It’s critical to create copy that connects with your customer, but is AI a tool that will help you accomplish that goal, or will it lead to generic copy that doesn’t serve you or your audience? Discover how employing AI tools can rescue your time, budget, and supercharge productivity but also the pitfalls you need to avoid. Join Abby Wood from The Content Lab as she shares her dos, don’ts, and must-know warnings about AI and content creation.
AI Helping Create Content That Connects Episode Summary
- How Abby incorporated AI into her copywriting process, using it for ideation and overcoming writer’s block, but not for actual content creation. Abby’s team initially pushed back against using AI, but eventually embraced it for its efficiency in generating ideas and streamlining research.
- The use of AI in creating authentic connections and copywriting, using tools like ChatGPT, and the challenges of avoiding hallucinations, and the limitations of AI in certain industries.
- The role of humans in the AI content creation process. While AI tools can assist in generating content, human expertise is still necessary to ensure accuracy, safety, and the right voice for copywriting and content creation.
- Rich and Abby discuss their use of AI for grammar checks and proofreading, as well as its role in SEO and copywriting. They also mentioned running workshops to help clients with voice and tone, and emphasized the importance of high-quality copywriting and brand messaging.
- The potential impact of AI on various industries, including copywriting and web development. And speculated that while AI may automate certain tasks, there will always be a need for human creativity and expertise in these fields.
Check out How to Keep a Human Voice in the Age of AI, for more insight on creating remarkable content that AI can’t match!
AI Helping Create Content That Connects Episode Transcript
Rich: My guest today is the founder of The Content Lab, a white label, copywriting, and content marketing agency that helps digital agency owners get their time back, keep their customers happy, and increase their profits. With the help of her talented team in Ireland, she partners with digital agencies across the world with their copywriting needs.
Today, we’re going to be talking about how to use AI when creating the type of content that gets you engagement, traffic, and sales with Abby Wood. Abby, welcome to the podcast.
Abby: Thank you so much for having me. It’s a delight to be here.
Rich: We’re excited to have you. Now, obviously you didn’t start copywriting using AI. So when did you make it part of your toolbox? And was there like an “a-ha” moment where you suddenly knew this is going to be part of the process?
Abby: Yeah, I think originally we first heard about it in November of last year. So that’s 2022 for anybody listening to this way in the future. That’s when it first got on our radar, and we started to play around with it and see what it’s capable of, see what it’s not quite capable of, and figure out exactly how it can speed up our processes a little bit. So yeah, we’ve had a few months of playing around with it at this point.
Rich: So tell me a little bit about your process. Are there places where you love to use AI, and other places where you just don’t let it touch the copy that you’re writing?
Abby: Absolutely, yes. Myself and my team use it for ideation. It’s very good for coming up with just general ideas and a little bit of background research. Of course, double check, triple check everything that it spits out as well. Because I think we’re both aware of kind of some of the stuff that it comes out with isn’t a hundred percent correct.
But yeah it’s a great way of overcoming writer’s block if you’re staring at that dreaded. blinking cursor for a little bit too long. And sometimes it’s good just to get the old creative juices flowing. And so that’s what we use it for in-house. It’s very good for just coming up with new ideas and stuff.
What we don’t use it for is actual content creation that’s publish ready. So everything that we write, we write as people. I don’t think that it’s at the point yet where it’s ready to go live on anything, but it’s a great way of speeding up the writing process, I think, for sure.
Rich: You mentioned you and your team are using this. Did you run into any roadblocks or any pushback from your team when you said, “Hey, this is our new SOP. We’re going to be using AI moving forward.” Were there some people who were like, clutching their pearls and refuse to do it, or was everybody like, “Yeah, sure, let’s do this”?
Abby: Honestly, I’m known for being honest. All of us. All of us were clutching our pearls and not too keen on it. I’m probably one of the most anti-AI people you will ever meet in your entire life. I got into copywriting over a decade ago, there weren’t as many tools as there is now for sure. And I’m a big believer in human creativity and the human touch.
So I think we’re using it in the background of just coming up with new ideas and shortening the research process, a hundred percent. It’s also great for creating SOPs as well. But yeah, there was definitely some pushback. I think a lot of copywriters that have been in the industry a while are definitely pushing back on it for sure.
