Why you should use AI to generate first drafts and not feel bad about it.
In the chaotic twists and turns of the recent ouster, employee mutiny, and subsequent reinstatement of OpenAI’s Sam Altman as CEO, the scene-stealer seems to be, yep, you guessed it, boba tea. While the tech industry recovers from the kerfuffle at Microsoft and the reshuffling of OpenAi’s board of directors, leadership, etc., the underdog in the entire plot twist goes to the drink of choice for this high-stakes affair.
However, don’t let all the drama distract you. Grab yourself a boba tea and let’s get to work using AI to improve your copywriting workflow. First drafts can be tedious, especially when you’re diving into complex research topics. So, now that there are numerous artificial intelligence (AI) copywriting tools poised to assist, what are we so afraid of?
When using technology in spaces historically dominated by humankind, do territorial instincts naturally kick in? Do we truly believe AI could make a copywriter’s job obsolete? Or are we simply afraid of the unknown, having watched one too many terrifying sci-fi movies about self-aware AI—we’re looking at you HAL.
As an inherently human characteristic, fear of change is understandable, but, rest assured, we are confident that human copywriters are still very necessary to the process. We even wrote a blog about it. And, as with any innovation, it’s important to keep an open mind and ask questions. After all, it’s not the tool that matters, it’s how you use it.
Can this be an opportunity to change our workflow for the better?
Going from Smart to Intelligent
“Intelligent” technologies have been around for a while, although the latest AI tech is a big leap from the “smart” generation of hardware and software. All of our “smart” technologies—autocorrect, Alexa, Siri, Grammarly, Spellcheck, etc.—have become ubiquitous in our everyday routines, and we’ve been getting pretty cozy with their AI-enhanced features. The ads you see in your social media feeds were placed by AI algorithms analyzing your online behaviors, and gamers have been interacting with AI-generated NPC’s (non-player characters) narratives for many years. Artificial intelligence isn’t new, just next level.
AI for the Assist
Truth be told, our team hasn’t had much luck with AI generating anything worth keeping, but it does help get the wheels spinning. Here are a few reasons we think it’s worth including AI in your workflow:
- Speed. It’s ridiculously fast, yes. (Sidenote: that doesn’t mean it will save you time.) We can all agree that the speed at which AI tools can generate coherent compositions with simple prompts is impressive, having something quick to react to is helpful, but there is still a lot of work to do to make it “real.”
- Building blocks. AI can give you an outline in 10 seconds, and it is a lot easier to dismantle and reorganize an existing outline than to build one from scratch. Use it to get closer to mapping out your ideas, even if you discard half or more of the results.
- Vocabulary. AI will give you a standard vocabulary, built by consensus, over thousands of sources. Generated responses may introduce or remind you of common words associated with your topic of interest, a baseline, point of parity. It will be your job to be creative, set your copy apart, and find differentiators in your rewrites.
- Discussion springboard. Good or bad, AI-generated copy, taglines, and manifestos can fire up the action–reaction of creativity and can help a team get some traction on ideas, what’s working, and what’s going in the trash.
- Research. BEWARE! This is the trickiest one. AI’s capacity to cull together useful information is a great asset to copywriters. However, while AI generators have an air of confidence and expertise in everything they compose, there is a reason they also generate a disclaimer at the end of their task.
All of the advantages come with some caveats that are equally important.
Keep it Real
- Don’t expect it to be good. We’ve never met a copywriter that was as repetitive as AI. It is almost like the 8th grader who has to fill the page so ends up saying the same thing 15 times just to get the word count in. However, articulating the same idea in different ways can help identify the strengths and weaknesses of the argument.
- Maintain a healthy distrust. Go old school and fact-check what AI presents as truth. Take care to verify facts and figures, historical references, and citations.
- Don’t lose “cite” of the situation. The “training” that is used to inform artificial intelligence came from somewhere, so do your homework and cite the origins of the copy when appropriate. Give credit where credit is due, obviously.
- Remember, the bias is real. Humans created AI systems which means all of our biases are inherent in our tools. We have to be mindful of representation and seek out and remedy content that crosses the line or perpetuates stereotypes—or worse. We care about this. AI isn’t capable of caring about anything, so this is our responsibility, and it must be taken seriously.
When leveraged effectively, AI can provide useful explorations to jumpstart creativity, but because it isn’t human, it lacks the human touch, and that’s where you will always come in. So, go for it: unapologetically take a break from the chore of creating a first outline or rough draft.
As a communications practitioner, Deb leads with an open and hungry heart, eager to listen, learn, and leverage the unique ingredients within each client’s story. She believes the delicious is in the details and loves to find creative ways to elevate the flavors and textures that advance important mission-driven work. Her enthusiasm for language in all formats and channels has resulted in a diverse portfolio of leadership roles for publishers, domestic and international non-profit advocacy organizations, and both public and private universities. Deb’s penchant for cultural immersion has resulted in an equally diverse collection of home addresses: Chicago, Cairo, Limassol, Berlin, San Francisco, and Brooklyn. These days, Deb can be found learning how to repair a sump pump and experimenting with venison recipes at home in Northern New York.