Artificial intelligence (AI), also called machine learning, has become a common term in our vocabulary. It’s no longer futuristic to talk about AI-powered robots or voice-activated assistants.
These once seemingly sci-fi applications are in use every day, everywhere. Think about AI’s use in education, health care, manufacturing, transportation, and countless other industries. And yes, it is infiltrating into the creative process of marketing content and copywriting…or is it? There’s considerable debate about this. Let’s take a closer look.
AI has already altered the way we write
The writing process for successful marketing changed a great deal with the digital age. That role continues to evolve with the explosion of AI.
My first reaction to hearing about the use of machine learning in creative storytelling was “Oh my God! I’ll be replaced by a robot that can write an opus in seconds!” I immediately jumped to the conclusion that AI was a foe and not a friend, and I would become irrelevant. When I stopped hyperventilating, I pondered a more useful idea. If AI can make me more productive, isn’t that added value I can bring to my clients?
I began tracking how many times I already use AI throughout my day. I daresay you would also come up with a shocking number. For example, do you think twice anymore about asking Alexa or Siri questions rather than the flesh and blood companion next to you? The omnipresent database in the sky is by far what I tap most often for research. The term “Google it” is a standard phrase now. Google is one of the most commonly used AI tools we have at our fingertips, and it’s the same database many AI software tools scan for content creation.
Stay with me in this rabbit hole for a moment as we look at how AI affects marketing. We know the demand for content never sleeps. Not all businesses and entrepreneurs have the luxury of a marketing department, and even those who do can find themselves in a losing battle to keep up. Not surprisingly, AI services are clamoring to fill the void. Tools like Anyword, CopyAI, INK Editor, Jasper, and Writerly promise to make writing easy and painless by identifying trends, saving time and money, and simplifying automation. Their ultimate goal is to make AI-generated output sound more “human.”
This begs the question – if you can buy a writer “in a box” or DIY for less than hiring a professional writer…would you? Should you?
Moral & ethical questions
We are discussing AI as it relates to marketing content and copywriting specifically, yet this touches upon a greater topic that I will visit only briefly here. Imagine laboring over an article such as this, a white paper or other campaign content, or something larger – like a book. Think of it being added to the big AI database in the sky. Now, consider these questions as they relate to your own sweat and tears:
Is AI a fancy word for paraphrasing or plagiarism?
- Is AI-generated copy “copyrightable”?
- Should AI credit human authors for the original ideas it samples from their work, or provide citations when pulling information from research data?
- What are the criteria AI tools use when conducting “plagiarism checks?”
- As AI learns from the data it amasses, and adopts a certain writer’s persona (style or tone of voice), isn’t that also a form of plagiarism?
Bullet point references #1-3
How do you handle a credit when another writer’s work sparks an idea in you, but you aren’t pulling directly from their text? This is already a tricky area. AI doesn’t yet acknowledge or credit sources. When using AI-generated copy, the general consensus appears to be that the result is so filtered, it no longer resembles the original writing it scans.
For us humans, the rule of thumb is that no unoriginal text should be pasted or otherwise entered into a work in progress without an immediate citation being applied. #4 At least I hope most writers honor this – as I am attaching my references below.
How does AI create content?
To cover all the complexities will get us even further into the weeds, but let’s segue from ethics to review just the basics of how AI writes. AI pulls data from language models (LM), which are sets of statistical data that determine the probability of a given sequence of words occurring in a sentence. LM are a subfield of AI, and used in a wide range of writing applications – including books, chatbots, translation, and summarization.
LM such as GPT-3, BERT, and Word2Vec all strive to produce human-like text. To generate words, they analyze bodies of text, typically from the internet. Companies like Google and OpenAI have built LM trained on massive text data sets. The larger the set, the better the understanding of relationships between words.
People are talking about GPT-3 in particular because it can give better output with every use. For example, if you train the tool with articles about marketing campaigns, it will automatically “learn” information for generating copy, writing SEO content, and publishing to various platforms. However, Google has found ways to detect phrases or over-optimized material used by GPT-3 and lower the ranking of these articles. #5 Google can also recognize human writing by analyzing for a unique level of sentiment, attitude, or point-of-view.