Rich: So I know that one of your things is about creating authentic connections. So how do we create authentic connections when we’re using AI? Is this a help or a hindrance?
Abby: Honestly, this may not be a popular opinion. I think it’s a bit of a hindrance, for sure. I think it’s a good starting point, but content is only as good as the person creating it. I think AI is definitely it’s a great way of speeding up the process and optimizing things.
But I think you definitely need that human touch. And especially with authentic content, that’s uniquely AI cannot replicate, your unique selling point. It cannot replicate, your unique voice and tone. Unless you’re spending hours and hours, training it up and still then it’s never going to be a hundred percent you. Especially if you are outsourcing to other copywriters, it’s not going to replace copywriters anytime soon. Good copywriters, anyway.
Rich: All right. So what are the tools that you use? Are you just using ChatGPT, or are there other tools in your AI tech stack?
Abby: That’s pretty much it. I’m hearing great things about the SurferSEO AI add on. I haven’t given it a go yet, but I have heard very good things. We did try out Jasper as well but wasn’t a fan of it. I think you’re only as good as your own internal processes and the tool is just a supplement to that. But at the moment, yeah, we’re just using ChatGPT to come up with a few ideas and stuff.
Rich: It’s interesting because there are so many tools out there. And a year ago, there were a lot of AI tools specifically around different types of copywriting.
I was just listening to an AI marketing podcast today, and they were talking about the latest iteration of ChatGPT. Is there a need for these fine-tuned machines, or is it just going to be like ChatGPT, what Google comes up with, and what Microsoft comes up with, and we’ll ultimately end up going with those three. So it’ll be interesting to see how that all shakes out.
Abby: Absolutely. Yeah, I think it’s going to be interesting to keep an eye on it. I think, how many search engines are there in the world? And yet most of us only ever follow Google. I think it’s the same thing. One will dominate the sphere and then the rest will be very niche products used by niche companies.
Rich: Makes sense. You mentioned earlier about the hallucinations basically when ChatGPT and other AI tools just make things up, because they need to finish the loop or they feel that they’re doing us a service by finishing. What are some of the ways that you avoid hallucinations in your own copywriting?
Abby: You know what, I was chatting with my team today and my wonderful content writer, Kelly, is friends with an English teacher. And she’s just opened up to the world of ChatGPT and stuff, and she was writing a paper on Of Mice and Men. And she asked AI, “Can you give me a few quotes and create a few questions around the novel?” And it just straight up invented quotes from the novel. She was like, that isn’t in the book. That is not in the book.
So it’s funny. It’s definitely, yeah, there’s a lot of hallucinations coming out of it. I think it’s just double checking, triple checking things, making sure that you’re creating content that is difficult to avoid hallucinations. And it’s one of the main reasons why I’m not a huge fan of creating content using AI. I think it’s a great starting point. It’s great for getting rid of the blank page. But for sure, we want to be doing our own research. We want to be kind of fact checking everything. It’s very difficult to avoid just spitting out psych stuff.
Rich: And especially when you get into technical writing, scientific writing, or things where people’s health or being may be placed in jeopardy if we don’t get the facts right, that this definitely becomes a bigger concern.
Abby: Honestly, I think there are certain niches and industries that just shouldn’t use it as it is right now. Kind of in the future, when it’s improved, go for it. I’m good friends with an agency owner. She’s a copywriting agency and they specialize in medical manufacturing. And they just straight up won’t touch it because the stuff that it brings up just, you’re talking legal issues and health issues as well. So there’s definite challenges with a lot of industries using it.
Rich: Absolutely. And I think this is why there’s still a role for humans in this process. Hopefully there always will be. But the idea where it’s like you need that human expert at the end of the day to make sure that the information that AI is pulling in is accurate, is safe, makes sense, is in the right voice, and all these different type of things that we need to be concerned about when we’re copywriters, content creators, what have you.
The tools will probably get better over time. And I’ve definitely written a landing page or two by taking a spec sheet from a client, feeding it in, and within that one single loop, getting good stuff for a page. But I don’t know that I would trust it to naturally go out and do the research and bring it back for me.
