Ethics & AI: considerations and tools for marketers

Discussions around artificial intelligence these days seem full of hyperbole. Often the outcome is to drive opinions into one of two directions.

AI is evil. It will steal jobs, spread misinformation and leave us divided and destitute while we burn and float away.

AI is a gift. Sent from the internet Gods, it will increase our productivity, creativity, and leave us sipping martinis on yachts because we’ll have so much extra time on our hands.

(photo: Kyle Glenn, Unsplash)

That last one sounds a bit like the promise of my first year University of Waterloo  “Recreation 101” (yes there was such a course), and its accompanying textbook, “One Third of Our Time.” Not to completely date myself, but back in the mid 80s, that was the promise of the coming tech revolution – that we’d all be spending “one third of our time” on leisure activities, due to the time efficiency to be ushered in by technology. (And by default, those of us enrolled in Recreation and Leisure Studies, would program activities to keep everyone happy)

Oh how we got that one wrong!  Can you say naïve?

It’s an interesting parallel to the promise of AI right now though. And that’s what makes me think there is no stopping this train. Efficiency will be improved, but so too will come elevated expectations for the time saved.

If you’re going to work in marketing in the future, you’re going to be using AI. That’s of course, if you aren’t already.

But as AI writing assistance tools such as ChatGPT and Jasper advance and become more widely used in marketing, people are starting to ask about disclosure. As in the ethics of admitting, or not, to using AI to help write or increase efficiency in some way.

Marketing AI writing assistance

All of the marketing activities listed below (and this is far from exhaustive) could be done completely, or assisted in some way by AI writing tools. These are everyday marketing tasks.

  • Summarize podcast content into one paragraph for posting
  • Create 10 possible headlines for a blog post and recommend the best for SEO
  • Create multiple social media posts for the same content to run as a 5 day series
  • Prompt or entirely create multiple social media posts appropriate for different platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn
  • Write an email sequence to sell a product
  • Create sales copy for a website page
  • Generate an actual blog post
  • Generate topic ideas for content marketing
  • Help with keyword search for SEO
  • Create and outline or content structure for an article
  • Generate survey questions for customer feedback (and add multilingual ability)

Of course, AI can do a whole lot more than just write. But for the purposes of this post, it is purely the written word in the context of marketing that I am considering.

How should you ride the wave?

There is no denying that AI tools increase efficiency. But there is also no denying that access to this type of efficiency will wash over marketing, leaving many purists spluttering about the wave that took them out, when they chose not to ride it.

Should you disclose that you used spell check to write copy? No. Because we would assume you did. It’s a widely used tool to improve writing efficiency and accuracy. Plus it was part of the software program you used to type the content. The same will likely be true in the near future with AI as it becomes embedded in MS Word as a writing tool.

Yet dismissing AI assistance as similar is overly simplifies things.

Spelling is one thing, but idea generation and the iterative process of writing and creating is another. Sometimes only the best work emerges from the struggle involved in that process. And that’s the piece I fear losing in all this.

That, and the fact that the stage is being set for a deluge of mediocre content, or worse content passed off with essentially fake ownership.

Call me a purist who loves to write. You just did, didn’t you? But you already knew that or you wouldn’t be reading this! (For the record, this post is 100% human generated). There’s no way ChatGPT could have come up with that “Recreation 101” course reference!

Ethics in the absence of rules

Associations are starting to get out ahead of this. I’m a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada). Journalism integrity roots run deep as they should in that organization, so they recognized the importance of including the use of AI in their code of conduct. It’s a work in progress though, and as I’ve advised them, the grey areas are many.

Likewise the PR Council recently released guidelines for using generative AI tools.

Universities are struggling with how to navigate the use of AI in assignments, while also being well aware of the industry environment they are preparing students for. This conversation is particularly relevant in business school marketing programs. I teach a university social media marketing class, and right now I’m struggling with how to best get students to use AI marketing tools, while also respecting academic integrity, and being mindful of their own personal comfort level with it. Not all students want to “cheat the process” and make things easier. Many take pride in their own writing – as they should!

It will come down to re-imagining assignments and assessment, allowing and in many cases encouraging, AI for assistance, while keeping the focus on creativity, strategic thinking, insight and personalization that could only be added by the human element. All this while being critical of sources, and the potential for missing information or bias. To say this will require a complete overhaul of many courses in an understatement!

I’m currently working on a social media marketing plan for a client. And I’m creating personalized email funnel sequences for another client in the travel industry. To what extent might I consider using AI assistance in these projects? The ethical considerations are many.

If you’re in the business of advising clients, creating content yourself or for others, I’d encourage you to consider where you sit on all this. Here’s where I’ve gotten, but I certainly welcome your feedback!