Can AI capture the level of nuance that makes writing feel genuine?
Even with all this computing power, language models are still like calculators with limitations. Just as you must enter the right numbers into a calculator to get correct results, the same applies when using AI tools. The information you enter into AI software to “calculate” or write content must be relevant. At a minimum, this information generally includes a title, introductory prompt or summary, keywords, and the tone you wish to convey.
Judge for yourself. See if you can tell the difference in the paragraphs below. One is written by me, the other by AI.
Title: The impact of AI on marketing content and copywriting
Intro prompt: No Matter What Happens, Stay Human
Keywords: Content and copywriting
A. The key phrase I use when describing the evolution of AI in marketing is that it is an enhancement, not a replacement, for copywriters. Quality writing still benefits from a “human touch” while creating prompts for AI software, as well as in editing and applying the final output in a personalized way for specific audiences. A sense of humor is hard to replicate, and it’s impossible to have a “style” without a personality.
B. No matter what happens, staying human is essential. We are all different and have unique experiences and perspectives. When we stay connected to our humanity, we can better relate to and understand each other. We can also find compassion and hope, even in the darkest of times. So no matter what happens, remember to stay human. content copywriting can help you do just that. By crafting content that is relatable, authentic, and empathetic, you can connect with your audience on a deeper level. And when you do, you can make a real difference in the world. So don’t give up and don’t forget what it means to be human. Stay connected to your humanity, and you will find the strength to carry on through even the toughest of times.
I wrote paragraph A. The AI output is riddled with cliches when trying to speak on the human experience. This is where AI struggles the most, and why I chose this subject matter. I can’t explain why there’s also a typo (not using a capital letter to start a sentence).
* Note these same data prompts can produce completely different results with further use or when using a different AI tool.
AI software can create content, but it needs a live person to guide it. You must feed it the right questions, ideas, and themes, then add your own secret sauce for best results. Another way of harnessing AI’s power in a more personalized way is by using it to optimize content that you have already created.
Here’s what other smart marketers say about AI crashing the party:
Brian Clark, founder of CopyBlogger, Further, and Unemployable
Excerpts from American Writers & Artists (AWAI) 2022 Bootcamp, October 4, 2022:
“Aren’t you amazed that the biggest advances in AI have been in writing and design? Two areas we thought we were so safe as creative people. Although, some of the best writers I know use AI assistance like Jasper for getting the research aspects in place for a first draft. But, the first drafts aren’t ready to go because there’s no “you” in it, or if it’s for a client, no brand voice. Will AI get there? I’ll never say never, but…not yet. Good writers know the magic happens in editing. At this point, I see more of a demand for writers augmented by AI than any threat of them being replaced.”
Kaci Nielson, copywriter and email specialist:
“We should embrace what makes us better writers. AI is a tool, like any other. The definition of the right tool for the right job relies greatly on the skill of the person using it. I use AI to boost the amount of my copy so I’m not starting with a blank page. A lot also depends on the type of content you are creating. If there’s a need for statistics or historical data, having that at your fingertips through AI is useful. Certainly, most writers already use the web for research.”
How and when to integrate AI into your marketing toolbox
If you’re struggling to find new ways to attract leads, grow your email list, keep up with content demands, or generate more sales – AI can be an asset. By applying machine learning algorithms to existing data, marketers can isolate trends and insights at light speed. The crucial next step is implementing these insights with the personal goals of the client.
The skill sets you need to use AI well are the same ones professional writers should already possess – that is if you want the best results. They are:
1. A creative bent
The primary skill for any writing for any industry is, and always will be, creativity. Language models can boost creativity by providing a multitude of viewpoints on your subject matter that you have not considered.
AI writes by reading what you give it and comparing it to what it has read before. So, true originality depends on marketers being imaginative to fully leverage the potential of AI, and expand on ideas that it suggests. AI cannot formulate specifics for your product, service, or brand unless you tell it what to incorporate.
