Meet Persado, the automated copywriter who could one day put me out of a job. And notice how I’ve inadvertently personified the platform by referring to it as ‘who’. With AI creeping into our lives at a rate of knots, it seems logical that machines will take over certain elements of the marketing mix. But are we really ready to machine-generate the very content that should reflect the individual personality, ethos and values of our business?
Persado is a marketing language cloud that “combines natural language processing and machine learning technologies to…generate the precise words…that can inspire any given audience to act, every time”.
Meanwhile, global ecommerce platform, Alibaba, has recently introduced a tool that generates ad copy at a rate of 20,000 lines of text per second, and has even passed the Turing test (a method used since the 1950s to distinguish machine-generated speech from human speech).
These are impressive claims, and as an advocate of AI, I’ve ghostwritten a host of articles on how we should be embracing AI as a helpful marketing tool, rather than an all-conquering robot of mass destruction. But using a cognitive content platform to replace authentic, and above all, human content, may just be a step too far.
So how can business owners and marketers come up with original content without losing the human touch? Firstly, keep the conversation 'real' and keep it flowing. Secondly, ask for (human) help where inspiration is lacking.
1. Language is fluid, and content should be too
One of the most important things I learnt during my transition from language student to professional copywriter was to consider the difference between ‘prescriptive’ and ‘descriptive’ grammar. Prescriptive grammar is a set of rigid rules based on how people perceive a language should be used, asserting what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.
On the other hand, it’s important to keep in mind that language is continually evolving – whether we like it or not – blurring the lines between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Therefore, descriptive grammar accepts that social, cultural and technological advances inevitably have an impact on the language we use – and consider acceptable – at any given time.
From the Great Vowel Shift of the fifteenth-eighteenth centuries, to the text-speak of the nineties, language has always and will always evolve.
Fast-forward to the noughties and social media has created a whole new set of linguistic rules. So marketers shouldn't worry if their content 'grates' somewhat on the fastidious grammarians out there. Getting ideas flowing onto paper (viz. into a blogpost or online publication) is the first step in the content marketing journey.
2. Retain the human touch with a fresh pair of eyes
As any copywriter will confirm, once drafted, it’s easy to become too ‘close’ to the copy. For those struggling to see the wood for the trees, it’s worth asking someone else to do a quick sense-check. This will immediately throw up any issues that may not have been considered. For instance, is the copy too technical for the target audience? Is it relevant enough? Can it be written more succinctly? While a machine may generate good-quality, objective content, it won’t necessarily pick up on the nuances of a company's individual style or tone of voice.
Remember, online content is the gateway to any business. Whether collaborating with a friend, colleague or professional copyeditor, human input could be the difference between customers clicking through to the very pages that enable them to engage with a business or even make a purchase – or abandoning a website altogether.
Using machines to help with marketing is all well and good, but marketers shouldn't lose sight of how the real world wants to view a business – through real-life content.
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