Read time: ~17 minutes (yikes!)

I was doing my best to ignore it. To keep my head down, to continue to focus on my clients and my business. But day after day there was another article, another video, another think-piece about Chat GPT, content marketing, and AI. 

I’ve learned it does me no favors to obsess over a brand-new product, service, or software. It’s best to give it a little time, see how things play out, and observe. But with every unavoidable headline, I deflated just a little bit more. 

“It isn’t fair!” I eventually let myself think while having a mini mental temper tantrum. 

A few years into ‘finding my calling’ as people love to say, and pivoting into copywriting, I was feeling good! I felt like I knew what I was doing. I had added SEO services and I was finally feeling confident and ready to go help small businesses! 

Right as I was feeling all of that, this industry-changing event threatened to invalidate my future. 

It became abundantly clear that it was time to investigate this AI when people outside my industry started testing ChatGPT (for content), determining it was great, and asking me how I felt about it taking my job.

These days Chat GPT, Open AI, and AI have become everyday words for everyone, but especially for copywriters. We’ve now had sufficient time to explore its capabilities and figure out how to use it as a tool. 

If you’re not directly involved in using these tools, it’s hard to know where to look and what to think, especially as a small business owner or content manager. I get it! 

So here are my thoughts, echoed by a few other copywriters I know, about AI, copywriting, and whether I think AI will replace copywriters. Hint: I don’t.

As always, I appreciate however much attention you can give me today.         

What is Sustainability Copywriting? And Copywriting In General? 

Copywriting is the act of creating a piece of content designed to sell. Vague, I know. But copywriters create things such as: 

  • Landing pages
  • Product descriptions
  • Emails
  • Ads
  • Website copy
  • White papers
  • And a lot of other things. 

Copywriters work on projects as small as a 5-sentence tagline, as large as a 10,000-word white paper, and everything in between.      

What Then, Is Sustainability Copywriting?

Sustainability copywriting is using those same copywriting skills to write marketing content for sustainable companies. It’s no different than specializing in other niches such as finance, health care, education, etc. Sustainability copywriters can come from a variety of backgrounds but by specializing in sustainability we have an easier time writing for a specific audience in a specific tone. 

Personally, my interest in writing sustainable copy came from my own experience trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle and talking to friends and family about doing so. I lived, and still live, the life of the everyday sustainable consumer which gives me an advantage when researching for projects.

I want to help companies reach more people by using inclusive, positive language while incorporating their unique personalities into the copy. Let’s bring a little fun to the industry! As a climate copywriter and SEO strategist, I have narrowed my focus to website copy, blog copy, content briefs, and on-page SEO optimizations.

So, do I see AI taking replacing copywriters? 

No, not at this moment in time. I think AI is going to weed out mediocre (and bad) copy. If our work can be replaced with AI then we’re probably not doing something right as copywriters. Right now, what AI is producing is awkward, unempathetic, and sometimes straight-up nonfactual content — all of which helps absolutely no one.

But right now, AI is a tool that we copywriters can use, and I use a form of it every day.

The type of AI I use in my everyday work life: 

  • Wordtune helps me rephrase my thoughts. 
  • Grammarly helps correct my grammar and spelling errors from typing too fast.
  • Hemingway helps me see where I’m being too wordy
  • Plagiarism checkers make sure I’m giving credit where credit is due
  • Chat GPT helps me brainstorm, create blog outlines, and think of puns
  • Hell, even WordPress that I use to write blogs has a Yoast plug-in that uses AI to give you tips on writing your blog.

AI is here to stay.                  

What is AI In Copywriting? 

I’m not an engineer, you’re not here for the science (but also if you are check out this explanation of AI from Ars Technica). 

The general overview of AI software in copywriting is that you put in a query such as “write 10 controversial headlines for a blog about AI” and the software — that was trained using billions of words, the internet, and a prediction model — spits out 10 headlines that relatively match your query. 

“AI is a tool to help you do creative work faster. It should not be used as a replacement for critical thinking and problem-solving.” This is probably my favorite quote about AI in copywriting from Alex Cattoni.

The AI doesn’t have emotional intelligence. 

  • It doesn’t have empathy.
  • It doesn’t have your lived experience.
  • It doesn’t have your research abilities.
  • It doesn’t have your unique point of view. 

Because of this, it doesn’t know how to connect with your audience on a deeper level. Because it doesn’t have a unique point of view it can’t write or create content in a tone of voice like copywriters are trained to do. But using the history of the internet and everything else it has been trained on, it can give you an answer that generally matches the query you put in. 

