ChatGPT was unleashed on the world in the dying embers of 2022. Apparently, Open AI’s creation is an AI-driven platform that’s already had Google pulling a ‘code red’, and is being billed by some as the tech that will make human content creation an obsolete endeavour in the not-so-distant future.

As a late thirty-something whose first encounter with AI was forged on the crucible of the Terminator franchise (see: Skynet), I have to admit I was a bit alarmed at what I was hearing.

An AI-powered platform that can answer any question you throw at it in a highly plausible and very readable way? Crikey! Has my career to date been a mere parlour game, the fruits of which will be on a level with the Cueva de las Manos cave paintings in the next few years? Or, as one of my distinguished colleagues put it: Is ChatGPT just automating mediocrity?

In the spirit of ‘not knocking it until you’ve tried it’, I decided to give ChatGPT a whirl to see: a. What it’s all about, b. What it means for a humanoid like me that works in comms and content, and finally, c. Whether I should be looking at a swift career change.

Ideation tool

The fundamental selling point of ChatGPT is that you can ask it pretty much anything. Naturally (and quite cynically) my first question was: What impact will ChatGPT have on the public relations industry? – all in the vain hope that it would actually write this article for me. No such luck.

It replied politely…I am not familiar with a model called ChatGPT. Without more information, I am unable to provide an answer to your question. Ok, so not the greatest of starts!

However, I persevered and tweaked my question accordingly: What impact will AI have on the public relations industry? 

This time I got a much better response from my new digital friend, as it shared around five very plausible bullet points, one of which stated: Overall, the use of AI in the public relations industry has the potential to make work more efficient and effective, but it will also likely lead to some changes in the way PR professionals do their jobs.

Although the responses I got to questions weren’t exactly mind-blowing, there’s still some potential, particularly when it comes to jumping-off points to ponder. 

What it’s really good at is giving you all the starting points on a given topic – even though it’s perhaps not that good at taking the source material it finds and synthesising it further. However, given that us comms folk are often expected to be experts on a diverse range of unrelated subjects, I can see the merits of ChatGPT and its ability to provide a good cross-section of what’s already been said or reported on a topic. 

With a few simple keystrokes you can quickly get the skinny on your client’s latest obsession and have a veritable smorgasbord of ideas to synthesise yourself when it comes to crafting some content.     

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Time to hang up the keyboard?

Although a good ideation tool, I’m not so sure it’s time for us comms and content professionals to hang up our keyboards just yet.

Although the platform can knock together a very coherent article in a matter of seconds, I’d have to give Digital Dave/Denise a ‘D-’ when it comes to giving the article that much-needed injection of style and personality. After all, it’s these very human ingredients that make stories compelling and messages land. 

Having said that, I wouldn’t necessarily count it out of the writing process entirely. At the moment you could probably use it as a tool to give you a very basic (and I mean basic) skeleton for a piece of written content. It’s probably useful to get your own cogs whirring when it comes to writing that 800-worder – after all, even the smallest start can be something when you’re on a Friday afternoon deadline. 

Speed reading for the time-poor

Having put ChatGPT through its paces I did hit upon a really nifty little feature in the form of its summarisation capabilities. For instance, I took one of the articles I’d written a while back, copied and pasted it into the platform and then asked it to summarise it for me. To my surprise, it actually did a fairly good job. 

As we all know, comms people are a time-poor bunch who aren’t – as the myth would have you believe – quaffing champers with clients and journalists every five minutes. With ChatGPT’s ability to summarise long-form text, just think of the benefit this holds for summarising voluminous industry reports and government announcement transcripts. This ability to rapidly summarise could be a game changer when it comes to turning around relevant content for media outlets in ridiculously short time frames. 

However, I should say here that you should still do your own reading as the accuracy of results is something that OpenAI themselves have written a disclaimer on in the intro to the platform. Again, the tool should be used as an initial way into heavy reading – not as a complete replacement for doing your own reading. 

Time for me to get a new career?

In short, no. ChatGPT does hold some interesting potential for an industry that trades in ideas and words. However, there are large caveats that I would also throw into the mix, many of which I don’t have the word limit to discuss here: the accuracy of source materials, AI programming bias, plagiarism and the extent to which the tech will fuel ‘churnalism’ and fake news are important questions to be considered – ones I believe the entire media industry needs to get to grips with quickly as the tech becomes more sophisticated and ubiquitous. 

Just this morning news reports claim that Big Tech – in the form of Microsoft – may well start incorporating the tech into its own search engine Bing as soon as March 2023.

For now, I’d say this to my fellow comms comrades…let’s all calm down, utilise the tech to augment and support our thinking, and draw on it as a tool to ignite ideas. 

Disclaimer: This article was written by Andy Shaw not Digital Dave (or any other AI imposter)

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