By Michael Semer, Principal, MSMC
What you’ll learn:
- What business ethicists say about generative AI.
- The state of regulation in major countries.
- Best practices for adopting generative AI in an ethical manner.
Content marketing was a fairly fresh cornerstone of B2B business engagement and growth. So the arrival of generative AI has made B2B content creation undergo unexpected – and abrupt – changes.
Beyond the sense of whiplash induced as this “inflection point” occurred almost without warning, there are ethical questions practically screaming for exploration.
In this blog post, let’s delve into the ethical implications of generative AI in B2B content marketing. This will be an overview; the discussions around AI ethics are long, involved, and ongoing, since technology is moving at such a frantic pace that human pundits can barely keep up.
Still, examining the ethics of generative AI is nevertheless an essential task. So we’ll lay out a few insights and considerations for businesses and B2B marketers along with links to valuable resources that delve further into the topic.
The power and potential of generative AI in B2B content marketing
Generative AI has ushered in – or maybe “ushered” is too subdued a word? – a new era in B2B content marketing. These AI models, like GPT-3, can generate human-like text, enabling businesses to create vast amounts of content with unprecedented speed and efficiency.
So of course there are business benefits to be had that are relentlessly driving change:
- Cost efficiency: AI content generation can reduce the cost of content production, particularly when compared to hiring human writers.
- Scalability: It allows for extremely rapid scaling of content production to match the demands of an ever-evolving digital marketplace.
- Consistency: AI-generated content can maintain a programmatic level of style, tone, and usage across various content formats.
- Time savings: Marketers can save significant time by using AI for routine content tasks.
But, as with any transformative tool, the ethical implications of generative AI in B2B content marketing are staring us all in the face and need to be carefully examined.
What do business ethicists say?
Experts on business ethics have a lot to say about the advent of AI in general and its impact on business, society, and beyond. Here’s a sampling.
- Andrew Maynard, Arizona State University: “AI is a powerful technology with the potential to transform businesses and society. Ethical considerations are essential to ensure that AI is developed and deployed responsibly.”
- Source: ASU Now
- Wendell Wallach, Yale University: “The ethical challenges posed by AI are multifaceted and profound, from issues of privacy and bias to transparency and accountability. It’s essential that businesses prioritize ethical considerations in their AI strategies.”
- Source: Yale Insights
- Wim Naudé, University College Cork: “AI has the potential to reshape industries and economies, but it also raises questions about job displacement and inequality. Ethical business practices in the AI age must focus on addressing these challenges.”
- Source: Wim Naudé’s Research
- Luciano Floridi, University of Oxford: “AI introduces a new era of responsibility for businesses. Ethical considerations are no longer optional; they are central to decision-making in the age of AI.”
- Source: BBC Future
- Anita Nikolich, Carnegie Mellon University: “The ethical framework for AI in business extends beyond mere compliance; it’s about fostering a culture of transparency and fairness. AI should be a force for good in business.”
- Source: Anita Nikolich’s Research
The balance between efficiency and ethics
Integrating generative AI into B2B content marketing provides undeniable advantages. It’s a testament to the strides made in the field of artificial intelligence. And if anyone expects that each and every company will put a voluntary brake on its use of generative AI until ethical concerns have been worked out? You’re welcome to that illusion. Companies have already begun hiring bots instead of people.
Even so, the adoption of generative AI demands requires a balanced approach where efficiency is harmonized with ethics. By addressing the ethical challenges, businesses can harness the power of AI while maintaining trust and credibility in the content they produce.
Exercising business ethics is how an enlightened organization protects its customers, its employees, its brand and its potential for long-term success. The public is more insistent than ever about corporate ethics and expects companies to behave more ethically in the future. That will undoubtedly extend to how those companies utilize generative AI – and whether it’s contributing to fewer job opportunities or lost wages.
As you can see by the chart below, the marketing and advertising industry has already been quick to adopt generative AI.
Where are the regulators?
Another compelling reason for companies to examine the ethics of generative AI in B2B content marketing? To be prepared when governments decide to intervene and impose rules themselves.
Unlike in other areas, such as data privacy (where some countries — U.S.A., we’re looking at you – dragged their feet on implementing a cohesive national standard), we’d wager that we can expect much quicker action from regulators.
For example, a mandate from the White House and stirrings within the G7 show that A.I. is of big concern to governments.
This owes to the fact there’s a growing public and professional outcry about the potential negative consequences of AI, such as lost jobs. The recent WGA strike had generative AI as a central issue, and work actions like it and the publicity they attract are bound to influence legislators.
Policymakers and regulatory bodies are grappling with the need to ensure that AI is developed and used ethically and responsibly.
What might this mean for marketers?
The ethics and standards dictating how marketers use generative AI may wind up being dictated by regulators, who will be influenced by public concerns.
So it behooves marketers to get out in front on this and have an understanding of where public sentiment about generative AI is headed, and whether or not regulators will bow to it.
