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The Phoenix Bing Arises from its Ashes with a Little Help from ChatGPT: Is AI’s Future in B2B Marketing and PR Secure?

PR News conducted a poll in January 2023, asking how respondents would use ChatGPT for marketing. Some want to avoid it completely.

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ChatGPT has become the fastest growing web platform ever, eclipsing 100 million users quicker than TikTok or Instagram – with 99.97% organic visitor traffic and just 0.03% paid traffic. But what does all this hype mean for B2B Communications? Here, Judith Ingleton-Beer, CEO of IBA International, argues that B2B PR and Marketing pros have three issues to contend with following the emergence of ChatGPT and its fast-moving updates and developments: Things it can do better than us, things it will never be able to do, and emerging copyright and ethical issues. 

ChatGPT, the AI-powered chatbot, launched by San Francisco-based startup OpenAI in November of 2022 is now taking the world of B2B Marketing and PR by storm. It soon came to light that the ‘start-up’ did indeed start up as a not for profit organization with a star studded list of benefactors from Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to venture capitalist Peter Thiel; and up and coming entrepreneur Sam Altman, who became the CEO of OpenAI in 2019 (beware of propellerheads of start-ups wearing shorts). 

That was the year that Microsoft made its first $1billion investment in the company just as Bing was bottoming as a search engine and was the constant butt of Google jokes. It’s certainly caught Google napping, with Google trying to bring its own generative AI solution, Google Bard up to speed, including some high-profile gaffs, as the war for AI-driven search is well and truly on. 

This wider generative AI battleground sets the stage for an interesting ripple effect in the world of PR and Marketing. PR News conducted a poll in January 2023, asking how respondents would use ChatGPT for marketing. Would they let it write press releases or provide customer service responses? Maybe write social media copy? Some PR pros want to avoid it completely. We’ve already seen some top tier media outlets testing ChatGPT as an opinion commentator.

So, how can communications pros learn some valuable lessons from ChatGPT without overstepping the mark into robotic territory – all while keeping an eye on legal and copyright aspects?

1. The ChatGPT for marketing and PR pros

ChatGPT for marketingThe media is all over ChatGPT, but as B2B PR and Marketing professionals, our attention should be placed on human generated copy and how marketing-speak has grown into what already sounds like computer-generated discourse. The issue isn’t that machines write like humans – it’s that humans are beginning to write like machines. ChatGPT should serve as a wakeup call for PR and Marketing professionals to stop writing in marketing lingo and start using words to convey ideas and thoughts.

From an infinite number of monkeys writing Shakespeare, to the WSJ’s first Buzz Word Generator, to Chat GPT, AI has got better, but actually not fundamentally changed in its basic capabilities. 

ChatGPT is the ultimate wordsmith – we’ve all read press releases and articles that spew out words that sound compelling but say nothing – ‘I see the words, but what do they mean’ is a phrase often used in my company. Many writers, bloggers, and content creators are producing copy with no interest in the subject of the copy. A machine can do that, and do it rather well!

2. What ChatGPT can’t and won’t do

PR and Marketing agencies must be more than just wordsmiths. Quality writing is fueled by intention – we are trying to deliver subliminal corporate messaging in our press releases that gets across more than just a product launch. Coherence isn’t enough, communication is more complex and precise. 

B2B professionals bring unique skills, perspectives, and relationships that cannot be replaced by AI. Often a single piece of content needs to support a number of different precisely targeted audiences – an editor, a buyer, and a C-level ratifier. Try telling that to ChatGPT!

The tool can assist with many tasks but there are three essential components of effective PR and Marketing: creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence that it lacks. 

We humans are born to think outside the box, to come up with completely new and original ideas. Thinking outside the box is impossible for ChatGPT – it is the box, it creates the box, it is limited by the box it is in.

These limitations highlight the complementary nature of AI and human B2B professionals. AI can perform certain tasks faster and more efficiently, but the human brain brings a unique skillset that is critical to effective Marketing and PR practices.

Critical thinking is fundamental to understand causes from correlations, understand where bias is and remove it, distinguish between a primary source and someone’s personal opinion – we know the distinction between truth versus their truth gets muddier by the day, but the human brain can figure it out!

Selling new and original developments and solutions require targeting copy at different audiences with different needs. This requires critical thinking – something robots can’t do. AI chatbots can’t ‘read into a situation’. Our human emotional intellect makes us able to understand and handle an interaction or debate that needs more emotional communication methods. 

But emotional intelligence isn’t all its lacking. 

3. The legal and ethical lens is on ChatGPT

ChatGPT for marketingTrust is a critical aspect of ChatGPT for the user to believe that their generated text is factually correct. With people and machines creating tens of millions of new web pages daily, will using machine-generated content be pivotal in enabling your organization to stand out from the rest, or cause copyright troubles? 

Google’s position on AI-produced content is clear – companies that use AI-generated content to manipulate ranking in search results will violate their spam policies. So, where should B2B PR and Marketers stand? Clearly trust is ChatGPT’s biggest weakness. Unlike Google, you don’t know the source of the information, you can’t judge based on the type of site or the experience of the author. Google’s system of basing quality on the number of citations of an article isn’t in place. Further research is going to be needed and this will take time, so people will still return to trusted sources and expertise.

The U.S. Copyright Office has now launched a new initiative to examine the copyright law and policy issues raised by artificial intelligence (AI), including the scope of copyright in works generated using AI tools and the use of copyrighted materials in AI training. The Copyright Office says the initiative has been launched: “in direct response to the recent striking advances in generative AI technologies and their rapidly growing use by individuals and businesses.” And this begins right at the input stage, not the output. 

ChatGPT and similar software use existing text, images, and code to create ‘new’ work. The technology must get its ideas from somewhere, which means trawling the web to ‘train’ and ‘earn’ from pre-existing content. OpenAI and similar alternatives have already been subject to many lawsuits, arguing that AI tools are illegally using other people’s work to build their platforms.

With the PR Council also weighing in on this issue, all we can do is wait for official guidance and standards on the use of AI in PR. For now, communications pros are urged to apply caution to any external-facing use of output from ChatGPT. 

ChatGPT for Marketing: Working collaboratively with AI – should B2B communicators ride the AI wave?

B2B PR and Marketing professionals can undoubtedly reap many benefits from the phenomenon that is OpenAI’s ChatGPT technology – from providing valuable data-driven insights to streamlining repetitive tasks – and it certainly presents a prime opportunity to keep innovating as the technology matures. 

B2B pros should treat AI as a complementary tool to achieve a higher level of consumer engagement. 

Good PR and Marketing Pros must foster imagination and creativity, strategic and critical thinking, and emotional intelligence to ensure their strategies and their content stay ahead of the competition.

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