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April 28, 2023

What Associations Should Know about ChatGPT and Generative AI

Is ChatGPT and generative AI the (right) answer for association communications? Let’s explore what this highly publicized tool does and the ways it could impact your association and job.  

The New World of Generative AI

ChatGPT is All I Hear About!

No one could blame you if you started to think that nearly every story you see is about generative AI, including ChatGPT or one of its competitors. It might leave you wondering, “Is it really that big a deal?”   

If you’ve been able to do any hands-on experimentation with the platform, you’ve probably started believing that it is. There are game-changers and then there are society-changers and AI is likely the latter. Skeptical first-time users have been stunned at ChatGPT’s ability to take text input and deliver clean written responses and copy that reads as if it was written by a human. (Note: This post was written by a human without using ChatGPT).   

There’s little it appears generative AI can’t do. The applications for this technology across a vast number of industries is near endless. While this post will focus mainly on what ChatGPT (text generation) can do, generative AI is shaking up the entire creative and artistic world with capabilities like: converting text to images, music, animation, speech, and video.  

The more it makes, the more it learns, the better it gets. It’s a powerful tool for addressing limitations of scale, time, and maybe even talent when it comes to content creation.  

But We Still Need Humans

While Chat GPT (and other generative AI) can be a powerful and useful tool, it’s not perfect. It gets some information downright wrong and presents it in a tone brimming with certainty and confidence. Careful human oversight, editing, and institutional knowledge is still required. Your content is a reflection of your association – generative AI shouldn’t be used to replace important human contributions, but rather to augment them.   

So, how can association communicators leverage this technology revolution? In what ways might ChatGPT help us with recruitment, engagement, and retention? And what are some of the limitations you need to look out for?  

A Key Use of ChatGPT: Search

The days of entering a query into Google and getting endless pages of sponsored and organic links you must then individually click and explore to mine for the answers you’re looking for could now be numbered.  

In the very near future, users will be able to ask a Chat-GPT enabled search engine a question and be given a singular answer, pulled and consolidated from whatever sources that search engine can find. Provided the answer is correct and what the user needed, it’s infinitely more efficient than Google.   

And if the answer isn’t what the user was looking for, rephrasing, clarifying, or getting more specific with the text entered into ChatGPT will change the results. In other words, the more skilled a user is at entering data into ChatGPT, the more strategic, specific, and detailed the question, and the better the search results.   

These search powers can be a gold mine for associations who appreciate the value of data and knowledge about the wants and needs of those it serves, because it’s going to be faster and easier for your association to learn:    

  • What’s going on in the industry, industry trends, and statistics. 
  • The backgrounds of members with potential to be community thought leaders, past stories about them, opinions they’ve given in the past.  
  • Background information on partners and prospective sponsors, who they’ve partnered with recently, what their current marketing priorities are, company leadership, trends in their business.  
  • Information that helps with event preparation, city information, area hotel rates, transportation options, local vendors, local crews, entertainment options, conference and convention incentives available. 
  • Information that aids in member recruitment, trends in career preferences and priorities, what services appeal most to someone in this industry, tolerance of various dues levels. 
  • Information that tracks industry policies and legislation for advocacy purposes.  
  • Information on overall company marketing spend and allocations. 
  • What workers in your industry are talking about most, what problems they’re currently facing, and other prompts for community discussion. 
  • Job trends, which industries are hiring, which fields job seekers are leaning toward, what job seekers value most in an employer, most effective job descriptions, expected salary levels, expected length of retention in the industry, incentives that matter most, most valued non-salary benefits, causes workers tend to care most about. (If you have Higher Logic Thrive Jobs, you can pull many of these insights from your own job site!)

Yes, these are all things an association can be Googling today. But the ability to get aggregated answers instead of list of links (and thus more work), is what has changed. The excuses for not intimately knowing your industry, members, or partners are falling away fast.   

A Key Use of ChatGPT: Content Creation

This is where you might want to tread more carefully.   

Associations are in the relationship and trust-building business. Members value transparency and authenticity. They also value being known to the association and getting limited and highly relevant communication based on the information they’ve shared with the associations.  

