If you’re reading this, chances are good the robots haven’t taken your job.
The reason is straightforward: AI isn’t as smart as the techno-utopians promised it would be. There’s still room for old-fashioned human intelligence, especially in the realm of communications.
ChatGPT launched a little over a year ago. Observers of the tech space greeted its arrival on the digital landscape with a mixture of excitement and caution. The optimists saw a democratizing tool that would put the power of AI into the hands of anyone with an internet connection. Skeptics worried about job losses, ethical risk, and the hastening of the technological singularity.
In the marketing industry, many were quick to predict the rapid disappearance of copywriting jobs, especially in the bottom half of the marketplace. The AI seemed more capable than many writers at certain tasks.
We began hearing offhand remarks that companies could get better results from ChatGPT than from writers who were just getting to know their business.
The optimism and caution of November 2022 are still with us, but both are tempered by the shared understanding that AI is “just” another tool, albeit a powerful one.
As of January 2024, here are some things we’ve learned so far about AI and its role in marketing:
- Garbage in, garbage out.
The major AI tools all suffer from the tendency to garble facts. The tech industry calls it hallucination, though that term might give the AI too much credit. Remember, the AI only strings words together, one by one, applying the rules it has been given. It doesn’t review its own work.
The tendency for inaccuracy puts the onus on the user to spot mistakes. For an expert, that’s easy. For someone unfamiliar with the topic, catching mistakes requires work.
Using well-crafted prompts is one strategy for reducing errors in output. The more information the AI has to work with, the more likely it will produce something useful.
- Good summaries, bad summaries.
Producing structured summaries is a great use for AI, but use caution.
In the last few months, Zoom has rolled out an AI-based summary tool that appears to have eliminated the need to take notes during meetings.
Google Bard can quickly summarize the recent blog posts of a dozen websites, allowing you to see what competitors are doing quickly and efficiently. Bard’s ability to build content using real-time information from the web is one of its major selling points over ChatGPT, which as of January 2024 is relying on data from two years ago.
Feed a mishmash of information about a project into ChatGPT and the AI can also do a passable job of creating a draft case study. This lets companies celebrate their wins more easily and more often.
As always, assume the AI has made mistakes before relying on its summary of anything. Inaccuracies and omissions can be a big source of risk for someone who over-relies on AI.
- Training a bot is worthwhile.
Red Mallard is training a ChatGPT bot specializing in social media posts from articles. We’re not computer scientists, so our process so far has been basic: give the AI our style guide, tell it the parameters that matter for different platforms, and set some rules users need to follow.
So far, around 80 percent of the results are usable, allowing staff to quickly generate draft content without needing advanced writing skills.
Accuracy is still a risk with these posts. The AI doesn’t always interpret our articles in the right way. The user also needs to add branding elements, at least until the AI can be trained on those. In short, the AI isn’t doing all the work.
- Is AI coming for your writing job? Yes and no.
Professional writers must learn how to use AI in their daily work.
I’ve long told clients that using AI is an editorial task, not a writing task. Most AI text requires extensive rewriting and reorganization. Writers who can quickly take apart and rebuild an AI-generated draft will be better off than their less savvy competition.
(Take it from Mr. Wonderful, editing skills matter.)
All the AI tools can produce passable drafts on virtually any topic in a matter of seconds. The drafts will be full of technical inaccuracies, strange tangents, repetition, and wordy bull pucky. But the drafts will be clean starting points a mediocre writer with good editing skills can use to produce a passable final product.
Writers need to embrace the competitive challenge. A good writer with strong editing skills is dynamite.
The good news is AI tools are coming to market to help writers catch writing mistakes. AI is also great at serving up ideas to overcome writer’s block, or giving starting points for tackling an unfamiliar topic. Writers can learn to use AI as a tool to improve their craft and make themselves that much more valuable to the marketplace.
- Beware the backlash.
Good marketing works because it is an authentic expression of an organization’s expertise and culture. The AI cannot substitute for either.
Letting a robot speak for you means abandoning authenticity and effort in favor of efficiency. That sort of tradeoff might work for telemarketers or peddlers of junk products. In most professional settings, it’s a sign of indifference—or disrespect.
Trying to pass off AI-generated content as your own puts your customer relationships at risk.
I expect the backlash against AI to evolve as the technology takes root. In certain realms, like customer service call centers, AI is replacing humans at a rapid pace. If this transition works, people may come to accept AI as a partial mediator in their business relationships.
Until the robots replace all of us, though, human-to-human connection will still be the primary way to build a business.
Be strategic about the tools you use.
AI can boost productivity and lower costs. It has a valuable role in the creative process.
To get the most from AI, you still need expertise.
At Red Mallard we combine our content marketing expertise with the client’s industry expertise to build brand reputation and deliver real value to the client’s customers. Leveraging AI is a small but important part of that process.
Is your company ready to harness today’s technologies to boost growth? Send us an email or give us a call to get started.