Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Content writers should still have one hand on the wheel when it comes to AI

by Jack Malone, Brand Content Manager for Inspired Thinking Group

Last year’s launch and the subsequent success of ChatGPT certainly sparked some concern in me about the future of my role as a content writer.

After all, the nature of Artificial Intelligence (AI) means none of us can really be sure about where this tech is going to go in the future. From the much-publicised Hollywood strikes to open letters from experts warning us about its dangers, there’s certainly a lot of concern out there around AI’s impact on humanity – whether that’s replacing our jobs or even, in a worst-case scenario, leading to our extinction.

That all sounds a little dramatic, but my point is that AI is definitely going to have a big part to play in our future. Personally, I’d be burying my head in the sand if I didn’t think it was going to change my role to some extent, or at least the way in which I perform it.

AI is something of an inevitability for content writers, so perhaps resistance is futile. I’ve already started to incorporate it into some of my day-to-day tasks, particularly if I’m stuck on how to delve into an unfamiliar or particularly dense subject.

Software like ChatGPT can be a useful tool in that situation – simply give it some loose prompts on what you’d like to talk about, and it can open up avenues that you had perhaps not considered or were slightly unsure how to approach.

It’s not about lifting ideas word for word from the platform, but more to do with breaking down the notorious ‘writer’s block’ and finding a way into a topic that you’re comfortable with, and feel you can explore further in your own words.

Yes, you could sit there mapping out ideas manually for hours on end, and in some cases you still should. If I was writing an opinion piece, I would feel uncomfortable using ChatGPT even as an ideas prompt, as it detracts from the authenticity of your point.

However, for other, less creative pieces of work I don’t think writers (especially in industries such as marketing where the workload is high and deadlines are tight) can afford to be too proud to use something that could be a significant time saver.

So, we’ve established that AI can be exceptionally useful when the copy you’re writing is quite matter-of-fact, and the tone of voice (TOV) relatively formal and straightforward. However, it’s when the TOV is more tailored to a precise style that you can start to run into issues.

If you’ve established a very specific way of talking to your target audience that works, then you need to maintain those subtle nuances that drive engagement. No-one is going to know that better than you.

AI may be able to get close to replicating what you can do, and to the untrained eye it could look almost identical. But from my experience there is always going to be a word here and there, or a turn of phrase, that gives the game away – something that I just wouldn’t use that throws the whole thing off.

That’s because AI just isn’t as powerful, at least in terms of creativity, as the human brain. Think of some of instantly recognisable marketing slogans and the brands to which they apply. L’Oréal’s ‘Because you’re worth it’ and Nike’s ‘Just do it’ are two that spring to mind – they’re inescapably linked to those two companies, but why?

In isolation, they don’t give you any sort of hint at what each brand actually does, but they’ve proven incredibly effective at conveying their core message and values. Could AI come up with something that so subtly demonstrates L’Oréal’s sense of luxury and self-worth, or the activity and urgency of Nike, and then make it stick for generations with increasingly clever and creative marketing?

I don’t think it could. There is no tangible reason why those campaigns should have become so iconic, but they both tapped into something that resonated with their audiences. AI is relentlessly logical, but it can’t (at present) account for the fact that humans are emotional and often instinctive creatures, and logic is only part of how we live our lives.

That’s why, for writers, AI can be an ideas generator but not a content creator. It can undoubtedly be useful when gathering your thoughts and helping you navigate the most difficult part of writing – getting started.

But if you want to make those meaningful human connections that all great marketing is built on, then you still need a human to write it. After all, it takes one to know one.


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