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Many of us have given it a go in the last couple of weeks: Asking ChatGPT to concoct an abstract poem about dancing cows at Christmas, or to suggest a joke about some unsavory politicians (some things write themselves), or even testing its ability to perform the written work that paying jobs demand. It tantalizes the shortcutting reflexes in our brains — which want everything now, now, now!
But effective and strategic marketing and communications typically take extensive consideration and care; it’s rarely ever black and white, and it almost always requires a great deal of nuance and emotional intelligence.
At a time when investors are exercising immense caution, the tech sector is in flux, governments worldwide are tackling inflation and primed for a recession, businesses can’t afford for their public communications to be half-baked. Especially when the difference between securing investments or closing deals and finding your collections bowl returned empty can often come down to first impressions.
Ultimately, the heart of effective communications is connecting with people. Soft skills that nourish relationships are vital, as is an ear to the ground to pick up on an audience’s needs and a sharp nose for news. This is all to deliver a precise, packaged, perfectly positioned campaign; those looking to cut corners with ChatGPT or other cookie-cutter approaches simply aren’t capable of producing this content.
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Communications: Harness tech, don’t rely on it
Don’t get me wrong, tech advances are paramount in PR and marketing. Organizations can employ social analytics platforms, sentiment trackers, data dashboards and other tools to boost a campaign’s message and provide the most useful insights.
However, ChatGPT is a different beast entirely. Not only is it avoiding vital research and audience insights by blending a generic human style of writing with information scalped from the web, it obviates the need for companies to think outside the box, to consider different angles and to think intelligently and sensitively. Much like generic copy-and-paste PR approaches, it dilutes creative juices in the name of efficiency — which is never advantageous to a company’s external brand.
Instead of relying on ChatGPT, companies should take heed of other successful and less successful PR campaigns. Take Duolingo’s smart campaigns: They’ve driven a surge of users in the past year using TikTok to connect with younger audiences as well as clever gimmicks like a High Valyrian language course to coincide with the release of HBO’s House of The Dragon. These tactics were a smart, simple and a key component contributing to significant stock growth prospects 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 chase for brand recognition, this can really matter. What’s more: Artificial Intelligence (AI) has gained a reputation for reinforcing stereotypes — and in an environment where hypersensitivity is crucial to avoiding potentially damaging typecasts, the last thing a brand needs is a clumsy bot stepping on toes.
Indeed, ChatGPT is much like a robot designed to kick a football. The robot may be able to strike a ball with power and accuracy, but if it cannot run at variable speeds, interchange with its teammates, assess and react to opponents’ movement or release the most potent pass or shot at the optimum time based on an instinctive feel for the field, it won’t be a great team player.
Before writing anything, companies need to put the work in
PR and communications aren’t simply about churning out quotes or press releases indiscriminately. 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, mapping opportunities and agreeing on key messages before even putting the proverbial ink to paper.
ChatGPT can invent a few paragraphs in seconds, but would a company feel its brand essence, principles, objectives and various stakeholders have been taken into account within the composition? I’m not so sure.
Deep research and sector expertise all contribute to building a repertoire of knowledge to support precise 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 company people and principles
As the saying goes, people buy brands, not products. That’s why it is critical to ensure that the voice and character of a company is genuine rather than manufactured. Content will always be associated with the employees, the values and the mission of a company.
ChatGPT is still a fun tool to use and has a level of fluency perhaps never before seen in AI. I have no doubt that in the foreseeable future as its sophistication develops, it will become an invaluable tool for helping communications professionals optimize their craft — much like AI has become instrumental in helping radiologists decipher X-Rays — bolstering human expertise, not replacing it.
But for now, when it comes to cutting-edge communications, businesses need to recognize that they should be offering more than surface-level conversations to the world. Effective PR can transform a fledgling start-up into a household brand, it can keep the right people informed at critical times, help to avert crises and deliver memorable, hard-hitting campaigns.
Communications is so much more than automated content production. It is connection. It is the bedrock of human relationships. It is the power to truly listen, understand and respond. Skills unique to us, which — at least for now — are irreplaceable.
Joseph Moses is CEO of Campaign PR.
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