This Post Was Written by a Bot*

*Not really

Happy New Year and welcome to the future!

We have all heard the hype about artificial intelligence (AI) over the past few years, but anyone who has interacted with a customer service chatbot would be justified in expressing extreme skepticism about the technology’s promise to change the world for the better.

Yet awareness of AI’s inevitable integration into our daily lives seems to have reached the tipping point over the holidays this year, when many of us first took notice of ChatGPT, a chatbot launched by OpenAI in November 2022. ChatGPT has been trained to generate human-like text for a wide range of conversation topics and can respond to a user’s questions and comments in a natural and coherent way.

Users quickly discovered that ChatGPT is a pretty useful tool for quickly generating content on almost any subject. Not surprisingly, educators were among the first to realize the negative impact that this technology could have on student learning, and last week the New York City Department of Education banned ChatGPT from public school networks and devices.  Only time will tell if this decision will be regarded in hindsight as sound educational policy or a technophobic, knee-jerk reaction to progress.

ChatGPT’s applications are by no means limited to the academic setting. According to Axios, “PR and marketing pros are using the tool to help brainstorm, research and combat writer’s block.” But the implications are far more wide-ranging as marketers, research analysts, journalists, lawyers, et al. assess how this AI platform can help them work more efficiently.

It seems that we are not the only ones thinking about the potential value of ChatGPT.  As Semafor reports, Microsoft is said to be in talks with OpenAI about an investment that would value the company at $29 billion.

Putting ChatGPT to the Test

As practitioners in the field of strategic communications, we were more than a little curious about this new(-ish) technology and its potential impact on how we communicate. So we asked Chat GPT to write a blog post for the new year. As professional writers, we were skeptical – but open-minded – that a bot could make insightful observations and produce high-quality content.

Here is what we asked: “Can you write a blog post about the five top tips for strategic communicators in 2023?”

And here is what we got (verbatim):

  1. Embrace emerging technologies: In 2023, it’s likely that we’ll see an even greater emphasis on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and chatbots. As a strategic communicator, it’s important to stay up-to-date on these technologies and how they can be used to enhance your organization’s communication efforts. 
  1. Focus on authenticity and transparency: With the rise of fake news and misinformation, it’s more important than ever for organizations to be transparent and authentic in their communication efforts. This means being honest and straightforward with your audience, and being open to feedback and questions. 
  1. Utilize data and analytics: To effectively communicate with your audience, you need to have a deep understanding of who they are and what they want. Leveraging data and analytics can help you gain valuable insights into your audience’s preferences, behaviors, and needs, allowing you to tailor your communication efforts to better engage and connect with them. 
  1. Foster relationships with key stakeholders: Building and maintaining strong relationships with key stakeholders such as employees, customers, and media is essential for any strategic communicator. This includes actively listening to their feedback and concerns, and being responsive and proactive in addressing any issues that may arise.  
  1. Embrace a multichannel approach: With the proliferation of different communication channels, it’s important to adopt a multichannel approach to reach your audience. This could include using social media, email, SMS, and in-person events, among other channels. By using a variety of channels, you can effectively engage with your audience no matter where they are or how they prefer to communicate.

Our Hot Take

The writing was generic, mechanical and formulaic, and one could argue that the first two recommendations (i.e. embrace AI and be authentic) are somewhat in conflict. But as a starting point, it was not half bad.

After engaging with the technology some more, we got a better sense of its capabilities and limitations. ChatGPT – in its current iteration – is useful for conducting basic research, delivering brief, factual summaries of information, and generating workable content on many subjects. However, the quality of the output is often a function of the quality of the input and the user’s direction. The style tends to be a little clunky, and it falls short on any kind of writing that requires creativity, nuance, or legal precision.

To summarize, we agree with ChatGPT that, “these tools can be useful for generating ideas and providing inspiration,” but “they are not a substitute for your own original thinking and writing.”

A Not So Bold Prediction

Like almost every other industry, PR practitioners will integrate AI technology into their workflows in limited ways, but at this point, it seems unlikely that AI will be able to completely replace the wisdom, experience and value-added contributions of thoughtful, seasoned advisors. Or maybe that is just wishful thinking. 😊

Challenge Yourself

Can you tell the difference between AI-generated content and text written by an actual human child? Take this quiz from The New York Times and let us know how you do.

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