But never remove critical thinking and problem-solving from your process because I like to think of AI as a mansplainer. Not just a mansplainer, one that loves to hear the sound of his own voice. AI has no knowledge of what is truthful vs what is a reasonable answer to your query. 

But we’re here to talk about the good and the bad. So what can AI help copywriters with? 

  • AI can help you get inside the head of your ideal consumer
  • It can create a competitor analysis
  • It can help you spot gaps in your content 
  • It can help generate content for future posts
  • It can create an entire LinkedIn post, blog, social media post, or email.
  • It can create a product description
  • It can help tailor content for a specific audience.
  • It can tell you how your writing reads
  • It can help you paraphrase your own thoughts or others’
  • It can help you with your grammar
  • It can help you brainstorm.

The reason AI is so scary to copywriters is that it does part of the work of a copywriter. Ask it to create 10 punny headlines for a blog about cats and you’ll get 10 ‘punny’ headlines. 

As a business owner, you’re thinking AI is amazing. It took 30 seconds to get 10 headline options, choose one and be done with it! Why are copywriters making the process so much longer? 

Because a lot more goes into copywriting than just writing 10 headlines that sound good. If you walked onto the street and asked 3 people to come up with 10 funny headlines about cats, you’d probably also get a few you like. 

Copywriting isn’t just throwing cool words onto a page — research is a key component to writing great copy and roughly 50-75% of our time is spent researching.

AI on the other hand is scanning the internet for relevant information and using a statistical formula to put words together that it thinks will answer the query. 

  • It has no idea who your audience is.
  • It has no idea of the emotions behind why your audience buys your products.
  • It absolutely doesn’t understand empathy.
  • It doesn’t understand the tone of your brand and who you are.
  • It doesn’t understand why the mission of your brand is important and how to keep that present throughout the copy.  
  • It can’t tell a story.
  • And it really doesn’t understand that emojis don’t need to be included in everything. 

So it could give you a good piece of copy that works … but it also could not. That’s a lot of risk to take when a copywriter can do better and can consistently deliver.

One thing I promise is to always be honest with you. Here I go.

There are definitely situations where using AI or ChatGPT can work for your business. Whether that be because you’re strapped for time, money, people, or inspiration. 

But do not get comfortable. You need to know when and where to use AI. This is the latest skill set we all need to master because if you start using it for everything (or important things) you’ll join the millions of brands and people releasing more junk onto the internet. 

Courtney Herda from SiteCare put it best in her piece titled “The Article AI Didn’t Write: Taking On ChatGPT One Word at a Time.” She said, “In the era of #FakeNews, accurate and reliable information is highly valued. Although AI content automations certainly have its uses, especially in the world of chatbots, there are clear limitations that highlight that AI is not a one-size-fits-all solution and cannot yet create the useful, valuable, and authoritative content that Google requires and online users seek.”

I’ve been talking about AI thus far in a very simple way and I think a lot of articles about it tend to oversimplify it. To be clear, AI is an incredibly complex system that could take researchers decades to fully understand its inner workings. 

That also means things will constantly be changing with it. Some are claiming that it’s getting dumber over time as it continues to absorb the (trash) content released onto the internet. This can make using AI unpredictable as what once worked for you now doesn’t. 

My takeaway is this — AI is constantly changing just as we all are which is just another reason we need to continue to hone our skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving instead of relying on technology to do it for us. 

There’s a lot of junk on the internet right now. From humans, from AI, from the past 30 years of the lawless internet; we all know this. That’s why the most important ranking factor for Google is helpful, reliable information that’s written for people (not necessarily by people). 

It is more important now than ever before to ensure you’re releasing content that is

  • Well thought out
  • Well researched
  • Valuable
  • Written to help someone not to satisfy an algorithm.

The goal is to create content that people are going to actually read because it brings value to their lives — hopefully like this post.

There are a few ways that AI is helping copywriters create good content, but there are also a lot of ways it’s not doing that and can easily be misused. Let’s talk about it. 

How Are Copywriters Currently Using AI?

1. Use AI to get inside the head of your target audience

My girl Alex has an amazing video where she breaks down exactly how to do this (okay fine, we’re not really friends but Alex if you read this I’d like to be friends). If you put on your critical thinking hat, this can be another great way to get some insight into your ideal target audience. But…

  • You have to already know who your audience is.
  • You have to understand the goals of what you’re trying to accomplish.
  • You need to be able to ensure AI is actually giving you relevant, usable information.

