunity for us to think about AI in a new way, and especially for agency owners, how we might create things that we can build a subscription model on, for instance.

So say that you’re doing sentiment analysis and media monitoring and, crisis preparedness and results reporting. AI can do all of that for you now. And you create it in a way that it’s, that it’s applicable to your specific clients. So you have an AI that does, does it for all four of those things, for instance, for one client. And you offer that to the client as a subscription model because it’s created and it’s, it’s sort of a passive income thing where they get a report as often as they want daily, weekly, monthly, however they want it and they get exactly what they want. And then you, you have the oversight of saying, okay, we saw this in your report.

And this is what it means, or this is what you should be thinking about. And so you, you’re adding on that layer of strategic oversight. So then you’re getting paid for that too. So I think there’s a really big opportunity for us to be thinking about how we create our own AI and how we train existing models to be able to quote unquote, sell it to our clients.

Chip Griffin: Absolutely. And, and the opportunities really do abound. And if you look past the immediate fear and, and you start to say, okay, well, how can I take advantage of this, you end up in a better place. And so I think about agencies that do a lot of creation, whether those that’s writing or video or photography or audio or all of those kinds of things.

And, and I hear a lot of folks in those communities saying, oh my God, AI is going to take away my job as a writer because nobody’s going to pay me to do this. And guess what? If it’s run of the mill SEO volume work. Yeah. You, I mean, absolutely. You’re not going to be able to make a living writing that kind of schlock.

The fact that you could up until now is just, you know, you were lucky. That, but that’s, if you’re writing original stuff, things that can only be done by someone who actually has the knowledge and that you’re tapping into your expertise or the expertise of your clients, and you’re communicating that in an original way, you’ll be fine.

It’s like photographers. People know I do photography on the side for the most part. And so in that photography community, there are a lot of folks who are like, well, this generative AI, it’s destroying it. I don’t want them taking my images because it’s going to put me out of business.

Well, then come up with photographs that can’t just be duplicated. If you’re taking a photograph of the exact same thing as everybody else, if you’re just doing stock photography, yes. Those are the kinds of things that are going to go away, but there’s still plenty of opportunity to be had if you look for it and you think creatively.

Gini Dietrich: I think that’s a really good example too, because you know, everybody freaked out when the camera was introduced on the iPhone and later the Android, right? All the photography industry was like, Oh my gosh, we’re going to be replaced because everybody can take a picture. And that’s true. We can all take pictures. But Chip, you started your side business,

what, three years ago, four years ago, after all of this came about. So people have their phones, their cameras on their phones, and you’re still able to do professional photography work because you’re doing different things and you’re doing it in a way that’s appealing to your community. So I think to your point, that’s a great example of things change. Technology is coming at us really fast, and the way that we adapt to it is what’s going to set us apart.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, I mean the photography that I do is sports photography. I mean, you can’t you can’t do AI images of a game because the game hasn’t happened. And in order for it to do it, it would need to be able to tap into something, in other words, video or photos that someone had already done of the game.

Right. So as long as you’re creating original stuff, or I do senior and family photos.

Gini Dietrich: Yep.

Chip Griffin: AI is not going to create, you know, your family photo for you. Right. It may help improve it, and most photographers I know use generative AI to improve images. Sure, sure. And so it’s kind of hypocritical for you to use it in your product that you’re creating and, and say, well, I don’t, I don’t want my stuff to be helping to train it. I don’t want others to have access to it because it’s going to put me out of work. Right. So, and if we think about these things, and we’re so protective of the way that we do things, whether it’s our job or our agency or whatever.

We lose out on everything that takes place. And we’ve been going through this cycle for a long time. I mean, how many blacksmiths are there out there today? A lot fewer than there were 150 years ago. Have you, have you found a horse and buggy driver outside of Central Park in the last, you know, 50 years?

Probably not. They all, things shift as technology shifts. We need to adapt with it and not freak out by it. And I think it’s the overreaction that’s going to put a lot of individuals and agencies into trouble because you’re either because you’re going to lean so heavily into it and say, well, this changes everything.

Right. And I can just do everything entirely differently, or you resist it all. And you say, no, I need to protect the way things were. There’s a happy middle ground in there where you’ll have a thriving business that does great work for clients.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I mean, yes, we have continued to evolve.

If we don’t evolve, we’re dead. So, the idea that we’re going to bury our heads in the sand and pretend this isn’t happening is the wrong thing to do, because it’s happening. And this, I may have already said this on this podcast, but it reminds me of like 2010 ish when I started speaking and to groups of CEOs and, and we, I would talk about social media and they’d all be like, no, it’s for the kids.

It’s a fad. It’s not going to affect my business. And I would be like, no, it is going to affect your business and you are going to have to use it. And, and the, the mass majority of them would be like, no. Don’t have to worry about it. I don’t need to hear this. La la la la la. They’d stick their fingers in their ears. And look where we are today.

