Data & Tech

All things AI with Melissa Waters

Ahead of The Marketer’s (Early) Guide to AI, Upwork’s CMO told us about her approach.
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· 4 min read

Melissa Waters is the chief marketing officer of Upwork. She’s joining Marketing Brew next week at our event, The Marketer’s (Early) Guide to AI.

Ahead of the event, we had Waters tell us a little bit about how she and Upwork are using AI, and what her thoughts are on the possibilities of the tech.

Does your company have policies around using AI? If so, what are the main tenets? We see AI as a tool for everyone and want to create a culture at Upwork where all teams—marketing, product, engineering, trust and safety, and more—are inspired and motivated to experiment with this technology. To do that, we have a company policy and reference materials for both new AI tools that team members want to bring into the company and for those who want to use existing tools within their work. We also have a guiding set of AI principles that take a human-centered approach to developing and deploying AI. The main tenets are: empowering people to achieve their goals; prioritizing equity and avoiding unintentional bias; and handling data safely and responsibly. We really want to help every team member not only understand how they can benefit from this technology, but also the potential risks. We also have an AI review use case board so that any new tools being used not only support our company goals but are also being used safely and securely by team members.

What AI tools are you currently using? In what capacity are you using them? One of Upwork’s working principles is “stay curious,” and the marketing organization that I lead has adopted this principle as this year’s theme. That means staying curious about how we can use AI—and it’s already popping up in different ways across our team. The content marketing team is definitely on the front lines of experimentation. They’re using tools like ChatGPT to boost productivity and expand our online content library. Our enterprise marketing team has been using, a generative AI tool, to help customize content to engage prospects and customers. Now our sales enablement team can easily scale up content campaigns for every persona that they’re targeting. And our creative team is looking at how to bring other AI tools into the fold for creative concepting and video production. This technology is evolving so quickly, and as marketers, we need to be, too. That’s why every team member is actively taking on the mantle of learning and testing so we can use AI to ultimately improve how we work in ways big and small.

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What is the best real-life application of AI that you have seen in the marketing world so far? There was a Carvana campaign that used generative AI to create over one million unique video spots. Every video had a specialized message that was unique to the customer who had purchased a car from Carvana. It stands out as an example of how we can use AI to deliver hyper-personalized, relevant marketing campaigns at scale.

There are plenty of proposed use cases for AI, from customer service applications to improving brand voice to analyzing the customer lifecycle. Which applications are most promising to you? Which ones are least promising? We’ve been experimenting a lot within our own team with content and design work. I’m also interested in how we can use AI to analyze data so that we can get deeper, more nuanced insights into customer preferences.

What advice do you have for marketers and brands that are considering using AI but aren’t sure where to start? One place to start is to break it down for team members and give them really pragmatic ways that they can engage with this technology. There are inevitably going to be some people who don’t share the same excitement and are hesitant about using AI out of concern that it might make their roles redundant. On the flip side, there are other people who are very excited about these tools and are champions for experimentation.

My advice is to make these employees the culture carriers to get others inspired about how they can start using this tech. Bringing in external speakers with industry background—or independent talent who specialize in certain AI skills and expertise—can also help with getting over this hurdle. Within our own marketing organization, we’re working to set up an AI and marketing speaker series to help us gain a deeper understanding of all the ways that AI touches our industry.

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Marketing Brew informs marketing pros of the latest on brand strategy, social media, and ad tech via our weekday newsletter, virtual events, marketing conferences, and digital guides.