There has been a tremendous amount of chatter, discussion and lively debate regarding the use of artificial intelligence to multiply the output of work for marketing agencies and brands alike. Supporters tout its ability to enhance productivity and generate new content seemingly in the blink of an eye. Those opposed to its use worry about its accuracy and the ethical implications of replacing human thought and work with a machine.
Using AI for content marketing, specifically, isn’t a new phenomenon; AI at its core is used by much of the population every day. Our daily interactions with our screens generate vast amounts of data that are used to inform algorithms that recommend additional content, from songs we stream to social media posts and memes we like and share.
The public release of ChatGPT in Fall 2022 is where we started to see a shift in how people are perceiving, interacting with and talking about AI. The perception was that AI could be used as a fun toy or productivity tool, similar to a grammar-checking browser extension, to enhance the efforts of content marketers.
However, in Spring 2023, when ChatGPT quickly picked up steam and millions of users began trying out the technology. Understandably, this has created a looming sense of existential dread among many content creators who fear machines and robots could replace them as AI becomes smarter and more widely adopted. Naturally, the tug-of-war between backlash and support of AI began, and that showdown persists today.
At this moment, the spotlight is on SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America as they continue their strike demanding fair pay and AI regulations. It has come to light that tools like ChatGPT are ingesting work and source material from writers and using it to train and generate new content. This poses all sorts of ethical and legal issues around copyright, fact-checking, concerns about skilled and educated humans being replaced by robots and so forth.
The AI phenomenon doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon, but what does this mean for not only content marketers, but agencies and businesses as well?
There are numerous opportunities and obstacles to be aware of in terms of using AI for content marketing. We’ll cut through the noise to get to the root of what this technology means for content marketers, agencies and clients alike.
Generative pre-training transformer, or GPT, models learn from vast amounts of data, which means they can generate new copy that appears coherent and relevant to the prompt or question presented. AI models operate based on statistical patterns, but because they are not thinking, feeling human beings, they can’t grasp the context or intent behind any specific prompt. This presents a risk of generating inaccurate, low-quality content that contains nonsensical or factually incorrect information.
As Ann Handley, author and Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, said in an April webinar: "I worry that there's going to be a whole lot of mediocre content that is going to be created, a whole lot of sort of mediocre writing, because people are going to see it as like a microwave, that they can just pop some words in and out comes a full meal."
She went on to describe how she views AI as an intern or a research partner that can help generate content but emphasized the importance of human input to ensure the content's quality and relevance. This is where content marketers and editors must come in to carefully review and refine the AI’s output for accuracy, consistency and quality.
AI chatbots do not inherently understand the nuances of a particular business’s brand story or audience, which is vital to effective content marketing strategy. While tools are improving in this area by the very nature of how AI operates—that is, absorbing information and using it to generate new text—there are still discussions, interviews and observations that happen behind the scenes that skilled marketers are simply better at.
Content marketers understand brand voice and tone, so if they use AI as a writing tool, they must invest time and effort in fine-tuning the output to align with their client’s messaging and story. Failure to do so may result in content that doesn't resonate with the target audience or doesn't reflect the brand's identity.
When generating any kind of content or messaging for clients, agencies must be aware of compliance regulations for specific industries. Healthcare, finance and legal sectors in particular have strict guidelines regarding language, and generated content must comply with applicable laws and regulations, to maintain accuracy, transparency and data privacy.
AI tools like ChatGPT are trained on data that is several years old. Our world is rapidly evolving, and published information from 2020, for example, may not be accurate with new facts and discoveries that have come to light since. This outdated information poses not only concerns with accuracy, but also ethical considerations anyone using these tools needs to weigh out.
The data that AI consumes may also include biases and potentially controversial or inappropriate content. As we mentioned previously, AI is often trained on published work that authors did not consent to put out in the world for such purposes. Content marketers, agencies and clients all need to be cautious when using tools like ChatGPT to ensure that the generated content adheres to ethical standards and avoids perpetuating harmful stereotypes or unethical behavior. Careful review, editing and validation of the generated copy are essential to maintain integrity and prevent unintended consequences.
While GPT models can certainly streamline content creation processes, content marketers should strike a balance between automation and human input. Over-reliance on AI can lead to a lack of originality, authenticity and the human touch that distinguishes brands and connects with audiences on a deeper level.
Content marketers and agencies are already taking advantage of the swift generation of content and answers to inquiries generated by AI. Tools like ChatGPT and Writer can be used to get the ball rolling on pieces of content, from generating blog post outlines to email subject lines or basic social media posts.
A HubSpot survey shows 33 percent of marketers use AI as inspiration for new pieces of content. It’s a bit like receiving a first draft or content guidelines from a client—the AI bot might not write the most compelling copy, but it can serve as a starting point for brainstorming and further refinement.
GPT models can also be used to enhance and fine-tune existing content. Content marketers can leverage AI to improve the readability, flow and style of their writing. By feeding a piece of content to a GPT model, marketers can receive suggestions and alternative phrasings, helping them refine their messaging and ensure that their content is concise and engaging.