So it’s, this is the same thing. Like, don’t stick your fingers in your ears and, and yell, la la la la la. Don’t stick your head in the sand. It’s too late to put the genie back in the bottle. It’s here. So figure out ways to grasp the opportunity and make the best out of it for your agency.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. And look, I mean, the reality is that in the agency world, jobs have gone away in our lifetimes in the course of my career.

Yes. If I look back 30 years ago, every agency had an admin assistant or secretary or something like that who handled all of these things like faxes and photocopies and answering the phone and filling out the while you were out slips and, and all of these things. That doesn’t happen. I can’t think of an agency that has a pure admin.

I, there are ones who have maybe some office manager type responsibilities, but usually with substantive stuff alongside of it, because you can’t fill 40 hours a week.

Gini Dietrich: Yep. Yep.

Chip Griffin: And so we’ve seen these changes take place in our lifetimes, but we’ve also seen the creation of new jobs. When I first started out, nobody was doing digital media.

Nobody was doing social media. PR agencies tended not to get into paid media at all. And now we have the lovely PESO model that informs you how you can go out and do a bunch of different things under the same umbrella in order to help your clients most effectively.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I mean, I, I’m thinking about, you know, when I worked at Fleishman Hillard and there was a receptionist and all she did all day long was answer the phone. That doesn’t exist anymore.

Because we all use our cell phones. Like I remember a time where it felt weird to give your cell phone number to clients or to use your cell phone for business purposes because you had a desk phone. Well, that hasn’t happened in years, right? At least not for me. So the idea that. You would have a recipient sitting there at the front desk only answering phones is antiquated.

Are there other things that person can do? For sure, but it’s not the same role that was 10, 15 years ago.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. I mean, when I worked on Capitol Hill, there were literally people in my office who did nothing but answer the phone cause it just rang

all day long. And, and on my desk, I had one of those big metal spokes where you just, every time you returned a phone call on the pink message slip, you just, the satisfying feel of putting it down on the spike and you’d see it grow and you’re like, well, I did a lot of work.

Gini Dietrich: Oh, man, I was productive today.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. I mean, and, I mean, most, I think a lot of people listening probably never experienced that and probably don’t even understand what the heck I’m talking about.

I mean, I, a significant number of agency employees, at least, if not owners don’t know what a while you were out slip looks like. But those of us who were around 20 or 30 years ago. It’s etched into our brain because we had so many of them sitting on our desks in our offices. You know, when you come back from lunch and you’re like, Oh, here’s a stack.

Great. Fantastic.

Gini Dietrich: Right.

Chip Griffin: So you just need to learn to evolve. And, and instead of freaking out about artificial intelligence, you need to use the other kind of AI – actual intelligence to come up with an actual plan to move forward. And, and for those of you who are not watching on video right now, we are getting a cameo appearance from Gini’s daughter, who is on her first day of summer break.


Gini Dietrich: yeah,

Chip Griffin: apparently really likes the camera.

Gini Dietrich: It’s going to be a long week.

Chip Griffin: I wouldn’t have said a long week, you have the whole summer.

Gini Dietrich: Camp starts next week.

Chip Griffin: Ah, okay. Well, so you only have a week to get through this then.

I guess this is a backdoor way for her to get some screen time though.

Yeah, she’s trying.

If her screen time is watching me, I feel really sorry for her.

Gini Dietrich: I was telling Chip before we started. I don’t like, I don’t allow the screen, so she’s

Chip Griffin: Yeah, well, before this totally devolves and goes downhill because the AI isn’t going to help you manage that situation, so we probably should wrap up this episode. I think I feel like I’ve gotten this rant off my chest.

Don’t be afraid of it.

It’s not our first time talking about AI. I will be consistent in my messaging. You know, we’ll come back to this periodically because it’s, it’s going to be something that, that you all need to be thinking about and truly it is all technology. It is not just, we’re talking about AI and, and AI is the popular one today.

But as you point out, we’ve had these, we had this with social media, right? You had the same kind of thing. You had the overreaction in both directions. Social media destroys everything else media relations wise, or, Oh my God, it’s a huge threat. The truth is almost always somewhere in the middle. So find that middle ground and you’ll be successful.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah. And like I said, I think there’s a big, big opportunity for agencies right now. So huge opportunity. Yeah.

Chip Griffin: Huge. Absolutely. On that note, we’ll wrap up this episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m almost speechless here. We now have a dog on the video here. So if you, if you really want an entertaining show, watch the video version, don’t just listen to us.

Gini Dietrich: This is like a replay of 2020 all over again,

Chip Griffin: it does feel a bit like that On that note, I’m Chip Griffin.

Gini Dietrich: I’m Gini Dietrich.

Chip Griffin: And it depends.

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The Hosts

Chip Griffin is the founder of the Small Agency Growth Alliance (SAGA) where he helps PR & marketing agency owners build the businesses that they want to own. He brings more than two decades of experience as an agency executive and entrepreneur to share the wisdom of his success and lessons of his failures. Follow him on Twitter at @ChipGriffin.


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, the lead blogger at Spin Sucks, and the host of Spin Sucks the podcast. She also is co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Follow her on Twitter at @GiniDietrich.

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