The second wake-up call for PR Agencies and Marketing Pros

I argued a few weeks ago that the arrival of ChatGPT was a serious wake-up call for PR Agencies and Marketing Pros to stop writing in Marketing Speak and Buzz Words – because ChatGPT can do it better. Now here’s what ChatGPT can’t do.

“I like writing” said the enthusiastic applicant for trainee PR executive at IBA, and in just three words, was instantly disqualified from the job.

You may think this is a rather draconian attitude but the key takeaway from marketing communications is not words, but ideas. Persuasive agendas, hidden agendas, pushing the bounds of thought, third-party endorsements through placements in influential media. It’s not about simply writing words.

Writing some of the Marketing Speak mantra about at the moment – and of which I waxed less than lyrically about in my last blog – is a pushover for ChatGPT.

It’s what ChatGPT does rather well. In its own way, ChatGPT ‘likes’ writing. It has to, because that’s all it does.  

Stuck in the past?

And it does so in a very derivative way. Ask it for some thought leadership or marketing copy, and its bots will scour the internet to produce the wordage for your needs. But from where does it get its ideas and material? Chances are from your competitors, from the outdated ideas and stuff that you’re setting out to displace with your new products, services, and technology. Remember Unique Selling Points?

The journalists and clients that you are writing for are interested in the future, not the stuff they were writing or reading about in the past. New ideas and new solutions are the key – as we say to our trainees at IBA, the clue is in the word “news”.

Thinking outside of the box needs creativity, critical thinking, and empathy

ChatGPT, like all robots, bots, and AI tools, lacks (as sadly do some PR Agencies and Marketing Pros), three essential marketing skills: imagination & creativity, strategic & critical thinking, and emotional intelligence.

At IBA, new recruits are often reminded that joining the IBA team is not a place to turn your PC on and your mind off.  

Selling new and original developments and solutions requires targeting copy at the different audiences with different needs. This need requires critical thinking – and robots don’t do critical thinking. It also requires empathy with issues – and robots don’t do empathy either.

Journalists need to know how a new development will change the world, or at least impact their different audience groups. Users will want to know what it will do for them, the benefits, and how it will do it.

Identify with your reader’s needs – both journalist and end-customer

AI, bots, and ChatGPT can’t ‘read into a situation’, ‘catch the imagination’, are ‘tone deaf’. Our emotional intellect makes us able to understand and handle an interaction or debate that needs more emotional communication. And you can get empathy into your words you use.

Remember, reading is democratic – people vote with their eyes, they just stop reading. Writing with empathy will make your thought leadership article engaging, putting yourself in the shoes of the customer, understanding the serious issues they are facing.

Writing for journalists? Then think like a journalist

Find a peg to hang your story on. Use hitchhiker stories, do a bit of news jacking (note to self – news jacking by its very nature, has a short shelf life and usually only in national news media, and is often negative), or more favored trend jacking with a longer shelf life – AI and robotics, shortages, disrupting lean manufacturing – that can be pitched across nationals and industry publications.

Never let your news jacking end up ambulance chasing. The objective of all hitchhiker stories is to associate your organization with a positive running story and run a mile from a negative one.

Writing for journalists? Then write like a journalist

So B2B marketers, here’s some food for thought to get out of your Marketing Speak slumber. The list is much longer but here’s a start:

Make Press Release headings short like ticker tape: it’s a news story, not a Rite of Passage!
Use accelerators – active verbs: made/gave, gives, NOT has made/has given
Use short sentences: Think you need a semi-colon? Think again!
If the sentence is long, then use the Oxford comma: it increases flow and understanding – forget the purists that say no, it’s all about communicating – read Eats, Shoots and Leaves
Remove de-celerators: On the other hand, With this in mind, currently (of course it is!)
Remove complex clauses: replace with active sentences – ‘with xx running at a rate of xx’
Hanging participles: a ‘hanging’ offence at IBA
Make those Xheads work: they’re essential for readership to get readers to the end
It’s personal when it comes to Quotes: Thrilled?? Delighted? Really? Get a life!

PR is war: build a proactive messaging matrix and plan patterns of activity

They’re not called Marketing Campaigns for nothing. PR is war, but perhaps not as some PR Agencies and Marketing Pros know it! Don’t just do stuff, build a Messaging Matrix and Plan Patterns of Activity that get your messages home – and that’s across all your audiences and influencers. Remember Public Relations by definition covers all your publics – media, influencers, analysts, existing customers, company employees.

And use all the routes to market and tools you have to send the signals of success (and that might include using ChatGPT) – news, customer stories, thought leadership, website blogs, social.

To quote Jemima Lewis an excellent UK national journalist

ChatGPT excels at the kind of bland, textureless copy we have come to expect all around us. It is fluent in the language of council websites, of banks and corporations, funeral homes, rental agencies and healthcare leaflets.”

Is that the way you want to present your organization or your client? As we say at IBA – I see the words, but what do they mean?!

Judith Ingleton-Beer is CEO at IBA International

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