What AI-Generated Content Can – and Cannot – Do (for Now)

I realized that artificial intelligence (AI)-generated content had arrived five years ago, when a CBSSports.com bot started writing the same weekly fantasy football recap report that I had been writing for my league since 2008.

True, the bot lacked an engaging voice or any semblance of a personality. It had no sense of humor, so I had the advantage on snark. But it did do something much better than I could do: It dove deeply into the numbers and analytics – such as team/player statistical breakdowns – with considerably more precision and detail than my own attempts at the same.

Fast-forward to the present, and AI has emerged as a dominating presence in content: Nearly three-quarters of B2B marketers use generative AI to brainstorm new topics, research headlines/keywords, develop outlines, proofread and, yes, produce actual drafts.

Because working with these tools seems an inevitability, I’ve been experimenting with my own OpenAI ChatGPT-3.5 bot. I’ve given it transcripts, outlines and/or abstracts and told it to write a blog or contributed article based upon them. I’ve asked for research stats. In attempting to explore whether it was capable of analysis that resembled human thought at all, I’ve engaged with it on one of my favorite topics: Thematic concepts in classic films.

Regarding the latter, for example, I asked ChatGPT to make the case for Michael Corleone of The Godfather being the greatest tragic figure in the history of cinema. (Note: You should always say “make the case for …” instead of “tell me what you think of …” because the bot will inevitably say that it is incapable of expressing an opinion.) Here’s what my bot had to say:

“Michael’s arrogance and belief in his ability to protect the family lead him to make ruthless decisions that ultimately alienate those he loves. His hubris blinds him to the moral cost of his actions … The power and influence Michael amasses throughout the series come at a great personal cost. He loses his wife, Kay, and ultimately alienates his surviving family members, leaving him isolated and tormented … The audience witnesses his remorse and the understanding that his choices have destroyed the very things he sought to protect.”

Not bad, right? A pretty accurate and insightful summary.

That said, knowing the technology will continue to improve, here’s what I’ve found AI can – and cannot – do for content writers (for now at least). I’ll start with the “cannots.”

What AI cannot do for content creation

  • Write professional-level content: AI technology simply doesn’t grasp the necessary nuances or context. It will always default to “broad” when content demands a more specific, thematic-driven approach. Yes, you can direct it to go down a particular path – and then find yourself redirecting over and over again. But you’ll end up doing more work that way and getting a far less satisfying result than if you’d done it all on your own.
  • Continuously shift according to user customization efforts: In a perfect world, I could tell my bot, “Take your first draft and now try to write it in my voice which I will provide in this sample …” and then never have to tell the bot to do that again. It would instinctively know that this is what I want. But AI isn’t there yet. (It is currently replying with “I don’t have the ability to recall past interactions or personal preferences due to privacy and security reasons …”) Thus, every day requires a “refresh.” If you got the bot to imitate your preferred voice, style, formatting, etc. yesterday, you’ll need to start all over the next day because it doesn’t retain this information.

What AI can do for content creation

  • Give you a decent overview: You can ask about almost any topic in existence, and it will at least pop out a pretty impressive overview. This can quickly help you get familiarized with a new topic, or inspire ideas to consider as you proceed with research or writing. In going back to the classic film thematic discussion, for instance, let’s say you are assigned to make a case as to whether Blade Runner’s Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) is actually a replicant (android). Here’s what the bot will say:

    “The question of whether Deckard is an android in Blade Runner is intentionally left ambiguous in the film … Director Ridley Scott has suggested in interviews that he believes Deckard is a replicant (android), while Harrison Ford, who portrayed Deckard, has stated that he played the character as human. The ambiguity is one of the enduring mysteries and discussion points surrounding the Blade Runner story, inviting viewers to form their own interpretations.”

    Not a bad starting off point, I’d say, especially if I know nothing about Blade Runner at the beginning of the assignment.
  • Give a good read: My bot does a great job on proofreading. I have a special pet peeve regarding the overuse of certain words in one article. With a simple copy/paste of a 700-word draft, my bot is able to list the most heavily-repeated words and how often they are used.
  • Set a tone: While getting the bot to imitate a voice requires a significant amount of work, it will easily and swiftly make less subtle adjustments. If it generates content that is too academic in tone, for example, I will say, “This is a decent start. But please write it more like a news article instead of a college term paper,” and the bot will generally make the right adjustments. I can also ask it to take an objective, third-person news story and turn it into a first-person narrative with more human perspective, and it will usually deliver.

My Current Take

In combining AI’s shortcomings and advantages, I can only conclude that – contrary to various “Chicken Little”-styled headlines out there – AI isn’t going to replace content writers or marketers in the near future. There are too many limitations. But it can serve as an effective work assistant of sorts.

At W2 Communications, we use AI and other emerging tech tools. But we are still very much an agency that leverages the human insights and expertise among our staff to execute the most strategic plans when it comes to content, public relations, digital marketing, research, video production and website development. As our Principal and Co-Founder Tony Welz put it in a recent blog, “(AI) is not a free pass to cut corners – like crafting generic pitches and content to be shot-gunned to unvetted lists of names scraped from a variety of databases … AI has a ton of potential in helping craft stories, but the last mile will always need a creative mind”

That said, we will continue to explore the technology and stay on top of continuing advancements, to deliver to our clients the best possible integrated PR and marketing services. If you’d like to learn more, than contact us.

Meanwhile, I need to get back to my bot, and ask whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie …