I’d like to preface this article by saying this isn’t a ChatGPT bashing post. I actually think it’s remarkably clever, and a good research tool, with a number of uses. See Vic’s post for more on that.
What I am going to do is look specifically at what it can’t do purely when generating content. First of all, let’s look at it’s own self-proclaimed limitations:
These probably ring a few alarm bells. After all, if I was pitching for a new client and mentioned the above caveats, I wouldn’t expect to get much further. However, even the best copywriters will occasionally get something wrong, and even more will have been biased in their copy from time to time – usually in favour of their clients! What’s more concerning to me is the last one, which brings us on to the first point.
- It can’t use up to date information – depending on what you’re writing about, and what industry you’re in, that’s a pretty big deal! A lot can change in 2 years – for example the introduction of AI generated copy in the marketing industry! If you were using ChatGPT as a research tool for a historic event, then it’s not so much of a problem, but if you’re using it within an ever-changing industry, you might be overlooking important updates. For example, we work with a mortgage lender. The last 2 years have been tumultuous to say the least – imagine producing content without any knowledge of that.
- It can’t write with your brand guidelines in mind – ChatGPT does not care that you’re aiming for an ‘educational but not patronising, informal but not too chatty’ tone. It hasn’t read through your 60 page style guide desperately trying to remember all the different points when producing new content.
- It doesn’t take your client’s or stakeholder’s personal preferences into account – whether you’re in charge of the marketing for your company, or you work at an agency producing content for clients, you’ll always need other people’s buy-in, and a big part of copywriting is pre-empting feedback and producing a draft that’s as obstacle-free as possible.
- It doesn’t take on board previous feedback – while ChatGPT can take on some instructions, it obviously requires a real person to work through previous feedback and brief this in a way it can understand. Even then, it’s hit and miss. I asked ChatGPT to write me a poem about badgers. Not bad, if a little ‘GCSE Creative Writing.’ I then asked it to write me a poem about badgers but without using adverbs. After a very long pause it wrote me a worse version of the original song, but still with adverbs.
- It doesn’t have an opinion – this might be the biggest issue for me. There is SO much content already out there, on pretty much every subject, that the best copy is that written by (or at least advised by) subject specialists who have experienced what they’re writing about and are sharing their valuable opinions – even if not everyone agrees. While ChatGPT might be able to provide some basic entry level educational content, it can’t substitute in-depth insights and opinions and is basically devoid of any personality.
- It can’t refer back to your previous content – if you’re doing content well, you’re mapping out topics and building on what you’re already written about, including linking to helpful related content within your copy. ChatGPT of course can’t do this, as (at the moment at least), it can’t actually scan the internet.
- It can’t include quotes from specialists – including quotes from industry specialists is a great way to add authority and depth to your content. You can even do this with people within your own company, but of course ChatGPT can’t reach out to these people, ask them to do this and flatter them just enough to take time out of their day. That’s a combination of time, research, and a carefully worded email.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I do think ChatGPT is useful, especially as a research tool for technical subjects that you’re struggling to break down. I was also quite impressed that no two pieces of copy are identical, even if you input the same request.
However, it’s not a substitute for real copywriting. If everyone started using ChatGPT, there would be no way of telling two pieces apart, no distinctive brand voices and no discussions prompted off the back of an article.
But then it’s perhaps not designed to be. ChatGPT is nothing if not honest. I asked it what it couldn’t do, and I’ve never seen anything type so fast: