4 Ways Publicists Can Use AI Tools
When ChatGPT, an AI writing assistant, launched at the end of 2022, it quickly became the topic of discussion for writers in just about every industry. Will it replace writers? Is it going to take our jobs? Should we be worried?
At the start of February 2023, just over two months after its launch, ChatGPT already had 30 million users, according to the New York Times. If you try to log on, you’ll find the tool is almost always at capacity. Millions of people are feeding it new data with every prompt. And the ChatGPT product developers are most definitely looking at that data to improve their software. I saw one report that said the software developed by OpenAI is one of the fastest-growing software products ever! And, of course, ChatGPT isn’t alone. Google is testing a rival software called Bard. There are also other AI writing tools, like Jasper Chat, already on the market.
Suffice it to say – AI technology is here to stay. We need to learn how to use it, and possibly more importantly, how not to use it. The first step towards doing that is to understand that AI is not here to replace us. ChatGPT, and similar AI software, are tools that we can use as writers to better our craft. We can use AI in the same way that an artist uses a paintbrush or a gardener uses a rake. Or you could think about it as a runner testing out a new pair of shoes designed to make him faster on the track. The shoes cannot run for the runner – but it can make him better at what he does.
I’m sure you’ve seen headlines about all of the negative effects and problems with using AI in marketing, PR, and journalism. CNET’s AI-generated articles turned out to have factual errors. The publisher is being transparent about what it is learning while testing the technology. One thread on Reddit blasts AI for citing fake sources. And there are so many concerns about plagiarism, that there are numerous products out there designed to detect AI-generated content. Yikes!
How can publicists use AI for positive impact
As publicists, our job is to craft and share stories that people will want to talk about. We already use all kinds of tools to help us do that. This is just the latest instrument at our disposal. Here are 4 ways publicists can use AI tools:
Use AI prompts to overcome writer’s block
You know that feeling when you have a story in your head, but you’re sitting in front of a screen trying to figure out how to best put that thought into words? Using software like ChatGPT to generate text is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. Say you’re crafting a pitch about why a solar-powered lantern is good for camping. The topic is pretty broad and it might be difficult to come up with a new way of presenting it as a buzzworthy story. But you can enter a prompt into ChatGPT like “tell me three benefits of using solar-powered lanterns while camping in 600 words or less,” and it will create a series of paragraphs you could use as inspiration to craft an angle. Of course, you’ll want to play with the prompts until something finally clicks and your writer’s block is cured.
Here’s what happened when we entered this prompt into ChatGPT:
The result of the prompt doesn’t make a great PR pitch on its own, but seeing it organized and bullet-pointed can help you figure out what needs to be said in a way that pushes your story forward and clears the writer’s block.
Use AI to generate alternative headlines
Generating a short, punchy headline can be difficult. This is especially true if you’re writing multiple pitches on the same product or topic. There are only so many ways of saying, “This Solar-Powered Lantern Really Shines.” You can enter a subject into ChatGPT and prompt the AI to rewrite it in multiple ways. An example, “tell me the benefits of solar-powered lanterns in 5 words or less.” Then let the AI do the work and see what it comes up with.
Here is the headline ChatGPT created when we gave it this prompt:
Renewable, portable, cost-effective lighting.
The AI-generated copy is certainly less flowery. That might be a good thing if you’re pitching the solar-powered lantern to a journalist who would prefer a cut-to-the-chase informative subject line.
Use AI to translate data into consumable copy
If you’re anything like me, you might feel like translating data is the bane of your existence. I’m not a numbers person (many writers are not) and AI can be extremely useful at taking a bunch of facts and figures and turning it into useful sentences that actually make sense. If you’ve ever had a client dump files full of numbers onto your lap and ask you to turn around a story quickly, you’ll appreciate the efficiency of AI. Just be sure to fact-check any and all AI-generated copy.
Use AI to better understand the market and competitors
The last of my suggestions on how publicists can use AI in a positive way is less about writing and more about learning. You can use AI to research the space you’re working in. Understand how many competitors are out there, their strengths and weaknesses, how many press articles have already been written on the topic and even which angles have been covered extensively. AI-powered social listening tools can help you discover and craft relevant stories and angles, with some limitations.
AI limitations in PR
AI technology is definitely still a work in progress. We can circle back to the CNET example of factual errors, the claims of fabricated sources, and the concerns about plagiarism to understand why we cannot and should not rely on AI to do our jobs for us. Fact-checking is extremely important when using software like ChatGPT, especially while the product is still in its infancy. Because of this, publicists should avoid relying too heavily on AI tools or risk harming their own credibility.
How publicists should not use AI
- To generate press releases –
The last thing a publicist needs is a factual error in a press release. At this point, AI writing tools cannot be trusted to provide credible copy. If a journalist (or the public for that matter) realizes you’re using AI to write press releases, they may see you as lazy and untrustworthy.
- To write bylines –
For the same reasons as above, publicists should not rely solely on AI writing tools to generate byline articles. From a professional standpoint, plagiarism is a serious concern. From a personal standpoint, a bot-written bylined article could lead to feelings of deception.
- To “spray and pray” –
Journalists already receive an obscene amount of emails in their inboxes. The last thing they need is a bunch of AI-generated, mass-produced pitches clogging up their inboxes. That tactic will not only turn a journalist off from working with you, but it could make them hesitant to work with publicists at all. Too many bad pitches could result in serious harm to our entire industry.
As technology evolves, there is one limitation that AI will never be able to overcome. AI is not and never will be human. Our job as publicists is to tell stories the public will want to know, and to generate content that will make them feel something significant enough that they’ll want to tell more people about it. Publicists are feeders of the grapevine. AI won’t be able to replace that.