From a DJ to an AI startup founder: The story of Kate Bradley Chernis

AI on its own is cold. Humans on their own are slow. But together... BAMMALAMMADINGDONG.
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The AI-powered social media marketing management platform Lately was founded in 2014. Using artificial intelligence, the platform studies what your audience wants to read and hear and then atomises any interview, webinar, conference panel, podcast, blog, PDF, word document or newsletter into lead-generating social posts.

In an exclusive interview with Analytics India Magazine, Kate Bradley Chernis, co-founder & CEO of Lately.AI, spoke about how to use AI in marketing, tips for boosting social media presence, and more.

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AIM: How did it all start?

Kate Bradley Chernis: Believe it or not, I used to be a rock ‘n’ roll DJ – my last radio gig was broadcasting to 20 million listeners a day for XM Satellite Radio. Alas, radio is a major boys’ club. I felt squashed, invalidated. And, of course, there was sexual harassment galore. But what bothered me was not getting credit for my work. So, I moved to another music-related company, but it was the same thing all over again. I was miserable. Always crying. It was such a toxic situation because I hated my job and felt stuck.

One day, my dad lovingly shook me by the shoulders and said: “You can’t work for other people and there’s no shame in that.” Eureka! My husband bought me Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the Start. Somewhere in the first few pages, it reads: “Don’t make a plan, just get started.” 

The next day, I went to a business lunch with two incredible humans who turned out to be angel investors. They gave me USD 50,000 to start my first company. True story!

As I was marketing that first company, someone else noticed and offered me a chunk of change to consult them on marketing. Suddenly, I was working with Walmart, United Way Worldwide, National Disability Institute, Bank of America and thousands of small and medium businesses and non-profits, all with different marketing skill sets and budgets. So, I built a spreadsheet to organise my mind, and my spreadsheet system ended up getting us 130 percent ROI YoY for three years. Ta-da! The idea for Lately was born.

AIM: Tell us about your AI-powered solutions.

Kate Bradley Chernis: Lately is an AI-powered content and copywriting generator for anyone who needs help writing anything. Now: Social media. Future: blogs, texts, ads, emails… any content or copywritten messaging you can dream of, across every industry.

Lately doesn’t just write for you. We write a better version of you. And it’s all fuelled by the neuroscience of music. Here’s how it works:

Each time your brain hears a new song, it automatically accesses every song you have ever heard before. Your brain then looks for familiar touchpoints in order to index that new song in your memory banks. Every voice has a frequency, like a musical note. When you read text, you hear that voice inside your head. Like a Rock ‘N’ Roll DJ, it’s the writer’s job to give you familiar touchpoints in order to sell you a new product. Lately’s AI studies familiar touchpoints in order to create a writing model and then applies this writing model to transform long-form content into something new.

Using this guiding principle as the bedrock, Lately then studies multiple layers of best practices including your own personal brand voice. It’s continuously learning, updating each customer’s writing model daily.

Most important, Lately’s AI requires a human to guide it. Like any robot, it’s just a robot. It’s cold. It needs the irreplaceable magic of a human to coax it along. That’s how it gets smarter and smarter.

In our world, humans and AI must collaborate. There’s no separating them.

AIM: “Lately’s all-in-one solution uses AI to generate the most effective content for scaling your social media marketing and social selling programs.” Please elaborate.

Kate Bradley Chernis: First, Lately studies any social media channel analytics you give us access to. We look back up to a year at all of your highest engaging posts and we study the words, phrases and sentence structures within those posts. Then, we build a writing model based on what we already know will get you the most likes, comments and shares. Next, you feed the brain long-form content (text, video or audio) and we apply the writing model. The writing model is looking for the smartest pieces of that long-form content with which to atomise into smaller highlights – in the case of video, it actually clips up the video to go along with the words, so you end up having dozens of mini-movie trailers to promote your podcast, for example.

Second, the brain has multiple levels of intelligence. First, it studies me and what I write organically (I was a fiction writing major, and I wrote hundreds of commercials on the radio – I’m freaking good at social). I also built a series of rules based on how I write and taught it to my entire staff. They take those rules and enhance the AI so it can continue to learn. We also teach all of our customers those rules through regular workshops so that they can pull from that larger dataset as well.

Additionally, we believe that AI and humans must coexist in order for the magic to happen. AI on its own is cold. Humans on their own are slow. But together… BAMMALAMMADINGDONG. So we insist that our customers take the time to put a human touch on everything the AI spits out, as it learns from every edit, every deletion, and publication. We also allow them to curate the words and phrases it uses in each model – the model which shows in black-and-white exactly which values and ideas your customers care about. 

AIM: Tell us about your tech stack.

Kate Bradley Chernis: Lately’s AI specialises in selecting and generating high-performing social media posts using a combination of five years of our own proprietary natural language processing and machine learning plus all the best currently available technologies – including IBM Watson, Meaning Cloud, Google Pegasus and GPT 3 (Lately was part of the original closed beta). 

AIM: How does Lately protect customer data?

Kate Bradley Chernis: In terms of sensitive data, we currently encrypt passwords with seven rounds of BCrypt Hashing and don’t store any other password information. Social authentication is done on the social platform itself, which then provides Lately with a public key and a secret key, so it has two layers of protection. For credit cards and payments, we embed Stripe.js  into every page, which 1) ensures we never touch or store credit card information ourselves and 2) leverages their advanced fraud protection system called “Radar.”

AIM: What’s next for Lately? 

Kate Bradley Chernis: 2022 is all about self-service, a laser focus on activation flow, retention and integrations. Plus, I’ve got a big ole bag of AI enhancements to throw in the mix, where instead of Lately starting you at 75% of the way there with our content creation, we’ll approach 90% – get ready to lift your jaws off the floor.

More Great AIM Stories

Sri Krishna
Sri Krishna is a technology enthusiast with a professional background in journalism. He believes in writing on subjects that evoke a thought process towards a better world. When not writing, he indulges his passion for automobiles and poetry.

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