Over the past few weeks there’s been huge speculation and discussion over the arrival of ChatGPT. OpenAI’s chatbot which is founded on the company’s large language models, seemingly can remove the need for humans to put finger to keyboard – or at least reduce the heavy lifting involved in producing high-quality written content for any purpose.
Microsoft’s $10 billion investment in OpenAI announced in January, closely followed by Google launching its Bard equivalent, signals that the big tech guys expect AI to be the future of content. I personally love that Google has named its AI offering after “a poet, especially one who writes impassioned, lyrical, or epic verse.” Oh the irony, of naming it after the most creative, free-thinking, visionary playwright whose longevity is arguably down to the fact he broke so many rules and even invented new words, whereas AI writing tools can only rehash what others have given them and not create anything truly new – yet.
AI’s impact on B2B PR
Focusing on my own sector of B2B PR, AI-produced written content isn’t the only technological ‘threat’ to our ways of working. AI art generators are already shaking things up. Shutterstock, the internet’s top provider of stock images, made a string of AI acquisitions in 2021 – of businesses and tools that help users with image selection for marketing campaigns. Following this it now offers AI-generated images to subscribers through an integration with DALL-E, OpenAI’s other major platform.
Like most PR agency leaders, I have had a play with ChatGPT to see what it offers. It has also come up in conversation with clients and prospects. We cannot escape the fact it will raise questions about the cost of agencies producing content versus getting a bot to do so for free and in a fraction of the time. Agency experts recently shared their views in this PR Moment blog. The consensus seems to be that it is useful but by no means perfect. What you gain in terms of speed and cost you lose in terms of originality. For now, at least.
Am I worried about it? Not particularly. Should younger marketing people be worried as it could have a greater impact on their future careers? Probably not – as they will evolve with the world as we have. Their clients will be their peers and there will be a mutual understanding that AI is part of the game.
Can/should we resist it?
One big question is, should (or can) we resist the onset of AI in our working lives? Personally, the answer is no. I don’t want to lose my job or livelihood but we must accept that tools like this are here to stay. They might not be there yet in terms of quality but it is only a matter of time before they are able to do more of what we do, to as good a standard, and more quickly. In fact, there are many areas where PR could benefit from AI, beyond the writing of content. For example, learning the behaviours of journalists based on their writing, interests, and responsiveness to eradicate scattergun pitching and story distribution (which essentially is humans behaving like robots, rather than the other way around.)
For someone like me who has worked in the PR industry for over 25 years, careers are divided into a pre and post internet periods. My generation has seen the stark transformation that the internet, in its first form, had on the way we do our jobs. From stuffing press releases in envelopes, label printing and franking machines in the ‘90s, to using tools that monitor what journalists are writing about to tell you who are most interested in your client. And Google – think about how much we all rely on it to find relevant and referenceable evidence to shape what we write. Could you live without it and would you want to? We’ve been letting technology do our research for us for years now and we cannot deny we love many of the advantages. AI is just the next step in that evolution.
Is the real issue our apparent contempt for originality?
My belief that AI is here to stay does not mean I think it is for good. However, I think human behaviour, not AI, is also an issue. I believe we have been falling out of love with originality for years. Our relationship with technology is partly to blame for this. Wowed by our invention, we let technology take over, accept its ubiquity, and treat the same-ness of everything as normal.
Think about the speed with which technology accelerates how new things are produced and shared digitally. Netflix series, computer games, physical products. Technology has taught us we can have stuff now in life rather than waiting. This isn’t just about our behaviour as consumers. It is permeating into business expectations and subsequently into marketing approaches, and agency-client relationships. To me, speed and pace is often a trade off against originality. Originality is original human nature and we should be seeking to preserve it, not lead it into extinction.
Bringing this back to a marketing context, one of my biggest bugbears with the work we do is that there seems to be an increasing contempt for original marketing thinking – which takes time and is often at odds with the quest for everything at speed. Martech, contrary to adding value to marketing, has in some respects just created a need for quotas over quality. Just consider the impact that SEO strategy has had on content strategy in the last decade. “We need 12 approved blogs in the next two months” is a far more common conversation now than “we need a marketing campaign that achieves X Y and Z and explores this theme.”
Creativity over convenience
Content is what feeds technology platforms; ideas and originality are what feed human buyers’ imaginations. In our PR work we’re increasingly challenged by a lack of originality and a belief that existing content can serve our needs in terms of feature contributions, press stories and commissioned articles. Sometimes, it’s a fight just getting access to a spokesperson for the original input that the media needs. In the ‘90s and noughties it was different.
