This blog post is based on a content series that Rosie posted on LinkedIn in Jan-Feb 2023. Follow her on LinkedIn for more opinion and insight on all things digital marketing.
My LinkedIn feed has been jammed with ChatGPT content for a couple of months now – from carousels with tips for marketers to snarky screenshots that show how some clever SEO has worked out how to dupe the chatbot. As a digital strategist, I’m fascinated by the mindblowing power of ChatGPT and want to find out how best to use it; as a copywriter and content marketer at heart, I’m TERRIFIED by it and more than a little bit jealous of it.
It makes me think about all those times I slaved away for hours over a blog post or a website landing page, fact checking 10 different sources, meticulously phrasing every sentence in line with the brand’s tone of voice. And up until now I could confidently say that no robot could have been that creative, that exacting. But the examples I’ve seen out of ChatGPT have, disappointingly, stood up to scrutiny.
So I thought it would be a nice opportunity to take a stroll down memory lane and pull up some of the content I’ve written over my career that I’m most proud of. This is part self-indulgent and part analytical. Could it really have been written by AI?
Example 1: Being Reactive
Read the blog post here: https://tobetterdays.co.uk/blog/healthy-recipes-using-non-perishable-foods-in-self-isolation/
Picture the scene:
You’ve been working with a health and wellness startup for over a year before launch. A key part of their go-to-market strategy is content creation as a way to engage their target audience, provide useful information about chronic pain and live the brand’s key value of empathy. You have a stash of blog posts ready to go live and a content calendar bursting with amazing evergreen ideas based on keyword research.
And then, right as the brand is about to launch, the world shuts down in the midst of a pandemic.
Life is turned on its head and everyone is scared. What do you do?
I had already written a series on ‘the best food for [part of the body] pain’, but as we published them we realised that a lot of the food we were recommending – such as ginger and fresh fish – wasn’t available due to food shortages. I myself had COVID symptoms in March 2020 and had to isolate for 14 days. During that period I tried to get a food delivery slot online and was faced with a holding page that said I was in position 12,151 in the queue. I did a bunch of research at the time to make sure that the food I did manage to get hold of had as long a shelf life as possible.
So, when it came to producing content for the startup, we pivoted – and quickly. I wrote a blog post that talked about:
- Tips for eating healthily during lockdown
- Adjustments you may have to make when buying food during a pandemic
- Healthy swaps with longer shelf lives you can make for common perishables, along with an infographic
- The best long-lasting fruit and veg options to buy during lockdown, along with an infographic
- Two healthy recipes (tried and tested by me – the second photo is taken from my kitchen) using long-lasting produce
(Seriously, read this blog post – it screams of having been written at a time of genuine crisis. Kind of fascinating to look back on now! Although the date stamp says June it was actually published at the beginning of April 2020, about two weeks into lockdown.)
We boosted this blog post on Facebook in April and May 2020 with a budget of around £400. It reached over 35,000 people and received over 4,800 engagements, including 63 post shares. Nearly 2,000 people visited the site to read it (and as such got added to our remarketing list, teehee).
So back to my question: could AI have come up with this? Content-wise, yes, mostly. With some direction it could have trawled all the sites I did to find the nutritional information. However, it’s unlikely it could have added all of the super-relevant COVID information as well as I did, as information was changing day by day – there’s no way that it could have kept up.
But most importantly, this was a truly reactive topic based on my personal experience of living during a pandemic – and I think that that is the reason it was so successful. It tapped into a zeitgeist and offered genuinely useful and well-researched information for people when they needed it. I still believe that it takes a person to understand people, especially those in crisis. If you fire your content marketing managers and copywriters to rely on AI, how swiftly can you pivot when the world changes?
Example 2: Not Everything Is on the Internet
My next example is a blog post that I wrote back in 2016 when I was volunteering at Worcester Cathedral library and archive. At the time I was doing postgraduate research in Medieval Studies and jumped at the chance to run the library’s blog and social media – which eventually led to me a career in digital marketing. In fact, this blog post was part of the portfolio that got me my first job as a copywriter/editor.
The post is about my favourite book in the library: a huge leather-bound tome of the Missale Romanum, published in 1677. It tells the story of how the book came to the library from the private chapel of James II and includes photographs of various handwritten notes pasted into the book.
And here’s the interesting thing – those images don’t exist anywhere else on the internet. The book has been sitting in Worcester Cathedral for over 300 years alongside over 5000 other printed books and (to my knowledge) no-one else had ever plucked that particular volume off the shelf and taken photographs of it that were published digitally. All of the sources I used to write the post were physical documents from the Cathedral’s archive, including newspaper clippings from 1870 and letters from 1882 and 1920.
Could AI have written this blog post? No, it couldn’t. It’s easy to forget that the internet doesn’t hold every fact, every source, every story ever written, and not just because they’re so new. Sometimes it’s because they’re so old.
Example 3: Being Original
Read the blog post here: https://passion.digital/blog/seo-poetry-is-search-intent-stifling-creativity/
There’s a holy grail when it comes to content marketing and it’s called original thought.
In a world of blog post churn, of keyword optimisation and the race for featured snippets, often there’s very little difference between the blogs of brands and their competitors. One of the best examples is my own industry, digital marketing. There are literally millions of blog posts about every facet, each one expertly optimised by people who know exactly what they’re doing. How on earth do you stand out?
I faced this very question when I ran the Passion Digital blog back in 2020. Our best performing blog posts in terms of organic traffic generation had been written years ago; nothing we had recently published was ranking. Our strategy was heavily based on keyword research. I wanted to try something different: rather than finding a topic that people were searching for, I decided to write on a subject that no one was searching for – one that combined both sides of my writing personality.
Can keyword research be used as a writing prompt to create optimised poetry?
This blog post seemed to genuinely engage people. I had old friends from my LinkedIn network message me to say that they knew nothing about SEO but had read all 2000 words of my article and found it fascinating. Off the back of this thought experiment I created a website called ‘Poetry with Passion’ that recruited poets to contribute their work, based on a set of keyword prompts to rank for phrases like ‘poems for weddings’ with high search volume. I ended up working with dozens of poets from all over the world.
Could AI have written this blog post? I must admit, this topic seems less farfetched now that you can ask ChatGPT to give its answer in iambic pentameter and it will produce a perfect poem within a few seconds. Poetry isn’t a uniquely human form of expression as we may once have assumed. But that ability to think outside the box, to set a challenge that no one has thought of before … I don’t think that even the most specific set of prompts for the chatbot could have generated this blog post.
And SEO Poetry remains my proudest project to date. Take that, robot.
If you like what you’ve read, check out Passion Digital on LinkedIn. We regularly share posts from our thought leaders and engage with the very latest topics in digital marketing.