Nathalie: Rock ‘n’ roll DJ turned startup CEO? Do tell!
Kately: Truth! My last radio gig was broadcasting to 20 million listeners a day for XM Satellite Radio; amazingly, the tricks I learned in radio are the backbone of Lately’s foundation.
For example, because we were each on-air 12 hours a day, we had to be recorded. But we wanted to make it feel live, so we purposely left in mistakes. After all, mistakes make it HUMAN, so you TRUST me. And that trust is key.
In radio, believe it or not, it’s a two-way street – even though I have the mic, it’s my job to make you, the listener, feel like you have a voice, that you’re included vs excluded – that’s the trust factor and how you turn listeners into fans.
Same thing with customers: turn them into fans. Because fans are EVANGELISTS. But they have to trust you, first, which is why Lately’s marketing feels not too polished. I let my team rip. They have guidelines but in the end, you’re getting realass humans.
Nathalie: So how did you decide to leave radio and become an entrepreneur?
Kately: Honestly, in part, I didn’t. My body forced me to. I had all of these ailments – it was like my body was SCREAMING at me to make a change. Radio, after all, is a maaaaaajor boys’ club. I felt squashed, invalidated. And of course sexual harassment galore… Crazily, I didn’t even know that was wrong. It was just part of the culture. But what really bothered me was not getting credit for my work. So I moved to another music-related company and it was the same thing allllll over again. (Groundhog Day!) No surprise, I was miserable. Always crying. Totally toxic because I hated my job and felt stuck. I was a crap person to be around.
Then 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! (And by the way, shame was exactly what I felt. Deep shaaaaaame. I was disappointing my male bosses – that’s all I could see. Talk about perspective!)
So… my husband (thoughtfully) bought me Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the Start. Somewhere in the first few pages it says “don’t make a plan, just get started.” And I thought: “Then why am I reading this book?” DUH – So I put it down.
The next day, I went to a business lunch with two incredible humans who turned out to be angel investors and gave me $50,000 to start my first company. True story!
Nathalie: How did you know you made the right choice?
Kately: Easy. The pain let up! For me, working for assholes is waaaaaaay less stressful and more painful than not knowing where my next paycheck is coming from. BTW, that’s the key telltale for anyone thinking about entrepreneurship: What’s your threshold?
Most importantly, it taught me to listen to my gut. When I’m in pain, I immediately know something’s wrong, that I need to make a change. These days, it often comes in the form of my throat swelling up. That’s how I know there’s something I’m not saying. In fact, the three most powerful words I ever learned to say are: “This isn’t working.” Because once you have the courage to say it, then you have the courage to CHANGE it.
Nathalie: How did Lately come about?
Kately: Normally I would say accidentally but a colleague recently taught me to take better credit for my actions and own my own success. So, through that lens… 10 years ago I was marketing the buhjeezus out of my first company. Someone else noticed and offered me a suhweeeeeeet chunk of change to consult them on marketing. And BOOM. Suddenly, I was working with Walmart. But it wasn’t only Walmart. It was also United Way Worldwide, National Disability Disability Institute, Bank of America, AT&T, the IRS, and thousands of small and medium businesses and nonprofits – a.k.a., a boatload of people – all with different marketing skill sets and budgets. So I built a spreadsheet to organize my mind. Because… GAHHHHH. And my spreadsheet system ended up getting us 130% ROI YoY for 3 years.
Ta-da! The idea for Lately was born.
Nathalie: How does AI play into the mix?
Kately: Funny thing about most marketers – they hate copywriting! And not just marketers. Salespeople. Executives. Product experts. Designers. People in general hate writing and are baaaaad at it. (So yo, English majors: DOUBLE DOWN on that shizzle!)
Enter AI. Because the fear of the blank page is real… the pressure to say the right thing, to be engaging, entertaining and everywhere all at once all the time…. It’s humanly impossible. But when you have AI to help? BAMMALAMMADINGDONG! The idea being that AI learns what your target audience or customers will engage with. Lately knows and predicts. Then, it suggests messaging based on what it learns. It learns by studying what you feed the brain and then transforms it.
Just feed Lately blogs, online articles, podcasts, webinars… Any longform content that you probably didn’t do jack with. And BOOM. The AI will give ya dozens of social post ideas to jumpstart any organic content push:
Nathalie: Should marketers be afraid of AI?
Kately: Honestly? A little. But here’s the key: marketing and sales is emotion-based. HUMANS have emotion. Not robots. You don’t want to remove the human from the equation. It won’t work.
That said, humans are mucking communications up priiiiiiiitty good on their own. In the US alone, companies waste $400 BILLION (!) each year due to crap writing skills throughout marketing, sales, customerservice and beyond. And – get this – companies spend $3.1 billion each year on REMEDIAL WRITING TRAINING. Who knew??? Writing is not in fact the soft skill everyone waved off as a waste-of-time college major in the least.
I mean, in order to communicate effectively, everyone has to write. Yes, we live in a world where there are podcasts and video, but in the end, that all gets translated into text, one way or another.
Nowadays, if you’re not using AI to help with basic communication, a.k.a. writing – you’re effed. It’s impossible to catch up without it. Hence, Lately :-).
Nathalie: It sounds like communication in itself is the most elemental and important component of any business?
Kately: Yasssss. I’m biased of course, but if you think about it, marketing is the MOST IMPORTANT FUNCTION THROUGHOUT ANY COMPANY because it’s the one thing that ties every other function together: sales, product, customer service, HR, accounting, engineering….
When every employee is on the same page about what the company does and why – and can communicate that in concert – not only does it solidify the culture internally but it also makes everybody’s jobs easier and the company more successful. Win. Win. Win.
And to expand on that further, consistent messaging throughout does not only mean externally – it also applies INTERNALLY because that’s 100% work culture. When you message (read: treat) your employees the same way you message your customers, you make magic.
Meaning: walk the talk. For example, the reason 95% of my team has been working for free for the last 18 months (startup life) is NOT because I’m an a-hole. I do a lot of “internal” marketing to make that happen. And by the way, it’s the same marketing we do externally to attract customers AND what we do to prevent churn, once we have them. It’s all human-to-human based. Not because it’s touchy-feely. Because it works.
Nathalie Gregg is a change agent, organizational developer, adjunct professor, public speaker, published writer and television personality, recipient of Columbia College’s distinguished President’s Award, the prestigious ATHENA Award and author of the book Leading in Stilettos.
Kate Bradley Chernis is the Founder & CEO of Lately, which uses AI to instantly transform podcasts, videos and any online news articles or blogs into dozens of social posts that are automatically pre-vetted to resonate with your target audience. As a former marketing agency owner, Kate initially created the idea for Lately out of spreadsheets for then-client, Walmart, and got them a 130% ROI, year-over-year for three years. Prior to founding Lately, Kate served 20 million listeners as Music Director and on-air host at Sirius/XM. She’s also an award-winning radio producer, engineer and voice talent with 25 years of national broadcast communications, brand-building, sales and marketing expertise.