Here’s a snapshot of the current status of government regulation of generative AI, with relevant links:
- United States: In the U.S., government regulation of AI is a developing field. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is actively working on AI standards and guidelines. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also focuses on issues related to AI transparency, fairness, and data privacy. The recent Executive Order regarding A.I. is a bellwether of where U.S. regulation may be headed.
Learn more: NIST’s AI Standards
- European Union: The European Union has been a leader in applying regulation to digital and web activities, and it’s taken significant steps in AI regulation. The EU’s AI Act, proposed in 2021, aims to create a harmonized framework for AI use, including rules on AI transparency, data governance, and risk assessments.
Learn more: EU’s AI Act
- Canada: Canada has developed guidelines for AI ethics through its Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy. These guidelines emphasize responsible AI development and use.
Learn more: Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy
- China: China has a rapidly growing AI industry and is taking steps, unsurprisingly, to regulate AI technologies. The country has issued guidelines and standards for AI development and is also focused on data privacy regulations.
Learn more: China’s Approach to AI Regulation
- United Kingdom: The UK government has published an AI strategy that outlines its commitment to promoting ethical AI development and responsible AI use. This strategy includes guidelines for public sector use of AI.
Learn more: UK AI Strategy
- International efforts: Organizations like the United Nations are actively engaged in discussions about AI regulation at a global level. The UN’s work on AI ethics emphasizes human rights, transparency, and accountability.
- Learn more: United Nations AI for Good Initiative
Navigating ethical challenges: Best practices
Are there best practices that businesses should observe in adopting generative AI as a bigger component of their B2B content marketing? You bet. Here are some of the key ones:
- Transparency and disclosure: Businesses employing AI for content creation ought to be transparent about how they’re using the technology. Readers should be made aware that they’re interacting with AI-generated content.
Further reading: The Ethics of Transparency in AI
- Originality checks: It’s crucial that regular and frequent checks should happen to safeguard that AI-generated content is original and doesn’t infringe on copyrights or patents.
Further reading: The Ethical Implications of AI-Generated Content
- Bias mitigation: Businesses should proactively address and mitigate biases in their training data in order to make certain that AI-generated content is inclusive and unbiased.
Further reading: AI Bias and Fairness
- Quality control: Any and all AI-generated content should be subject to quality control measures to guarantee it meets solid standards for credibility and professionalism.
Further reading: Ensuring Quality in AI-Generated Content
- Reskilling and job transition support: As AI becomes more prevalent in B2B content marketing, businesses should consider offering reskilling opportunities and job transition support for any employees affected by its implementation. Companies should also be honest with themselves – and those affected – about how AI is impacting roles and jobs.
Further reading: How to Support Employees in the Age of Automation
- Opt for partnership over replacement: AI should be seen, first and foremost, as a tool that helps human content marketers do a better job – not as a replacement. Especially in B2B, where audiences have a highly developed bullshit filter that will self-train itself over time to recognize content that’s been wholly created by AI.
Further reading: Convergence or Collision? AI and Content Marketing, Part 11
- Compliance: As mentioned above, regulators will be entering the generative AI arena, for good or ill, in a hurry. Your compliance team should be trained in AI matters, and there must be mandatory education for everyone involved in AI content creation. A company may wish to appoint an AI oversight officer or director to ensure these and other AI-related compliance issues are managed in an organized way.
Further reading: AI Regulation Is Coming
Guides and resources
As AI advances, the ethical guidelines about its use in B2B and B2C content marketing will evolve. It’s essential for businesses to stay up to speed about ethics, best practices, and regulatory changes. Here are some resources for further exploration:
- The AI Ethics Guidelines Every Business Should Know: This comprehensive guide by Forbes explores the essential ethics principles for businesses using AI.
Further reading: The AI Ethics Guidelines Every Business Should Know
- AI in Content Marketing: Benefits and Ethical Considerations: A thought-provoking article by the Harvard Business Review that digs into the ethical implications of AI in content marketing.
Further reading: AI in Content Marketing: Benefits and Ethical Considerations
- The Future of AI in Content Marketing: Explore the possibilities of AI in content marketing and the ethical considerations in this in-depth piece by The New York Times.
Further reading: The Future of AI in Content Marketing
Striking a harmonious chord
The rise of generative AI in B2B content marketing is a fascinating, once-in-an-era intersection of technology and ethics. Rush into it in too headlong a style and your organization may find yourself encountering unexpected consequences, whether it’s pushback from the marketplace, employee disengagement or regulatory incursions.
By embracing transparency, mitigating bias, ensuring quality, and providing support to its human employees and stakeholders? Businesses can harness the potential of AI while maintaining the trust and confidence of their teams and their audiences.
Generative AI might totally upend and transform content marketing, sure. But with so much still unresolved, it’s pretty likely that the ethical foundations it’s built upon are eventually going to be just as important as its bottom-line rewards.