Abby: Yeah, absolutely. I think if you can feed it all the information that it needs, then you have a much better chance of getting something that is close to publish ready, than say if you were just relying on it in general to create everything from scratch.
It definitely needs a good solid head on it, a human head on it, to feed it what it needs and to figure out what is suitable and what isn’t. And again, with the proliferation of so much content now, I think it’s more important than ever that companies are putting their own unique touch on things.
So whether you are creating stuff using AI, you want to be putting in your own unique voice, your own unique points of view on top of whatever you’re publishing as well. So if you want to be pumping out a lot of content, fair play to you. But just make sure that you are adding something of value to that to better connect with your audience and also to help you stand out as well.
Rich: Now as a white label agency, as a copywriter for other companies, there’s a lot of different voices that you must have to adopt as you start to create your content. Has AI helped in that way? Are you using it all to create personas or just to be like, here’s our ideal customer, let’s framework out a blog post or something for this type of client?
Abby: I’ve seen quite a few people have fantastic frameworks for creating user personas. Right now off the top of my head, I can’t remember the names of any of them, but it is very doable. It’s very useful for when you’re creating the foundational messaging and figuring out exactly who the user persona is and what connects them to a company and what motivates them. It’s great for figuring that out for sure. And it cuts down the amount of legwork needed as well to create user personas. That is one use that I’ve seen used very well using AI for sure.
Rich: When you’re not using AI, how do you adopt so many different corporate voices that you have to speak it?
Abby: I get asked this a lot. So I think we have about 70 digital agencies that we work with at the moment, and so we tend to partner with them long term, and they will have their own clients that we write for as well. And that is a lot of unique voices and a lot of different industries that you have to get really familiar with. And honestly, a lot of it is experience.
So we have a lot of processes in house and a lot of cheat sheets of this is the type of language that they’d use, this is the type of language they wouldn’t use. We’re big believers in brand archetypes and that kind of thing, of just figuring out exactly the type of language that each client would use.
So we do have kind of cheat sheets almost, on each client that we work with, just to remind us if, if we haven’t heard from them in a month or two. This is exactly what they like. This is what they don’t like. I think a lot of it comes down to having empathy and understanding, which any good copywriter should be fluent in. Bause good copywriting gets to the heart of the matter, and selling is on the emotional level, first of all. So it’s really understanding the target audience, but also the company that you’re writing for as well. So there’s a lot of different moving factors in there.
Rich: I’m curious if you’ve ever used AI for any grammar checks at the end. I like to think that as an English major, I’m pretty good when it comes to… and I also know when to break the rules. But have you ever dropped in something to ChatGPT at the end just to make sure the grammar was correct, or you didn’t have any typos that maybe Word didn’t pick up, or anything like that?
Abby: We have very stringent proofreading going on in-house. We have a dedicated editor called Mia. She’s absolutely wonderful. She’s our human editor. We use Grammarly as well. Grammarly has AI built in now. It can be a little bit hit or miss sometimes, but for the most part, it’s pretty good.
And yeah, I have run the occasional landing page through ChatGPT to see what it can come up with. I have noticed it’s great for catching spelling errors. So a lot of our clients would be in the U.S., we have some in Australia, we have some in the UK and around Europe and stuff. And switching between kind of all the different types of English, sometimes the occasional S and Z will get mixed up or something like that. It’s pretty rare, but sometimes it does happen. And AI is great for catching human mistakes, I think, sometimes.
Rich: And is SEO part of what you offer to your clients, or is that something that’s on them and their marketing team?
Abby: Oh, absolutely. I think good copywriting writes for humans that are reading it, but also for the search engines as well. Because if Google can’t find it, the human readers won’t be able to convert on it. So yeah, we combine the two. It’s an art and science, to be honest with you. So the art is obviously the human side of it. And then the SEO side of it is definitely the more scientific, stat-based stuff.
Rich: And have you found a role for AI in the SEO component of things, or is that more old school keyword research and getting the words from the client, things like that?
Abby: It’s a big old mix of stuff at this point. Yeah, full disclosure, it’s a big mix of stuff. So obviously we do the keyword research. We do, I’ve already mentioned before we’re big fans of Surfer SEO. So using their optimization tool is very useful. They do have the AI aspect as well. We’ve used a little bit of that, but not the full kind of AI rider on it.
