For years, artificial intelligence (AI), which is the simulation of human intelligence processes by computer systems, has been used in technical fields like medicine, engineering and investing. Now, thanks to several new services in the marketplace, it’s gaining a foothold in creative industries—including marketing. But does it have value for community banks?

Rob Birgfeld, executive vice president, chief marketing officer for ICBA, thinks it might. “It may sound like a far-off, expensive concept,” he says, “but there are many relatively low-cost services that can immediately help even the smallest marketing team build copy and content at the scale that allows them to test content areas, versions of creative and language.

“Once upon a time, only big marketing teams or agencies had the ability to crank out dozens, if not hundreds, of variations of copy to test in their markets,” he adds. “AI is changing the cost of entry, and community banks can benefit directly.”

AI as a writing tool

How do services like Grammarly, Writesonic, Jasper, Rytr, QuillBot and others work? “Grammarly’s communication assistance works by providing real-time writing suggestions wherever people type,” says Dorian Stone, head of organizations revenue at Grammarly. “Our suggestions also help users be clearer and more concise, use more engaging and varied language, and deliver messages with the right tone and level of empathy.”

Chaitanya Gatreddi, head of growth at Writesonic, explains that the system is “trained” by using best-in-class industry examples of things like high-performing Facebook or Google ads. “Then we ask [enterprise] customers [and those with custom requirements] to give us a good sample set of content, so our system can match voice and tone,” he says.

While we use “AI” to describe these services, there’s usually more to it than that. “We’re powered by a combination of AI … and human expertise from our team of linguists and engineers,” says Amit Sivan, business head of product, Grammarly Business. “Our AI continues to learn based on analyzing billions of daily writing sessions across tens of millions of users.”

Use cases for community bankers

Emily Mays, vice president and chief administrative officer and senior marketing director at $185 million-asset Community Spirit Bank in Red Bay, Ala., says that AI writing has been a tremendous time saver for her. “As a marketing department of one, I don’t always have someone readily available to critique my work,” she says, “and waiting around for someone to have an opportunity is not always an option when something is pressing.”

She notes that none of these services are 100% automatic, and you’ll still need to review. “Be sure the suggestions offered by AI don’t take away the natural flow of the piece you’re working on,” Mays adds. “For example, where you’re geographically located can matter. Here in Alabama, where we’re located, we say ‘y’all,” and there might be certain instances where I want a term like that to be a part of my piece, because it brings fun and character.”

Elizabeth Allen, marketing director at $500 million-asset Better Banks in Peoria, Ill., is also experienced in using Grammarly for grammar, spelling and writing assistance. “It helps me write more concise and clear content that is hopefully more engaging,” she says. Allen also uses to generate ideas when she’s experiencing writer’s block.

For some bankers, it takes some time to get on board, but many are finding the value of these services. “At first, I was skeptical about AI for marketing,” says Jessica L. Barnett, assistant vice president and content marketing specialist at $3.2 billion-asset Civista Bank in Sandusky, Ohio. “But I have that mindset that you need to change with the times or get left behind, so after looking into the possibilities of AI for marketing, I’m excited about how we can incorporate these emerging technologies to improve our current marketing efforts.”

How to choose an AI writing service

“I think it’s important to do some research,” says Jessica L. Barnett, assistant vice president and content marketing specialist at Civista Bank. “Get an idea of what type of tools are available and then consider how your department would utilize them. Don’t be afraid to start small if needed or dive in if you have the resources. Technology is changing so fast, it’s important to realize you may need to continue to adjust how you are producing content and continue to keep your eye out for emerging AI-based tools.”

“Be sure to find out what kind of training models they have,” suggests Chaitanya Gatreddi, head of growth at Writesonic. “And ask if the output will be personalized to you, from your own bank’s master data set.”

Even after you’ve chosen one service to start with, you still might want to shop around, says Emily Mays, vice president and chief administrative officer and senior marketing director at Community Spirit Bank in Red Bay, Ala. “All of these AI writing tools have a learning curve to build comfort,” she points out. “Don’t be afraid to try things out and move on from ones that don’t work.”