2. Use AI to quickly create ideas

AI can save you time creating content, but not in the way you’re thinking. The most common way people think about AI saving us time is by using AI to write a blog. 

But it’s not really worth it if you still have to spend hours fixing its mistakes, correcting the tone, and editing TF out of it. 

In reality, AI can help save copywriters time on the initial boring stuff.

  • The outline.
  • Narrowing down the POV of the piece.
  • Thinking of some words/phrases that might resonate with your audience. 
  • Getting inside the head of your ideal consumer. 
  • Brainstorming how different types of headlines and tones would sound: provocative, FOMO, intriguing — although I’m never satisfied with these results I still try. 

3. AI can help writers push through writer’s block

Writer’s block may or may not be real but I really enjoy using AI for this. Writer’s block is real — it just looks different for everyone and it affects everyone differently which makes it hard to narrow down. 

  • Sometimes you’re lacking perspective.
  • Sometimes you’re lacking inspiration (again, whatever that means to you).
  • Sometimes it looks like procrastination. 
  • For me, it looks like all of my ideas/thoughts forming a tornado around my head that doesn’t allow me to grasp a singular idea. 

Using an AI tool can be a great way to pull some of those thoughts out and start turning them into pieces of what you want your content to look like. 

4. AI can help copywriters brainstorm using different perspectives

 As a solopreneur, I don’t have a team of people to bounce ideas, thoughts, jokes, and everyday complaints off of; it’s truly one of the aspects I miss the most about an office job. 

Using AI to help with this has been really interesting. I like to use it to help me write 2 or 3 perspectives related to the piece. 

  • What does target audience A look and think like?
  • What does target audience B look and think like?
  • What does an opposing audience look like?

I prompt the AI to create the same idea using each different perspective and that helps me get ahold of the tone or direction of the piece. 

As with all of these examples, put on your critical thinking hat because AI doesn’t always nail it, but it certainly can help speed up the brainstorming process and help you flesh out some ideas more quickly. 

These are some of the ways I use AI as a copywriter that have helped me save time. Other copywriters might use it in different ways and that’s cool too! But let’s look at some ways I’ve tried to use AI and it just hasn’t lived up to the hype. 

What This Copywriter Dislikes About AI 

1. AI is NOT a storyteller

This encompasses a lot of different aspects but look at the entirety of human history. We’re storytellers. Good copywriting and content writing involves telling a story and hooking the reader in a way that lets them know you understand them

AI also seems to not be so great at providing updated information, correct citations, transitions between concepts, and getting passed the surface level of a viewpoint. From Courtney Herda again, “Quality and performance from content written by humans and for humans performed better, likely not just because it was written by a human, but because the topic was analyzed critically.” 👏

2. AI doesn’t *really* have an imagination

I’m taking a Spanish class right now and one of the activities we did in class was look at the images and tell each other what we thought. The image was of a woman and man sitting on a step with some boxes behind them and I think maybe holding a cup of coffee.

  • One person in the class said they were getting coffee at a bodega.
  • One person said he helped her move.
  • One person said they’re coworkers eating lunch. 
  • THEN I said, I think he just helped her move because he’s interested in her (in you know what way) and he hoped that by helping her move her boxes she would sleep with him and now that they’re done he’s leaning in and doing a little flirting. 

They all looked at me and said that’s what you took out of that picture?? And that’s when I remembered how powerful our imaginations are and how different they are from one another. 

When you’re on a team you can brainstorm with another person and throw out wacky idea after wacky idea until it starts to take shape and move things along. AI can’t do that. It can say wacky things or ‘creative’ things but only based on what “wacky” and “creative” things it’s picked up from other published content on the internet. And what the algorithm considers “wacky” and “creative”. It’s basically regurgitating something else but switching it up a bit first. It’s not a substitute for imagination. 

3. AI isn’t funny

I don’t think I’ve ever read something AI-generated that made me laugh out loud — and sometimes that’s what you’re going for. Funny depends on your audience — are they sarcastic, literal, punny, enjoy dark humor, like bodily related humor… you gotta know who you’re talking to. 

AI generally has a slapstick literal sense of humor, always paired with emojis, and it’s very easy to detect that an AI made that joke. You might be able to put a bunch of examples and prompts in to get what you need but it’s going to take a while. 

4. AI cannot fact-check

AI really came out at the best time, coming off of a presidential term that had absolutely no regard for truth. Fact-checking is currently at the lowest and highest priority it’s ever been at. 

