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Many of us have tried it in recent weeks: asking ChatGPT to come up with an abstract poem about dancing cows at Christmas, or suggesting a joke about some unsavory politicians (some things write themselves), or even testing its ability to perform written work required for paid employment. It tickles the shortcut reflexes in our brains – which want everything now, now, now!
But effective and strategic marketing and communication usually require a lot of attention and care; it’s rarely black and white, and it almost always requires a lot of nuance and emotional intelligence.
At a time when investors are extremely cautious, the tech sector is in flux, governments around the world are tackling inflation and primed for a recession, companies can’t afford for their public communications to be half-baked. Especially when the difference between winning investments or closing deals and getting your collection pot back empty often has to do with the first impression.
Ultimately, the heart of effective communication is connecting with people. Soft skills that nurture relationships are essential, as is a listening ear to pick up on an audience’s needs and a sharp nose for news. All this to deliver an accurate, packaged, perfectly positioned campaign; those who want to economize with ChatGPT or other cookie-cutter approaches are simply unable to produce this content.
Communication: use technology, don’t rely on it
Don’t get me wrong, technical progress is paramount in PR and marketing. Organizations can use social analytics platforms, sentiment trackers, data dashboards, and other tools to amplify a campaign’s message and provide the most actionable insights.
ChatGPT is a whole different beast though. Not only does it avoid essential research and audience insight by combining a generic, human writing style with information scalped from the web, it also avoids the need for companies to think outside the box, consider different angles, and be intelligent and to think sensitively. Like generic PR approaches of copy and paste, it dilutes creative juices in the name of efficiency – which is never beneficial to a company’s external brand.
Instead of relying on ChatGPT, companies should consider other successful and less successful PR campaigns. Take Duolingo’s smart campaigns: they’ve led to a wave of users used TikTok for the past year to connect with a younger audience and clever gimmicks like a High Valyrian language course to coincide with HBO’s release House of the Dragon. These tactics were smart, simple, and a key component that contributed to significant growth prospects for stocks in 2023.
In short, as it stands, ChatGPT lacks nuance, and nuance is exactly what can make the difference between a cat and a tiger, or at least between a lion and a leopard. And in the hunt for brand awareness, this can really matter. Plus, artificial intelligence (AI) has earned a reputation for reinforcing stereotypes — and in an environment where hypersensitivity is critical to avoiding potentially harmful typecasts, the last thing a brand needs is a clumsy bot stepping on its toes.
Indeed, ChatGPT looks a lot like a robot designed to kick a soccer ball. The robot may be able to hit a ball with power and accuracy, but if it can’t run at variable speeds, switch with its teammates, judge and react to opponents’ moves, or make the most powerful pass or shot at the optimal time giving off based on an instinctive feel for the pitch, it won’t be a great team player.
Before writing anything, companies need to put the work into it
PR and communication is not just about the haphazard release of quotes or press releases. Good communication means collaborating with stakeholders, getting to grips with the target audience, understanding a journalist’s focus and priorities, analyzing the news agenda, mitigating risks, identifying opportunities and agreeing key messages before the proverbial ink has been put on paper.
ChatGPT can make up a few paragraphs in seconds, but would a company feel that the essence of the brand, principles, objectives and various stakeholders have been taken into account within the composition? I’m not so sure.
In-depth research and industry expertise all help build a knowledge repertoire to support accurate communication. Effective PR campaigns require a level of insight that currently eludes the gimmicky mimicry of a chat AI engine or lazy PR professionals.
Brands reflect the people and principles of the company
As the saying goes, people buy brands, not products. That’s why it’s critical to ensure that a company’s voice and character is real rather than fabricated. Content will always be associated with a company’s employees, values and mission.
ChatGPT is still a fun tool to use and has a level of fluidity that may have never been seen in AI before. I have no doubt that in the near future, as it becomes more sophisticated, it will become an invaluable tool to help communications professionals optimize their craft – just as AI has become a tool in helping radiologists decipher X-rays – to enhance human expertise, not replace it.
But for now, when it comes to advanced communications, companies must recognize that they need to offer the world more than casual conversations. Effective PR can transform a young start-up into a private label, keep the right people informed at critical times, help prevent crises and deliver memorable, powerful campaigns.
Communication is so much more than automated content production. It’s connection. It is the basis of human relationships. It is the power to really listen, understand and respond. Skills that are unique to us and that are – at least for now – irreplaceable.
Joseph Moses is CEO of Campaign PR.
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