Can AI Be a Copywriter’s Silver bullet?

  • Leo Boon Yeow

Do you feel like an imposter? I know I do. 

Most of us have been there before. That feeling of being a fraud. It can happen to anyone, in any profession. And it happened to me.

In the beginning, life was good. I felt as though I hit the jackpot. I got myself a job where I get to write about technology—all day, every day!

That was the start of feeling like a fraud.   

I thought to myself, “wow, I can’t believe I’m getting paid to write this. How hard can this be? I can fake my way past some subject lines and headlines.”

Easy right? No. Not really.

I learnt the hard way that the value of creativity lies in how you solve the problem. Not using it to sound smarter than you are.

Take this line for instance. “Iterative approaches to corporate strategy that foster collaborative thinking.”

It’s full of jargons, and it sounds really smart. It’s full of buzzwords, so it’s got to be good right?

Think again. It’s taken from corporate ipsum. And it’s funny because it’s full of words that some of our clients like to hear. However, they don’t work. It’s gibberish.  

What works is plain, simple, human language. Got an ebook you want people to download? Just tell it like it is.

Here’s an ebook from a brand you want to hear from. It’s free. Because we love you.

Simple right? Again, no.

Because you still want to sound somewhat intelligent and convey some emotion.

The bottom-line is, the more I knew, the more inappropriate I felt. Even though long after my first day, I gorge myself on instructional videos and content on how to be a better copywriter.

I went from “Wee, I’m getting paid to write about technology,” to “Holy shit. They’re gonna find out I’m a fraud!”

And it doesn’t help that I’m surrounded by some of the most brilliant writers I’ve ever met.

How did they do it? How did they get so awesome?

Short answer? Experience and hard work.

In a recent project with a major client, a colleague was puzzled by inconsistent email open rates.

Rather than shrug it off, he did a test. The original subject line was what his client wanted the email to say. Here’s what our product can do for you.

His new line wrote about how the customer can take advantage of the product, and get it to work for them.

Needless to say, the new line worked. Approximately 30% better. Nice.

I need help. Can artificial intelligence (AI) lend a hand?

According to Lifehacker, imposter syndrome isn’t that uncommon. Great writers like Neil Gaiman and Maya Angelou suffered from it. Astronaut Neil Armstrong had it.

Everyone from Emma Watson to Sheryl Sandberg was, at some point, afraid that the fraud police are real.

Luckily for us, Lifehacker’s good at more than pointing out the obvious. They’ve also got some advice that comes in 17 segments.

17 easy ways to overcome imposter syndrome. Snappy.

I’ve decided to follow advice number 11, ”Say what you can”. I’m not an expert copywriter, nor will I ever be. Maybe that will change in the next two decades, who knows?

But for now, I’ll need to admit, that I don’t know everything.

I have my limitations, and I need some help.

And since the entire tech industry is all about automation and artificial intelligence and all that good stuff, why can’t technology content writers like me have it too?

I’m tired of telling my client’s customers that AI is going to transform their business.

I want artificial intelligence to transform my business. And I’m not alone.

Last month, Alimama (Alibaba’s digital marketing arm) announced that their AI copywriter can produce 20,000 lines of copy in a second. AND it passed the Turing test.

It’s used to “improve efficiency for low-value, and repetitive jobs,” like writing product descriptions. 

Unfortunately (or fortunately for me), their AI copywriter only writes in Mandarin. For now.

Help with subject lines

One of the most important, but underappreciated jobs of a copywriter is coming up with subject lines.

It only takes a minute to conjure one up, but years of learning and experience to create one that works as intended.

The best way to get close to a perfect subject line is through constant AB testing. However, it’s time-consuming and repetitive.

Seems like Hubspot agrees it sounds like a job for AI.

In fact, there’s a company which does exactly that. AI that learns through constant AB testing.

I was full of hope when I reached out to Persado, a company that specializes in mashing a data scientist and copywriter together.

Their product is  an AI-driven platform which spits out “language that resonates the most with any audience, segment or individual.”

Unfortunately, Persado’s platform is not a feasible solution for me, due to the lack of numbers.