But yeah, I’m a big fan of Surfers optimization kind of skills. So literally you can do the research yourself with whatever tool you’re using, write the piece, pop it into Surfer and it’ll give suggestions of where to put keywords that you may not have considered. Or just random keywords that you may have missed in your original research.
Rich: Awesome. And I guess basically when it comes to AI and creating copy that connects, I believe you run some sort of workshop on tone and voice. Am I getting that correctly?
Abby: Yeah, we do run a voice and tone workshops with our clients, and we have two different versions of it. So we do have a general kind of brand messaging one. And then we have the big foundational one that’s for larger size organizations and government bodies and stuff. But yeah, t that’s what I’m most passionate about. That’s my personal joy of content strategy is figuring out a company’s core values, their foundational messaging, and then you can build everything on top of that.
Rich: So what do people get when they join this workshop? I’m just curious.
Abby: Yeah, there’s a lot of deliverables there. So we do a deep dive into kind of if they already have messaging, if they already have an online presence, where it’s missing the mark, where they feel that it needs to be updated. And then we go and do our magic and we do the mission, the values, we do the outline of their programs or the services. If it’s a certain package that we sell, we do all of their online bios, we do their LinkedIn profiles, all that good stuff. So it’s just ensuring that you have consistent messaging around your core brand foundational messaging as well.
Rich: All right. I want you to look into your crystal ball or put on your magic hat and look into the future. Do you think that we’re going to get to a point, maybe in the next year or two, where you’re going to be able to take all the work that you’ve created in a voice and tone workshop by working with you and plug it into a ChatGPT or similar tool and have it write more on point copy?
And if so, is there still going to be a place for somebody to get in there and be a human and humanize that content, or are we going to get to a point where really it’s like, if we set the machines up the right way, they should be able to create 90% to 95% of the content?
Abby: Rich, what are you trying to do to me?
Rich: Well, there will still be value in there for you, because you’d be still leading the workshops. I’m just curious to know if you think there is a tipping point where maybe we’re going to have to rethink some stuff for ourselves.
Abby: Honestly, I think it’s already revolutionized the industry by cutting out a lot of the lower quality content creation, for sure. Like the old school content mills and stuff. I think their days are gone already, there’s no doubt about that, for sure. I think that high quality copywriters and brand messaging experts will never go out, I’m hoping anyway, will never go out of need. And that was great English. I’m really selling myself right now. But you know what I mean.
But I think that there may be a point where you could definitely feed in the strategy behind everything and feed it into kind of AI, whether that’s ChatGPT or whatever, and it could create a website out of it. There’s already AI that can build entire websites.
But I think that human touch, that human element is what differentiates companies online. It’s exactly the same as comparing like a Wix web builder that somebody’s DIY’d themselves as a one pager, and the logo is funky up in the corner, and the ‘contact us’ button doesn’t work, to like a boutique agency that’s doing fantastic work and everything works perfectly and looks great and attracts the right type of customers and stuff.
So I think there’s going to be two markets, maybe. I think there’ll be the very talented copywriters and wordsmiths still employed, hopefully. We’ll check in five years, Rich, we’ll see if it’s come true or not.
Rich: I think there’ll always be a place for copywriters, marketers, PR agents, doctors, lawyers of a certain caliber. And I think what we’ll probably see is that the people who were at the bottom half will be leveraging AI to get even to that 50% mark. I think it’s going to be a little while longer before we have to start learning how to drive trucks.
So this is awesome. If people want to learn more about you, if they’re interested in your voice and tone workshops, or maybe checking out some of your work, where can we send them?
Abby: Check out our website, which is thecontentlab.ie. It’s .ie because we’re based in Ireland. That’s where you can check us out and see if you like what we’re advertising. See if the copy is any good.
Rich: That was good. Abby, thank you so much for coming by today and sharing your expertise.
Abby: Thank you so much for having me, Rich. It was lovely to chat for a bit.
Abby Wood helps digital agency owners save time, increase profits, and engage with customers through innovative content strategy and writing. Check out their website to find their blog, and learn more about the variety of services they offer.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 25+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.