If the headlines are to be believed, robots are coming for writers. The new tool ChatGPT made a big impression recently, showing off everything from coding to creative writing. And we’ve gotta admit… it’s good. Which understandably led to a conversation in our company Slack about the future of copywriting.
The big question: How will AI writing software impact writers and other creatives? And how will it impact our clients: business owners and nonprofits who rely on content?
Foremost on everyone’s mind is the question: Will AI writing programs take over?
Spoiler alert: The answer is no. At least, we don’t think so.
But before we explain why, let’s back up and see what AI writing can do.
ChatGPT is far from the first AI writing software out there. Companies like Jasper and Copymatic have been creeping in on the space for a while now. But ChatGPT made a big splash because of how good it is.
Just for fun, we logged into ChatGPT and asked it to write a blog post about Brand Voice, a topic North Star has covered extensively and is well known for.
We asked ChatGPT to write us a blog post about Brand Voice.
Here’s the first 300 words it came up with:
When developing a brand identity, one of the most important elements to consider is the brand’s voice. A brand’s voice is the language, tone, and style used to communicate with customers and prospects. It’s the way in which a brand expresses itself and is as unique as a fingerprint. It’s the personality behind the company and should be consistent across all channels, including website copy, blog posts, social media, and more.
Creating a unique brand voice is essential in order to give your brand a distinctive personality and to help it stand out from the competition. It should be a reflection of the company’s values and culture, as well as the target audience. It’s important to be aware of the language used, and to make sure it’s appropriate for the brand and its target audience.
To create a successful brand voice, it’s important to first understand the company’s values, mission, and goals. The brand’s voice should reflect these elements and be consistent across all channels. It should also be congruent with the brand’s visual identity.
Pretty spooky, right?
It’s accurate, it passes a plagiarism checker, and it’s honestly pretty well-written. There’s a good reason copywriters, content creators, and other creatives are feeling nervous.
One big concern is an ethical question.
ChatGPT and programs like it might pass a plagiarism checker, but it’s learning how to write well from somewhere. The content it scrapes and rearranges may be original, but the way it learns how to create content blurs the line of consent and copyright.
(It’s worth noting that there’s a similar discussion happening in the visual art world, with AI image generators that learn from the labor of human artists, without their consent. AI Writing may not be as flashy, but it’s facing the same moral dilemma.)
So, is it ethical to use ChatGPT? The jury is still out, with people falling on both sides and everywhere in between. As a business owner, you might be tempted to use the program to crank out new content, but you should be aware that it may not be as original as it seems.
In short, don’t run out to slash your writing budget just yet. Ethical conundrums aside, there’s still quite a bit AI writing can’t do… which means your copywriter just became more valuable.
In fact, there are at least three specific areas where human writers continue to shine:
AI Writing Programs Only Mimic Brand Voice
While AI writing software like ChatGPT can emulate the style of brands, a true Brand Voice goes deeper than mimicry. A writer who is attuned to a brand’s voice doesn’t just emulate what the brand is, they also manage to emulate what the brand wants to become.
Brands aren’t static, and neither are their voices.
In fact, this idea is built into our Brand Voice Intensive Process. When a business owner decides to book an intensive with North Star, they fill out a brief questionnaire.
In that questionnaire, we ask for a few pieces of content they feel represent the brand’s voice… but we don’t look at those samples until after the intensive. And we definitely don’t dig into content beyond what the business owner sent.
That’s because we want to understand where the brand’s voice is currently, and where it’s going. Not where it’s been in the past.
AI writing programs might someday be smart enough to manage this sort of nuanced thinking, but it isn’t there yet.
Pro-Tip: Want a deeper understanding of your brand’s voice? Take the Copywriting Character Quiz to find your voice’s archetype.
AI Writing Programs Fall Flat With Personal Anecdotes and Stories
AI can only use what it has access to, and it’s not living your life (yet? 😬)
The stories you bring to your content allows you to create a more relatable brand. It gives people the chance to get to know you, your expertise, and your values. A human writer can infuse topics with empathy and experience.
We recommend five specific types of stories to use as jumping off points within content:
- The Origin Story: This gives your audience a sense of where you came from and why it’s a good fit.
- The Purpose Story: This shares the driving values of the brand, and its vision for the future.
- The Expertise Story: Stories within this category showcase how your brand has helped its clients and customers hit their goals.
- The Innovation Story: These anecdotes set your brand apart from the rest.
- The Influence Story: What is the lasting impact of your work? These stories dig into how your purpose is fulfilled within those you work with.
You can learn more about each of the five story types by clicking here.
While you could definitely feed these stories to a program, the software has no way of knowing how you intend to use them, or what new experiences you’d add over time.
Critical Thinking, Strategy, and Ethical Decision-Making Stump AI Writing Programs
At the moment, programs like ChatGPT aren’t able to think critically about what they’re spitting out.
We’ve had tools that “understand” cause and effect for a long time. IFTTT (If This, Then That) comes to mind as an early app people could use to automate simple processes. That’s only become more advanced over the years.
But the amount of context needed to develop a strong content strategy is beyond what AI can accomplish – and that’s because it’s not a simple “if this, then that” equation. There’s a human element.
When we meet with clients to discuss content strategy, we’re not just looking at data. We’re looking at short term goals, long term goals, current motivations, life changes, economic changes, brand values, and more.
In short, the big picture is beyond the screen.
Here’s an example: When COVID struck, several of our clients needed to immediately pivot their content strategy. They operated in industries that were hit hard, like healthcare and education, and all of their business goals were thrown out the window to make way for the new, pandemic-world.
Restructuring a content plan around COVID meant taking into consideration everything from logistic shifts (in-person events needed to shift to virtual) to the mental toll it took on our clients (running a business during the early days of COVID was a trip).
Plus, we needed our clients’ content and content strategy to be considerate of how audiences were experiencing trauma in the world.
That’s an extreme example, but it’s a very real one that impacted literally every business owner in operation in 2020. In some ways, smaller and more personal examples are even harder to trust in the hands of AI.
And then there’s a return to the idea of ethics. The recommendations an AI writing program makes isn’t rooted in the nuance of lived experience. It doesn’t understand the many tiny implications a single small action can have.
How to proceed, given the new AI writing landscape
It’s time to lean into the strengths of human writing, whether you’re a writer yourself or you’ve hired one.
Here at North Star, we like to think of this new technology as an additional tool in our toolbox, rather than something that’s creeping into our territory.
For example, if you’re struggling to come up with content from scratch, you could use the AI-generated text as a jumping off point.
But don’t leave it there. Your job is to take the text and give it the human touch.
Here’s how we recommend using AI writing programs for content:
1) Use it as a starting point.
You don’t want to accidentally steal someone else’s labor. Even if the content passes a plagiarism checker, there are the ethical considerations we mentioned above. Avoid simply copying and pasting what the program spits out.
2) Make sure you optimize the content for your goals.
This might mean SEO optimization, it might mean editing it so it fits within a sales funnel. It all depends on your big picture strategy. Remember, the AI writing program doesn’t always see the big picture. It only knows the prompt you’ve given it.
3) Align the content with the brand.
What sets human generated content apart is the human element, so make sure you’ve taken the time to infuse the brand’s voice into the text and add stories, anecdotes, memes, and anything else that makes the content more real.
Perhaps most importantly, we’re at a point where a solid content strategy is vital.
As AI tools are able to take some of the execution off our plates, we need to pay attention to how those content pieces help us hit our goals.
Remember, content for content’s sake just adds to the noise. It doesn’t help you hit your goals–in fact, it can even distract from them.