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Kate Bradley Chernis: The Rock ‘n’ Roll DJ Thing Helps Quite a Bit. Plus, You Know… Insouciance

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Kate Bradley Chernis

Kate Bradley Chernis of Lately.AI.

Tell us about yourself?

Kate Bradley Chernis is the Founder & CEO of Lately – A.I. that learns which words will get you the most engagement and re-purposes video, audio and text into dozens of social posts containing those words.

As a former rock ‘n’ roll dj, 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.

What she learned in radio about the neuroscience of music helps fuel Lately’s artificial intelligence. Prior to founding Lately, Kate also owned a marketing agency which got Walmart a 130% ROI, YoY for three years

. In addition, Kate’s appeared as a guest speaker on hundreds of sales, marketing and entrepreneurial podcasts and has led presentations for Walmart, National Disability Institute, IRS, United Way Worldwide, SaaStr, SXSW, Content Marketing Institute, Harvard University, Columbia University, NYU and others.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

That it’s a science versus an art. Thanks to Shark Tank and a slew of lazy, off-the-couch VCs, the misconception is that we all fall into a series of buckets.

That mindset is the mindset that dismisses unicorns. It’s dangerous, self-defeating and frankly, boring.

I personally am an extremely square peg that everybody wants to fit into a round hole. And I’m constantly doing everything they tell me not to do. But it fucking works.

If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?

Don’t be so nice.

What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?

The rock ‘n’ roll DJ thing helps quite a bit. Plus, you know… Insouciance.

What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?

They certainly aren’t habits I would recommend… Best for who? If you want to get the job done, you have to be “on” all the time.

My “off button” is broken. There is an addictive nature that is required.

You can’t help it. By default, that also means a certain amount of tunnel vision to keep distractions at bay.

Other habits, as a result, include an enormous amount of self-care. You can’t survive this without layers of sanity savers. (My “edit button” is also broken but that’s another story.)

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

I started a marketing agency and used the same methodology of turning listeners into fans by tapping into old-school trigger points and tying them together with new ideas through words and an overwhelming number of spreadsheets (ugh) for my then-client, Walmart.

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With that system, they got a 130%, three-year, year-over-year ROI.

Fast forward to when we launched Lately, it was designed to be software that replicated a spreadsheet system that I had built for Walmart. Each feature, essentially, was one of my spreadsheets.

As we watched the early customers use it, we noticed that they were all really dialing into one particular feature: the AI content generator.

So, we realized that we needed to reconfigure the product, the pitch, how we sold, and everything else—to focus on what people truly liked.

It was clear that writing was the biggest pain point. But we thought organization was the pain point. which is about as sexy as a carrot.

But it was not only writing — it was also the fact that once you have a piece of longform content, an article you’ve written or a podcast you’ve recorded, what exactly do you do with it? Yet another blocker. And, at that time, we only had text generation within Lately.

But it was not only writing — it was also the fact that once you have a piece of longform content, an article you’ve written or a podcast you’ve recorded, what exactly do you do with it? Yet another blocker. And, at that time, we only had text generation within Lately.

So, the next steppingstone that resulted from paying attention to our users was around video. What we were doing with AI and text was amazing. But it wasn’t amazing enough.

People were like, “Oh, that’s cool.” And we were like, “Are you kidding me? This is really hard to do.” They wanted more. Video has already become such a huge medium. So, we learned to apply AI to video and snip that up.

The next thing we saw was that very large companies started to have similar demands as very small companies.

Where do you see your business in five years?

Sorry but I always feel that this is a ridiculous question.

Does anybody say in the toilet? World domination? Sure. Why not.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?

I’m sorry – and you can feel free to print this exactly as it is – but another ridiculous question. Who the fuck knows? Another global pandemic?

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Market turndowns? Russia starts another war? Cancer? I unexpectedly have a baby? Money? Retention?

Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?

The entire team is almost always resource constrained. So, what can we do with the resources we have? This question played a huge role in our recent choice to make the flip to self-service.

Other considerations that drove the road to self-service included the massive strain on customer service and engineering from dealing with Facebook and Twitter and their APIs.

I mean, if Facebook sneezes, it ruins my day. So, the thought was, can we offload the functionality of these platforms to someone else? Is there someone who does it way better than we do? Like HubSpot Social or Hootsuite?

The answer was yes. With this change, we could focus even more on what we do best—high-performing AI content repurposing. As they say, scarcity fuels prosperity; we’ve been living this for eight years.

For instance, with marketing, for instance, there is no marketing team, per se, at Lately.

Instead, we’ve pieced it together with interns, contractors, sales and even engineering. Everyone plays a part. I’m where the buck stops, obviously. But I’ve got all these other jobs as CEO. Hence, there’s no true marketing lead. There’s no one who has the bandwidth to really run the show, to always have the ball. So, we do it together.

Again, the thought has been, what can we do with the resources we have? Which will have the biggest bang for the buck? Writing, for example, even for me, is hard and time-consuming. To sit down and write a blog or newsletter, I need four uninterrupted hours—nearly impossible. And I’d essentially need to crank that kind of content out daily – wildly impossible.

But I’m great on-air. It’s easy for me. No sweat. I don’t have to prepare for anything, I don’t even have to think about it. My biggest concern before I hop on an interview or a podcast is my hair (which is always a hopeless disaster).

Right around the beginning of COVID, I had done a few interviews here and there. But the requests started coming in more often – I’m a great guest.

That was the aha! I recognized that I could use this “earned media” the same way I was thinking about “owned media” and repurpose it through our own AI. I created a self-fueling marketing machine that costs zero dollars and almost no effort.

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To take it a step further, we not only broadcast what comes out of the AI on our own brand channels but also syndicate it across all of our employees’ own social channels.

This is why the culture we have internally at Lately is so essential – not just a team, a fandom. I built a team that’s willing to promote the team’s work. Because I can’t possibly do it by myself. Together, we’re stronger.

What’s more is that everyone on the team is a social beast. That’s their nature. They are already doing it. It’s effortless.

If a salesperson I was about to hire had a LinkedIn page without a custom URL, someone on our team now flags it, “dude, you know this person is not going to sing for you, what the hell are you doing?”

We also have a Slack channel called #sharingiscaring. Every time anyone writes about us on social media in any way, we take the link and we pop it in there. And the entire team is required to (and wants to) share it, retweet it, and comment on it. This is how we organically boost.

In addition, our social media contractor keeps an eye out, like a hawk, on every new customer coming in on Stripe, and she finds them on LinkedIn or Twitter or whatever platform they’re on, and starts to reshare their content. We also try to participate in whatever they publish.

How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?

Lately.ai is the destination, and the way people often get there is through the massive self-sustaining repurposing and sharing of our high-quality content in different forms across different channels, with a special emphasis on formatting the content in a way that it makes the most out of that channel’s advantages.

If you are into SEO, high-quality content, and AI, you will certainly stumble upon a piece of content from us sooner rather than later. You could say we go out of our way to flood each platform with as much high-quality content as possible.

What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?

Turn back. It’s not too late.

And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?

Money, money and more money.

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