The biggest mistakes that marketers make when crafting inputs are:
- Feeding inaccurate or flat information into the software. Your results won’t be magically engaging if you’re phoning it in.
- Being too specific or not specific enough will also hobble your search. AI needs to know what you mean, but you can’t restrict it so much there are not enough search parameters.
2. Active listening
Marketing is about getting in front of the people interested in your product or service and fulfilling their wants and needs. To do this, you need to know who they are. There are two primary ways to listen to your audience and pick up valuable information relevant to them, your industry, and your competitors:
Digitally: Pull from customer reviews and social media comments. Edit the messages concisely before introducing them into an AI writing algorithm. Monitoring your platforms to summarize the insights offered there are key skills in any marketer’s toolbox.
Personally: Personal touches will amass even greater returns. I’m always enthusiastic and motivated when forging a partnership with clients over a shared vision. It’s isolating when interacting with software instead of real people. AI has the advantage of being able to access vast information about any subject matter, but your edge is understanding your audience and having a relationship with them. AI isn’t going to sit down and have a meeting of the minds with your client, meet their customers, or bond over a shared love of nachos.
3. An open mind
A willingness to embrace change doesn’t always come easy, especially after you’ve paid for a college degree to study your craft, worked hard, paid your dues, and amassed a lot of experience.
It’s natural to feel defensive about a software tool that can conjure up anything for a potential client like a wizard with a wand. I had to pry my mind open to the fact AI can now generate stories and not just do spell check.
The marketing industry changes constantly, and many of those shifts are driven by technology. Even if you don’t care to embrace AI, it’s important to understand its benefits and limitations as it relates to your business.
4. Data analysis
Writers engaging with AI have the power to create content at scale, including ads, emails, and landing pages. You don’t need to be an analytics wizard, but a basic understanding of how to use performance results to improve your craft is important.
5. Strategic planning
If you use AI to create content for a campaign funnel, you’ll benefit from a strategist’s skill to put it all together as plans are continuously re-adjusting depending on results. And, it should come as no surprise that good strategists should also possess wicked professional writing skills.
What does the future hold for content marketers?
We’ve seen that AI software can enhance your abilities to create content quickly by referencing more data for statistical information, offering a broader field of ideas, and aiding in visualizing different ways of combining them.
To date, AI hasn’t quite mastered the ability to understand the meaning behind concepts; and the aforementioned sentimentality. These tools will get better at mimicking humans in due time – but writers shouldn’t pack their bags just yet. Rather, expanding skill sets would be wiser. It would be naive to say AI will never impact the number of marketers and writers being hired. Currently, AI can help a non-writer become a decent writer, but it doesn’t replace an excellent writer. In the future? Content marketing jobs may favor strategists and copy editors who specialize in creating parameters, then managing and optimizing the content AI produces.#6
AI is here to stay and will become more sophisticated. Using AI or humans in real-time is still a decision and a choice. Where do you fall on this spectrum? However we choose to work – in tandem with AI, humans, or extraterrestrials – we need to be nimble to co-exist with emerging technologies. The challenge will be holding on to the creative spark that makes any writing worth reading in the first place, and allows us to relate to each other as human beings.
Miernicki, Martin & Ng, Irene “Artificial intelligence and moral rights” https://bit.ly/3Mn8e23, Springer Link
Guadamuz, Andres “Artificial intelligence and copyright” https://bit.ly/3RPj6XI, WIPO World Intellectual Property Organization
Bailey, Johnathan “The growth of AI in Plagiarism detection” https://bit.ly/3D05PXU Plagiarism Today
Bailey, Johnathan “How to use a writing cleanroom to avoid plagiarism” https://bit.ly/3BweOhA, Plagiarism Today
Shah, Samir “Ten ways Google will defeat GPT-3 based article writing tools”https://bit.ly/3SPn5og, Medium
Ruby, Kris “The ultimate guide to creating a PR & marketing AI strategy” https://bit.ly/3ejWTDa, Ruby Media Group