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When it comes to writing, is a bot or human best?

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In the public relations industry, using artificial intelligence (AI) to develop stories is one of the trends we are watching with huge interest. Using online bots to do your writing for you is no longer an unrealistic, sci-fi dream.  It is reality and creative agencies and journalists the world over are embracing the technology.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, there are apps you can use that scour the internet and write stories on your chosen topic. Think that the writing can’t possibly be ‘that good’? Well, think again – it is pretty impressive.

If you want to have a go, try this free app: https://chat.openai.com/chat.  You simply type in a question and the bot will write an entire – very intelligent sounding – article about the topic.  The technology trolls the internet to find information and puts it together into a logical story format.  I would challenge anyone to distinguish between human and bot authors with most of the articles produced.

If you are the parent of a high school or university student, I imagine many of your children are using this sort of technology already to write assignments, essays and do research.  It’s one thing to do some Googling to find answers to questions, but a whole other ballgame to have a bot do your homework for you!

On the professional side of things, I’ve seen articles about how content agencies are using this technology.  And I’ve seen journalists talk about using AI to help them write news articles. Here’s an entire story in The Guardian written by a bot – shorturl.at/vyQ49.

While the use of bots to write articles brings up some ethical issues for me personally and concerns around plagiarism and accuracy, it certainly looks like the technology is here to stay.  That means, as a communications professional, it is important for me and my team to set boundaries around its use.

We certainly would never use an AI app to write something and pass it off as our own.  And if we ever decide to use AI to help with background research or thought-starters on a client story or project, we will declare that to a client.  Honesty, transparency and ethical practice will always come to the fore for us.

You may also ask, “Heather, are bots going to write you out of a job?”  Check back with me in five years’ time, but I can pretty confidently say no.  That’s because my team and I are in the business of helping organisations build reputation and relationships using strategic communication.  And achieving goals in this space requires a human touch.

While on the surface, using AI for your writing tasks might look like the easy and cheap option, I believe that when it comes to purposeful writing, you still need a human.  Here are three reasons why:

Context

Sure, you can get a bot to write a factual article on “how to become a CEO” (yes, you literally can).  But you won’t get context.  Does geography matter?  Is it different in different industries?  Does gender matter?  Does personality come into play?  Does your approach need to change depending on age and stage of career? Does the change in leadership requirements post-pandemic come into play?

A human will always offer the benefit of taking a step back, assessing the environment and writing an article that takes into account the context of the day.  This is what makes something worth reading for the people you are trying to impact.

Connection

While a bot can give you some facts on a topic, the best writing makes a human connection.  To change perceptions, gain cut-through, create impact or persuade, the very best way to achieve these communications goals is to tell personal people stories that connect an audience with the author’s subject.

In my lifetime, will a robot be able to make a human connection?  I suppose, never say never! But for now, you need a human behind the keypad to create a true emotional connection that resonates.

Caution

Let’s say you throw caution to the wind and get a bot to write your website blog stories, social media posts and media releases without a filter. My prediction: it would only be a matter of time until you are caught out by your audience. How are you checking facts?  Where has this information come from?  Are you plagiarising a competitor?  Have you taken into account current events?

Only a human can continually assess and scan the environment in which you are communicating to determine how something will land with an audience, and what needs to be changed in order to not to offend, anger or annoy.  And that is an incredibly important skill when it comes to protecting your reputation and relationships.

One thing is clear: the use of AI in the writing field is emerging but growing at a rapid pace.  My advice is to pressure test what you read and when developing your own writing and content, opt for a human.  It’s the safest, most ethical solution.

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About Author

Heather Claycomb

Heather Claycomb is director of HMC, a Hamilton-based, award-winning public relations agency.