In B2B technology marketing, the databases we work with are of high quality but are low on quantity. Which is why I didn’t even reach out to Phrasee, another AI company that does the same thing.

There simply aren’t that many CIOs to generate enough data for the AI to learn from.

To my B2C peers, I wish you all the best with your shiny new unicorn. Looks like I’ll have to wait a couple more years before I can outsource subject line writing to bots.

Help with writing

Ok, so if I can’t get AI to do take over certain aspects of my job, surely it can at least assist.

Many of our B2B technology clients have changed their tune from artificial intelligence to augmented intelligence. So that’s where I’m going to bet my money on.

So after a quick (3 hours) search, I came across AI Writer. On its site are claims that it is intelligent, simple, and free.

AI Writer was built to help you do content research, a feat that can potentially reduce your 10-hour research session to a mere 20 minutes.

All you need to do is feed it some keywords (the more the merrier), give it your email address, and it will automatically generate content sources for your entire article.

Here’s a sample of what it did for me.

Interesting, but it’s still in Alpha phase at the moment. That’s probably why it didn’t work so well for me.

In time, however, machine learning could very well eliminate research times, leaving us with more time to focus on optimising our content for example.

Help with proofreading

I’ll admit. Generating content is the holy grail, and it’s only working out for journalism at the moment.

Washington Post uses Heliograf to generate hundreds of articles. Buzzfeed’s got their buzzbot.

There are a few more examples that I wish to name, but there’s no AI bot to help me churn them out.

So what about proofreading? It’s another time-consuming activity that all copywriters dread.

There’s gotta be something here right?

Bingo. In late July, Google announced several new AI-centric updates to G Suite.

There’s Smart Reply, which uses AI to generate canned responses that let you respond to your colleagues faster.

There’s also Smart Compose, which autocompletes your emails with common phrases and personalised information.

But the one that got me jumping in my seat, was the introduction of grammar suggestions in Docs.

It uses AI to correct simple, and more complex grammatical concepts in real-time.

Google Doc’s grammar suggestions will only get better over time.

Thanks to machine learning, it can soon solve even the most difficult grammatical errors that seasoned copywriters like myself have trouble with.

However, this new feature isn’t available to everyone yet. It’s only available in Google’s Early Adopter Program.

Luckily for us, we’ve still got Grammarly.

This cloud-based English-language writing-enhancement platform has been around for a decade and has helped millions across the globe write better.

It’s free to use, but for more complex grammatical problems, you will need to subscribe to its pro version.

I use it to proofread important documents and emails, but it wasn’t very useful when drafting content.

That’s because, for the longest time, its Chrome plugin didn’t work with Google Docs.

Now that it does, it was able to accelerate proofreading time by almost 30%, catching errors that even a fresh pair of eyes couldn’t.

Another indispensable AI-powered proofreading tool is Yoast SEO. It’s a plugin for WordPress, and uses machine learning to help optimise content for search engines.

Like most cloud services, Yoast is available for free. However, if you need its more advanced features, you’ll need to pony up.

Yoast is a default plugin for WordPress sites all over the world, but newer, smarter startups are rising up to challenge its dominance.

One such upstart is WordLift. This Italian company founded in 2017 does what Yoast does—but better (or so it claims).

It uses AI to analyse your content, before providing contextual suggestions that can improve your content even more.

Help with video scripts

Nope, probably not.

AI is here, but it’s not there yet

If you’re a fraudulent copywriter like me, you’ll be glad to know that AI can help.

The good news is, according to IDC, AI investments will reach USD 54.4 Billion by 2021.

The not-so-good news, there is no indication of how much of this investment is being channelled towards marketing, or more specifically, copywriting.

For now, fraudsters like us will have to rely on our own wits to stave off the fraud police.

And IBM’s Watson is going to have a wait a few more years before he (she?) can take my job.

Powered by: GetIT – B2B Tech / IT / Telco Marketing Agency : Singapore, India, Malaysia, APAC


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March 1, 2022

Swati Thakur

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April 12, 2019

Ben Wightman

Good article with useful resources!