Your members probably aren’t looking for a higher volume of content – especially not if it’s obviously auto-generated – just because new robots can make it. That’s not to say you can’t use ChatGPT to aid in content generation and scaling your content strategy, but human discretion is needed to determine when and where you should.   

ChatGPT Doesn’t Have a Brain Like Yours

Members are turning to associations – including their leaders and other members – for personal opinions based on experience and true thought leadership. ChatGPT is capable of generating neither of these things. While it does a great job of collecting information and not directly copying or plagiarizing, ChatGPT is, by design, an amalgamator of existing material.   

There are some instances where it doesn’t matter if the copy was written by a human or not. So think about using Chat GPT for copy that’s pure information: a list, recitation of facts, boilerplate, or a strictly-business form email. All these can be ChatGPT-generated as long as human eyes audit and edit the results.   

For anything that involves real opinion, new thinking, or needs to exude the authentic personality of the writer, it’s best to keep the human element – though, as we explored above in the search section, those humans might use Chat GPT to help with research as opposed to doing the writing.    

Using Chat GPT to Augment Your Content

So again, maybe you’re still writing original content in house, but you might find Chat GPT helpful for building off that original content to relieve some of the effort of generating shorter content and messages. Think creatively about how you can use Chat GPT to repurpose what you have or what exists already in your industry. You’ll still need to review and edit (and one of the beauties of this approach is you don’t have to use what Chat GPT comes up with), but it gives you a jumping off point. Here are some ideas: 

  • Use Chat GPT to collect tips from your educational content (online course, conference session, webinar, etc.) into a summary-style blog post, one-sheet, or teaser. 
  • Use Chat GPT to create short newsletter articles, copy for automated email campaigns, or event promotion copy, where you have longer source material it can pull from. 
  • Have Chat GPT respond to questions, craft FAQ responses, and handle copy for autoresponder emails. 
  • Have Chat GPT write general marketing copy (about us, reasons to join), ad copy, and social media copy – again anything where there is longer content that it can pull snippets from. 
  • Use Chat GPT to generate ideas – in one example, a marketer prompted it with specific elements of a marketing goal and see what marketing strategies it could come up with.  
  • Use Chat GPT in your online community to monitor discussions, respond to questions, provide helpful information, flag issues for human intervention, analyze user behavior and preferences, identify active and engaged community members who could become brand advocates, and provide targeted resources.
  • Use ChatGPT to curate event descriptions and promotional content to post throughout the community.
  • Use ChatGPT to create a better copy of an important announcement your organization has drafted but have been stuck on how to make it fit a better tone.

A Few Parting Suggestions

  1. When considering the use of ChatGPT and other generative AI tools check with your organization and the relevant parties to ensure you’re following any internal polices that may apply to data privacy and security or the use of AI.
  2. Get a feel for the tool yourself, which you should still be able to do for free. See what kind of results it returns. Observe how results change as you keep altering the input. Try a few different types of tasks with it to see how you feel about the outputs. Remember, generative AI tools are conversational. Like with a human conversation, the responses delivered by the tool build upon the context of the conversation you’re having with it. So don’t stop with the first response you receive.
  1. Remember that even if you do adopt ChatGPT, it still requires human fact-checking, editing, and oversight. Many brands in the days ahead will get publicly embarrassed because they ran ChatGPT-written articles without a real person reviewing what it created. And in ChatGPT’s own words, “As a language model, ChatGPT does not have the capability to determine if its answers infringe on copyright laws. It is the responsibility of the user to ensure that their use of ChatGPT’s responses complies with relevant laws and regulations.”
  1. Don’t lose your association’s identity in the generic tone of generated AI content. Like any other piece of content, you need to infuse your brand’s voice, tone, and personality.  
  1. Become an informed, internal expert in these technologies. Start researching what’s involved in implementing ChatGPT into your association’s website chat and search functions, as well as other processes. Start practicing writing prompts for ChatGPT to improve the results it returns. This will help you get prepared if your association wants to take certain steps to incorporate ChatGPT.

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