Marketing content can be enhanced using tools like ChatGPT if there’s always a Human in the Loop
ChatGPT and other AI by their own admission have a long way to go in reproducing human conversation. But let’s not kid ourselves: it’s a powerful tool and there is no putting the genie back in the bottle.
And no, this is not part of an increasingly lame subgenre of blogs where at the end the writer reveals: “surprise, ChatGPT wrote this!” We’re still quite firm on having a Human in the Loop at all phases of the communications process.
Case in point: this is how ChatGPT suggested I begin this blog: “As businesses continue to navigate the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing (already falling asleep) , the importance of public relations and content marketing agencies cannot be overstated” (that was a painful few seconds, I’m sorry to put you through that).
The world’s most advanced AI keeps proposing, despite repeating my objections, that I must end any piece of writing with “in conclusion…” — ouache! It’s a fine research and translation tool, but in terms of replacing human leadership or even natural conversation it’s just not ready for primetime.
That doesn’t mean we can afford as creatives to ignore AI or take a militant stance against it, which would be foolish. As per GPT, it can “automate certain tasks, generate ideas, and even improve writing style” — that’s true, it can help by doing those things.
Should you incorporate AI tools into your communications processes, whether you are an individual, SMB, agency or corporate division? Absolutely, with caution. There are some specific comms tasks where AI tools can safely reduce production time and perhaps even increase the quality of communications.
What AI can’t do is your job for you. At least not yet.
We’ve abandoned a former hardline stance against AI translation tools, resigning ourselves to the fact that the producers and translators themselves insist on using them. In recent years, two colleagues have demonstrated to us that a high-quality translation tool paired with diligent human editing (and if needed a layer or two of business communications or political consulting) produces the best result. As of this writing, we have not used a translation tool that did not require at least some adaptation.
We’re a long way from Clippy, Microsoft Word’s anthropomorphic paperclip, but the grammar check works better than ever. In some ways, it could be considered one of the original AIs. When using translation software, we’ll often run the text through a dedicated grammar app just to be safe; a human editor will then manage discrepancies and make allowances for creative phrasing. Like with translation, these tools augment human performance and ultimately pay for themselves.
Another fairly new set of AI-enabled tools have been a game-changer for our operations. Effective transcription of online meetings simply did not exist five years ago. Again, these apps are still quite error prone and will not come close to producing a passable text completely on their own. Still, the time savings vs. manual transcription or note-taking is substantial. Better transcription AIs will also tell you what was said, in addition to who said it, and organize the information for you. Transcription services in English are unfortunately several years ahead of French versions.
ChatGPT, Bard and other superintelligent AIs are essentially the evolution of Search. A flurry of coverage has emerged in recent months about how best to use ChatGPT for searching, and again caution is warranted: it not only makes mistakes, but makes them confidently. With supervision, however, there are massive time savings to be gained by using GPT as a research aid. The key is in the prompts — that is, knowing what to ask for (help on this below). The other day, GPT gave me some healthy meal ideas that added diversity to my diet. AI can be helpful with brainstorming, provided you also take the time to have a good think away from the platform and your screen.
Booking, filing, transfering, converting… There are plugins or functions in our toolkit that have drastically reduced time spent on organizational logistics (explore your apps for plugins, extensions, integrations, connected apps or other terms that imply resource-sharing between platforms). Our favourite such advancement might be the collaboration between Google Calendar and Zoom meetings, not to mention the option of instant booking via apps like Calendly — all connected to transcription tools. We’re coming close peak efficiency, automating anything that should be automated in the media production process without delegating the most creative tasks.
It’s tough to gauge what will be automated more aggressively, words or pictures. My sense is that writing is the bigger challenge and that AIs for design are more ubiquitous. The creative director of the future does not have a massive team of junior designers and coders working under them but a handful of project managers or producers leading an army of bots. Some of the most interesting design tools not only create otherworldly visuals, but are capable of creating thousands of different iterations of that reality, all taking specific demographics, psychographics and myriad metrics into consideration.
Listen to Dan chat with Hippoc.AI founder Jean-Maxime Larouche on TNKR Media and BDO’s Inspiring Entrepreneurs radio show and podcast, focusing on his AI-powered design platform.
I hesitated whether or not to include some basic drafting tasks (*) on this list but the reality is that some companies have been automating blogging for years now. We can’t recommend it, not only because we love our talented, insightful and culturally astute writers but also because it’s not necessarily saving us any time. I first encountered automated blog writing about 4-5 years ago when a startup was pumping out what we’ve previously described as “SEO blogs”: pages of generic, churn-and-burn copy designed to raise a website’s Google rankings. Generally speaking, people are not reading these blogs or finding them useful. Unless you cannot compete in your field without them, try to avoid blog automation in favour of smaller batches that are rich in human insight.
We’re not often doing traditional retail or product marketing, so we understand the challenge; but for overall public relations and leadership, this sort of automation can be more of a liability than an asset. Automating small passages at a time to explain, for instance, historical events or other points of generic analysis can be helpful.
The Principle: Human in the Loop
Since we founded TNKR Media, we’ve considered emerging AI ethics guidelines like the Montreal Declaration and traditional media codes of ethics like that of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) to help inspire our own efforts to produce media responsibly.
The Human in the Loop (HITL) principle is not only useful but baking it into your processes is a safe way to make sure AI doesn’t mess anything up. In its simplest form, the concept simply implies that we ought to help “the computer in making the correct decisions in building a model,” and not let it take the lead.
Finding the right ‘prompts’, combinations of requests to solicit responses from the AI, is the most difficult part of using these tools. On that, I’ve found helpful advice from Mr. Prompts, Rowan Cheung and Max Rascher, among others.
When we attempted to have GPT write a column in my voice, I can’t say the results were impressive. It took about an hour of toying around with different prompts to obtain a fairly mediocre result — at that point, I might as well buckle down and write a rough draft. There’s lots of my writing online and it isn’t especially complex, so I should be imitable enough.
If you are concerned that AI will replace your communications work, don’t panic. Instead, start thinking about future-proofing your offerings. AI is not creative, empathetic or otherwise emotionally intelligent. We’d be wise to focus on what makes us unique and valuable as writers and creatives; and that summarizing point was actually written by ChatGPT. Good advice!