For brands that serve customers globally, translating existing web copy, social media posts and email communications often requires outsourcing to bilingual contractors. While these jobs are still important to ensure accuracy, AI can be used for some content localization efforts by generating quick translations into different languages or localized versions of content. Adapting content to specific cultural contexts or regional spellings using AI can help brands better reach international audiences.
Personalized user experiences and custom content delivered to an intended audience’s wants, needs, desires and behaviors is a key piece of the inbound marketing methodology. As competition grows, this need only becomes more relevant and indispensable for brands. Agencies and marketers have a range of tools at their disposal to listen to consumers and gather data. AI can be another avenue used to gather this type of information.
By training GPT models on past customer queries and interactions, chatbots can be created to understand and respond to a wide range of user inputs. Then, these chatbots can save companies time and manpower by automatically providing personalized recommendations, answers, links and solutions to website visitors helpfully and conversationally.
Marketers can then gather these conversations to inform messaging around personalized emails, social media messages and advertisements that feel authentic and tailored to each individual. Consumers are already used to “the algorithm” delivering content, ads and information relevant to their past online behavior. Utilizing AI to speed up or refine this process is a natural progression in gathering data on leads and customers and delivering custom content that puts specific brands front and center.
Perhaps one of the biggest opportunities for agencies to utilize AI to best serve their clients is in the realm of SEO. Recent data from HubSpot shows how people search for answers and information is changing. While 88 percent of respondents use search engines to find answers, generative AI is already being integrated into sites like Google to provide quick answers to queries, rather than directing users to specific links.
Mike King, a thought leader in the SEO space, weighed in on the future of “chat-style search” and the impact of AI on search engine optimization. Agencies and marketers that embrace AI to assist with the technical aspects of content generation and keyword research will have an advantage over those who are at odds with the new technology.
"AI is not going to replace jobs in content marketing, but it will change them. It will increase the expectation of how much content a person should be able to produce," King said. "What we are doing with SEO is giving visibility to content."
Because of these changing expectations, AI tools can assist with SEO by generating meta descriptions, title tags and even content snippets. Marketers can input relevant keywords and topic information into ChatGPT, for example, to generate optimized content for search engines. This can help improve organic search visibility and drive more targeted traffic to additional content that drives action.
The advent of AI in content creation has brought writing back into focus. However, to get the best work out of AI tools, it's important to prompt them correctly. Already, companies are creating new roles and hiring for specific positions related to knowing what to ask and command AI bots to do to achieve the best results and output possible.
It can be time-consuming and costly to train an algorithm. Companies need access to large amounts of training data for their algorithm to generate accurate results. This means investing significant resources into collecting such data which could otherwise be used elsewhere within a company's operations – making it difficult for small businesses or start-ups that may not have the resources available.
Today’s content marketers should be prepared to understand how to craft prompts and provide sufficient context to guide the GPT model's generation process effectively if they want to utilize this tool effectively.
Here are some tips for effectively prompting ChatGPT to get your desired output:
While AI-driven solutions have potential in automating and optimizing certain aspects of content creation, there are limits to what these systems can do on their own. Human connection is still essential in building relationships with audiences that inspire them to take a brand’s desired action. Handley said the term "pathological empathy" is a way for brands to truly understand and cater to their customers' needs. This approach goes beyond using AI to create personalized content and involves actually speaking with customers to understand their concerns and interests.
"The only way I know to really understand another person's world is to keep asking those questions,” she said.
Agencies have the expertise, dedication and know-how to help brands understand each customer's mindset at every stage, and content marketers step in to develop messaging that speaks directly to them. While AI can serve as a helpful tool in ideation and data gathering, brands need to shift from a tactic-centric approach, which often results in generic and impersonal content, to a more customer-centric marketing strategy.
Even in the digital age, people crave human connection and live experiences with other individuals. Sure, a robot can get you an answer to a general question. But an AI bot cannot replace the human connection, insights, advice and genuine experiences that consumers seek. While AI has proven useful in generating high volumes of content, its ability to understand context remains limited which poses a challenge when producing high-quality work consistently over time.
An experienced marketing agency can bring tremendous value beyond what AI alone can provide. Having experts conduct research into target market trends and preferences can be invaluable for crafting content that effectively reaches its intended audience. Editors add the human touch essential to creating meaningful connections with readers.
While AI can automate mundane tasks, it still cannot match human ingenuity when it comes to crafting original ideas and connecting with audiences. Since machines lack an understanding of tone and nuance, their output often lacks subtlety or fails to capture the true essence of a brand’s message.
As Annie Zelm, Content Director at Kuno Creative, puts it: “To be a strong writer, you have to be a good thinker — someone who understands business strategy, can dive deeply into technical information and translate it into human terms, and understands how real people think and feel."
Brand voice and tone are becoming more important as the landscape grows more crowded and competitive. Messaging should feel like it could only come from a particular brand’s voice and point of view. In today’s world, people desire content that feels handcrafted and unique. They want to feel understood and heard.
AI can generate content, but it often feels stale, generic and mediocre. “Artisanal content” written and developed by skilled content marketers helps brands stand out and start important conversations with consumers in an increasingly AI-driven content landscape.
If you’re looking to uplevel your content marketing efforts with personalized content drawn from real, human conversations with your team and target audience, set up a consultation to see what Kuno can do for you.