So sometimes robots are not the issue – humans are. Is our inherent laziness and acceptance of technology killing our originality? It’s a little Orwellian for a B2B marketing blog but if we let the advancing machines dictate what we do, we appeal to their desires, not to ourselves. Our obsession with how clever technology is, is overshadowing how creative we are.
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I don’t consider myself an artist but what we do in jobs such as PR, journalism and creative marketing does include a form of artistry. So it is interesting to hear an artist’s view. Here’s how Nick Cave responded when a fan recently sent him a song written in his style by ChatGPT:
“Writing a good song is not mimicry, or replication, or pastiche, it is the opposite…It is an act of self-murder that destroys all one has strived to produce in the past. It is those dangerous, heart-stopping departures that catapult the artist beyond the limits of what he or she recognises as their known self.
“This is part of the authentic creative struggle that precedes the invention of a unique lyric of actual value; it is the breathless confrontation with one’s vulnerability, one’s perilousness, one’s smallness, pitted against a sense of sudden shocking discovery; it is the redemptive artistic act that stirs the heart of the listener, where the listener recognizes in the inner workings of the song their own blood, their own struggle, their own suffering.”
While I can’t claim the same depth of thought at all, I get it. Writing this blog alone has required a degree of original thinking, beyond the general noise that is going on in my head. I’ve had to question myself about what I think. Even though the evolution of AI is probably inevitable, let’s not tell ourselves that fast fakes and speedy shallowness are ‘good enough’ – and definitely not better than the original. I’d be sorry to lose the need to think hard to produce something great.
So I would like you, as B2B marketers to remember that originality matters, as well as technology. It’s not enough to deliver boring, regurgitated content like ChatGPT currently does. To end this blog I want to share the questions I put to chat GPT (as part of my research) and the answers it gave me. They don’t provide amazing insights – but read between the lines and they tell you quite a lot. So carry on reading – and exercise your brilliant, creative, interpretive mind to think about what these answers tell you!
Q: Will ChatGPT be able to express an opinion?
As a language model, ChatGPT is able to generate text that includes opinions, however, it’s important to note that the opinions expressed by the model are not necessarily reflective of the views or beliefs of the developers or creators of the model.
ChatGPT is trained on a large dataset of text, and it generates text based on patterns it has learned from that data. If the data contains a wide variety of opinions, the model will be able to generate text that includes opinions that are representative of those found in the training data. However, the model does not have its own beliefs or views, but rather it can generate text that appears as if it is expressing an opinion
Q: Will Google algorithms like content written by ChatGPT?
It is possible that Google’s algorithms may like content written by ChatGPT, but it ultimately depends on how well the content is optimized for search engines. Google’s algorithms use a variety of factors to determine the relevance and credibility of a webpage, including the quality and relevance of the content, the number and quality of external links pointing to the webpage, and the webpage’s overall user experience. If the content written by ChatGPT is high-quality, relevant, and well-optimized for search engines, it may be favoured by Google’s algorithms. However, it’s important to note that Google’s algorithms are constantly evolving, so it is best to stay up-to-date on the latest best practices for SEO.
Q: Will ChatGPT replace PR agencies?
It is unlikely that ChatGPT or any other language model will completely replace PR agencies. While ChatGPT can be used to generate text, such as press releases or articles, it is not able to perform all of the other functions of a PR agency…
…While ChatGPT can be used to generate text, it is not able to perform the other key functions of PR agencies. In addition, PR agencies also have industry knowledge and established relationships with journalists and other key contacts that ChatGPT does not have.
While AI and machine learning can be used to support PR agencies in their work, it is unlikely that they will replace the human touch and expertise that PR agencies bring to the table.
Q: Will ChatGPT replace journalists?
It is unlikely that ChatGPT or any other language model will completely replace journalists. ChatGPT can be used to generate text based on a given prompt, but it does not have the ability to gather and verify information, conduct interviews, or make editorial decisions like a human journalist would.
That being said, AI-generated text can be used as a tool to assist journalists in their work, such as generating summaries of news articles or identifying patterns in data. In addition, some news outlets have already started to use AI-generated content for stock market or sports news for example, where the information is more formulaic and less dependent on human creativity.
However, it is unlikely that ChatGPT or other AI-generated text will completely replace human journalists in the near future, as the profession requires a wide range of skills, including the ability to gather and verify information, conduct interviews, and make editorial decisions that machines can’t replicate yet.
Photo by Laårk Boshoff on Unsplash