We know ChatGPT has only been briefed on the internet prior to 2021; although premium users get access to current information (for now). A lot has happened in 2 years. 

  • How many memes have come and gone?
  • How many trends have TikTok cycled through?
  • How much has language changed since then? 

Microsoft’s Bard is using the full power of the internet but let me be very clear: AI ISN’T ALWAYS ACCURATE and let’s not forget about the biases and discrimination it carries with it. So if you’re going to use it, you have to back it up with real facts and know where to look out for the bullshit. 

5. AI can’t write from a POV

A POV (point of view) is important to any type of writing. Every author needs to know:

  • Who you’re writing the piece for.
  • Why you’re writing the piece.
  • Why you are writing it right now. 

This concept is something I initially learned from Tracey Wallace from Contentment and something I’ve found to heighten my quality of work. You could create a beautiful piece of copy but you’re really risking it all if you don’t understand the client, the keyword, the purpose, and the POV. 

And AI doesn’t usually get it right. Tracey says, “​​As writing speeds up thanks to AI content tools like ChatGPT, editors will become more and more crucial. That’s because AI tools aren’t always accurate (fact-checking is required), and often don’t pull in the proper POV you need for your company or a piece of content.”

This heightens my don’t-let-AI-write-your-blog argument but it reinforces what I’ve said ten thousand times already — critical thinking is still needed to interpret the output of AI content. 

6. AI output is only as good as the input

How many people are calling themselves “AI engineers”, or “AI prompt engineers”? 

  • Points for adaptability? Check! 
  • Points for creativity? Check! 
  • Points for incorporating and ‘mastering’ a new software? Check! 

But why? Why does this exist — and why does it work?

Because you have to put time into the input to get a good output. Think about it, you’d expect a dumb answer to a dumb question, but here’s the thinking: 

  • We all talk differently.
  • We all come from different backgrounds.
  • We all use different words. 

What I think is a good, thorough query is probably not what you would think was a good thorough query. 

It reminds me of the resume specialists I’m obsessed with following on TikTok. If you answered phones and scheduled appointments, you don’t write down that you were an assistant or an order taker. Instead, you were an intake and data specialist. Amazing! You should hype up what you did, that company needed you. 

But as a copywriter, if you asked me to come up with some of those phrases I don’t know that I could and I don’t know that I could find the right query to get AI to do it. 

Not everyone has the time, the energy, or knowledge to create good inputs. (and not everyone is a good judge of what a good output is).

7. AI reduces the diversity of thought

I saw this come up in my Axios newsletter the other day. As a surprise to probably no one, in a study when strategy consultants were given an AI assignment that fell outside the capabilities of the AI software, they “were 19 percentage points less likely to produce correct solutions compared to those without AI.” 

As Axios ultimately summed it up so nicely, “Relying on clichéd GPT-4 outputs reduced the group’s diversity of thought by 41%.” 41 percent! 

Technology has made it easier to connect with others, but it’s also made it easier, and kind of necessary, to narrow your focus. 

  • Work in your niche
  • Play in your niche
  • Stay in your niche. 

That kind of thinking doesn’t encourage newness, it doesn’t encourage empathy, and it doesn’t encourage creativity. 

To me, copy is meant to inspire, to connect, to validate (for starters). And to do that we need empathy, understanding, and diversity. 

Before I wrap it up I want to acknowledge that we can write as many pieces like this as we want, but AI has already started replacing human jobs. Copywriters, software engineers, entertainment writers, auto workers, administrators and so much more.

My prediction is that corporations will do what they always do — fire people to “save money”, and incorporate the new technology. They’ll pay the fines for the mistakes the new technology makes and eventually, they will have to bring back people because AI is not a substitution for a person.

Like when CNET laid off reporters, used AI to write the articles, and later had to issue corrections for plagiarism. 

With all the pros and cons to AI, it’s simply change. I wrote this article not only for you, but for myself. To show how AI can fit into our lives because it is going to be a part of our lives whether we like it or not. And no matter how much we’d like to stick our head under our wing. Keep a healthy dose of fear (the good kind) but embrace it. Growth requires a change in the world and change within us.

Alright, I’m wrapping it up — thank you again for your time and attention! I’m not worried that AI will take my job as a copywriter or as an SEO specialist (for now). Not only because I know I do better work than AI, but because I think it’s incredibly important that as creatives, we’re creating for other people. Not the search engine, not for analytics.

I truly enjoy working with each one of my clients. We make each other better when we communicate, collaborate, and create good copy

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