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January 29

3 Reasons Why AI and Authenticity Aren’t Mutually Exclusive


I’ve seen and heard quite a few people in the higher ed community voice the sentiment that AI and authenticity can’t coexist. But we are not free-range chickens, and content generated with the help of AI tools is not “inorganic.”

I wrote a LinkedIn post in late 2023 that addressed the unwarranted belief that using AI tools like ChatGPT or MidJourney was equivalent to injecting chemical preservatives into marketing content.

A lot of people probably once felt the same way about spellchecking assistants in word processors.

As higher ed marketers, we have to accept that AI is a tool, not the downfall of authentic content. Here’s why.

1. Your Motivations Matter More Than the Means

Since the launch of ChatGPT in late 2022, the general public has been inundated with arguments and objections about AI and authenticity.

But this debate has been raging among the brilliant minds behind this revolutionary technology long before OpenAI gave the rest of us a taste of what’s to come.

In 2017, the folks at Columbia University released a compelling article asking if AI could completely redefine how we perceive authenticity.

Primarily, it addresses “motivational authenticity,” or the principal drivers behind why creators create.

It challenges the conventional definition of authenticity, begging the question, “Without knowledge of the source, do we see work produced by humans and AI differently?”

The article ultimately leaves the reader to their own assumptions. However, I think if we put it in a historical context where it pertains to content marketing, the answer is clear.

No reasonably objective person would argue that using pen and paper makes written content superior to a blog typed out on a computer.

Nor would anyone say that digging through books at a library is preferable to using the internet for research.

The “why” behind your work as a higher ed marketer matters more than the “how.”

Using AI tools isn’t cheating. It’s a smarter, more efficient way of doing business as usual.

2. AI Is a Powerful Creative Assistant, Not a Replacement

I like to compare AI tools to Marvel’s Tony Stark’s iconic suit of armor. Stark’s genius makes him a force to be reckoned with, but his Ironman suit exponentially increases his capabilities.

Just like Stark’s armory of high-tech toys, AI tools in higher ed marketing should be viewed as powerful extensions of your team’s potential.

I’m perfectly capable of writing a blog or email from scratch, but tools like ChatGPT and Claude.AI allow me to do these things faster and better.

That’s because they’re not just useful for automating workflows. They can offer new perspectives and ideas that might not be immediately apparent to our tired human brains.

I want to be clear that I do not believe AI will ever be able to mimic human creativity or empathy.

But as my friend Jaime Hunt, CMO at Old Dominion University, said on her last appearance on The Higher Ed Marketer podcast, we each have only so much mental bandwidth to spare in a given day.

By expanding our understanding of AI’s role in enhancing creativity and authenticity, we can better appreciate its potential as a transformative tool in higher ed marketing.

This perspective allows us to harness AI’s power while maintaining your institution’s brand voice in your content marketing.

3. AI Tools Are As Organic As You Enable Them to Be

I believe another common misnomer among the higher ed community is that content generated with the help of AI is inherently “less than.”

I’ll admit that a lot of those perceptions are probably the result of the internet’s oversaturation with lazy AI-generated content.

Yet I think those unfortunate cases are exceptions, not the standard for what AI tools are truly capable of.

When used effectively, AI tools can lead to engaging content that ensures a more personalized, authentic experience for your target audience.

For example, I frequently hear the argument that ChatGPT’s feedback sounds robotic or rudimentary.

My first response to anyone with that mindset is, “Are you using dynamic prompts?”

That’s because if you give ChatGPT or any other AI tool generic inputs, you’re going to get generic responses.

Ask yourself these questions if you feel that your AI tool is falling short of reflecting your brand authenticity:

  • What is my objective in using this AI tool?
  • Is my prompt clear and specific enough for the AI to understand and generate accurate responses?
  • What kind of response or output am I expecting?
  • Am I prepared to refine or rephrase my prompt based on the AI’s output?
  • Could the use or the output of this AI tool have unintended consequences?

Coursera offers several prompt engineering specialization courses from Vanderbilt University, and I highly recommend them to anyone who wants to improve this critical skill. And The Higher Ed Marketer is putting together additional resources as a follow-up to the AI Summit back in October.

AI and Authenticity Can Be a Perfect Match for Your School’s Marketing Needs

AI isn’t a threat to traditional higher ed marketing. It’s a jetpack that can take your team to higher heights.

When used responsibly, AI tools can help you create authentic — or “organic” — content faster and more nuanced than ever.

Like any big change, implementing these tools should start with a conversation. Talk to your team and ask them how they feel about AI or if they’ve played with it yet. Once you’ve gauged the temperature in the room, it’ll be easier to plan around it.

If you have more questions about how to educate your team to bring them along through this accelerated change, I’m always happy to chat!

Click here or email me at info@caylor-solutions.com to learn more about how AI tools can elevate your school’s marketing efforts.

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Featured image via Bart Caylor in collaboration with Midjourney

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