The generative AI boom is upon us, and workers across industries have expressed concerns about job displacement. Considering the writing chops that AI tools already possess — and their ability to churn out content faster and cheaper — many writers are understandably uneasy about the future of their craft.
With all the chatter, it’d be easy to assume that ChatGPT and its generative AI siblings are on the verge of rendering writers extinct. However, they shouldn’t let apprehension get in the way of exploring AI’s potential to help them become better writers.
Instead of fearmongering, let's take a closer look at why writers should embrace generative AI.
The Year Ahead
If we thought 2022 was a major year for generative AI, 2023 is already blowing it out of the water. OpenAI put the whole world on notice with its release of ChatGPT late last year, sparking an AI arms race between big-name competitors like Google and Microsoft vying for superiority. Aside from the major players, tech tools of all kinds have been eager to implement AI, with new product releases on a near daily basis.
While many users began experimenting with these tools in a fun, “parlor trick” sort of fashion, it didn’t take long for the tech to begin making its way into the corporate world. As such, ChatGPT now has a “Plus” version designed for professional use, and major outlets like CNET and Sports Illustrated have embraced this tech for content creation.
Amid a perfect storm of economic factors, it’s an unfortunate truth that some writers may lose work in the coming months. The appeal of creating content faster and cheaper is clear, and some companies in this climate will jump on any opportunity to cut headcount. But chances are that many of these organizations will end up asking their axed writers to return; after a few gaffes, they’ll learn that generative AI tools are actually designed to enhance human skill rather than replace it.
AI Can’t Run the Show Itself
Generative AI tools hold the advantage when it comes to cost- and time-efficiency, but accordingly, the overall quality of the initial content tends to be lower. It harkens back to the old adage: “Fast, cheap or good? Pick two.”
The initial copy can certainly pass as “good enough” while being fast and cheap, but will it be as good as a skilled human’s? Will it be able to properly capture a particular tone of voice? Both are unlikely, but it depends on the tool.
Though quality can be subjective, there’s many objective factors to consider with fully AI-generated content. Accuracy is chief among them, as mainstream generative AI tools haven’t exactly cultivated a reputation of credibility. If a human doesn’t fact-check copy before it crosses the line, there could be major misprints.
Plus, without human touch, plagiarism would likely run rampant over time. Every organization has a reputation to uphold, and sharing bogus content always backfires sooner or later.
Human touch is especially important when dealing with serious subject matters. If fully AI-generated content lacks gravitas in times of crisis or mourning, the backlash will be severe — and rightfully so. We’ve already seen it this year, with Vanderbilt University apologizing after ChatGPT was found to be the author of a flawed email addressing the Michigan State University shooting.
As it stands, human input will remain essential for maximizing the potential (and mitigating the pitfalls) of generative AI writing tools.
Dynamic Duo: Writers and AI
It’s important to bear in mind that even though some tools may seem intimidating, they’re ultimately just taking spellcheck, Grammarly and other assistive tools to the next level. Humans have worked together with these tools for years — to the benefit of both parties. In this same way, generative AI can help writers improve and work more efficiently, while writers can, in turn, help the tech become more sophisticated and precise.
Of course, humans can take AI-generated copy and touch it up on the back end, but they can also input their own copy on the front end to fine-tune and find areas for improvement; these tools have an impressive ability to serve as affordable, convenient writing coaches. And aside from jumping into drafting or revising, AI can assist writers with ideation, research, search engine optimization, performance tracking and rote task automation.
In the coming years, I believe the most successful writers (and comms pros, in general) will need to recognize an inherent culture shift across the industry that sits at the intersection of art and science – essentially embracing the role of “communications engineers.”
Communications engineers use actionable analytics to drive strategy and backstop their gut instinct, utilizing generative AI and other tech to become more performative, predictive and productive. In this new era, what once took up to two hours can be done in two minutes.
Covering so many bases, these tools are going to be great for upskilling junior staff. Regardless of tech’s growing presence, writing will always remain an essential skill in the professional world, and generative AI can empower young communicators to be confident (and efficient) in their writing.
And as impressive as these tools already are, we haven’t even seen the full extent of the possibilities yet. It’s both an exciting and unnerving time to be a writer, but I have faith that humans and AI will eventually form a symbiotic relationship of sorts.
With generative AI ultimately still in its infancy — especially for professional use — now is the time for writers to begin exploring and experimenting with these tools. In doing so, writers may realize that mainstream tools such as ChatGPT aren’t always the best option for their work; it’s imperative to seek out professional tools that are specifically templated and designed for their specific job functions and needs. After writers discover the tools that work best for them, they can then find smart (and safe) ways to incorporate AI into their workflow.
To get started, writers can task their preferred tools with low-stakes exercises. Whether drafting internal-facing copy or seeking editorial assistance, writers can learn how to successfully prompt AI and appropriately adjust the output — two increasingly valuable skills in today’s world. And rather than simply generating content, it’s great practice for writers to use generative AI to punch up their existing content to be more engaging.
AI isn’t going anywhere, but neither are human writers. Therefore, the writers who get ahead of the curve and begin embracing AI will end up having an advantage over those who resist it.
Aaron Kwittken is the founder and CEO of PRophet and the CEO of Stagwell Marketing Cloud’s Comms Tech Unit.