Generative AI disclosure: rules of engagement

  • If content is completely generated by AI, and it’s being passed off as created by you (ie: an article, blog post) it should be disclosed as AI created. Full stop. But honestly, why would you do that?
  • If there was AI writing assistance (content ideas up front, an outline, SEO title generation), ethically I think that should be disclosed for now – being specific how it was used in the article, or noting general practices towards AI on your website. This is the grey area where I think AI holds the most promise, and likely as it becomes more prevalent, will become like “spell check” is now – simply part of the writing process. The added insight, personal experience, stories and strategic thought is where the human component will shine, distinguishing this type of copy from what a machine could churn out.
  • If AI was used to generate social media posts to promote original content, I think that’s another grey area that at least deserves a mention in your general practices – be it on the platform or on your website. But I fully expect many will not do this unless forced to, or face the potential of being outed. There’s no denying the efficiency though. But there’s also no denying how personalization will be the way to continue to stand out. See above. Content creators will need to walk a fine line here, since for many, their posts ARE their content.
  • If AI assistance is being used for client consulting projects (such as creating blog posts, managing content, or writing a strategic plan), I think it should be noted in the project agreement, or part of your overall arrangement with the client for ongoing work. That’s the position taken by the PR Council. But bear in mind the role of consultant is to add value, creativity and insight. Otherwise you’ll risk becoming a commodity against someone else, or the client themselves, who could also use ChatGPT.
  • It’s important to remember that AI is a tool. It’s not the storyteller. We want to use the tools that make our content better, and our processes more efficient. I’d suggest not leaning in so far on content creation that that’s the only thing that you do, because AI quite simply can replace you. Your value as a consultant is around the strategy and insight.

Reputable Guidelines to consider

The following are some valuable links I found to further explore guidelines and the ethical challenges in using AI.

PR Council Guidelines on Generative AI Tools (link to a great webinar they gave on this topic)

Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) Ethics Guide to Artificial Intelligence

American Marketing Association (AMA) What Marketers Need to Know About AI Copywriting

Just this week it has been revealed that content prompts put into ChatGPT become part of the learning model forever (despite being deleted) – so sales copy, press releases (or written code – just ask Samsung who broke the story) could be accessed by competitors. Settings are now being reconfigured to allow this to be prevented, but it’s just another example of how quickly this is all moving, and how we truly are part of the social experiment.

At the end of the day, you just might want to do your own work! Or at least mostly your own work. And choose selectively (with knowledge) how to utilize AI in your marketing for efficiency.

AI Marketing Tools

Below is a list of marketing tools utilizing AI. Tools such as ChatGPT, Jasper, HyperWrite, Wordtune and Writer are all Generative AI writing assistants. But as you can see, artificial intelligence has spread into many more areas of the marketing process.

Content creation tools

  • OpenAI An upgraded version – ChatGPT 4.0 was released mid March. (A trained model that interacts in a conversational way, with dialogue, follow up questions, admitting mistakes, challenging incorrect premises, rejecting inappropriate requests)
  • Jasper (Create amazing SEO content, Facebook ads, webs content, marketing copy, sales letters, captions, art & images, video scripts, blog posts 10 x faster with AI)
  • HyperWrite (Write faster, sound smarter – with confidence from idea to final draft)
  • Wordtune (“Your thoughts in words” The ultimate AI writing tool that rewrites, rephrases, and rewords your writing! Rewrite your text in seconds to say exactly what you mean)
  • Descript (Write, record, transcribe, edit, collaborate and share videos and podcasts)
  • Rembrand (AI product placement, AI-generated, photo-realistic product insertion embedded after your videos have been created. Enable advertisers to reach your audience using our proprietary technology to fit realistically into the surroundings.)
  • Writer (Content generation, power of generative AI across every team – sales, marketing, HR, tech, finance)

Research, schedule & publishing tools

  • Emplifi (Research, schedule, publish content on all social platforms – bring empathy and authenticity to every customer interaction)
  • Lately (Social media post generator. Repurpose any longform content thru Lately’s AI. Get dozens of social posts. Schedule out a drip feed of your faves. Rinse and repeat)

Analysis tools

  • Linkinfluence (Helps you understand your customers better. Combines AI with market research to turn social data into impactful consumer insights)
  • Smart Moderation (Automate content moderation, both text and audio moderation, with human level accuracy,
  • YouScan (AI-powered social media listening platform with industry-leading image recognition capabilities. Analyse consumer opinions on social media, blogs, forums, product and business review sites, messengers, and more)
  • Zignal  (Real time intelligence, analyzes billions of data points in real time, accelerating decision making


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Will it be dystopia or utopia?

So far I have been impressed with the quality of work generated through OpenAI and Jasper. But it also seems to come down to the detail of the prompts entered. There does seem to be a “generic feel” in terms of copy and a “predictable template” to many queries, but as a starting point to be further customized or edited, there’s no denying the efficiency. No doubt as the AI continues to be trained by us all, it will improve dramatically, and quickly.

While I am excited about the force for good that AI could enable in the areas of research, science and innovation, in addition to marketing, I am worried about being able to distinguish truth, and the role that media will play in democracies, as AI becomes more prevalent. It’s the potential for larger societal impact if mismanaged, that is disturbing.

Perhaps it’s time to re-read Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel, Brave New World, and his final novel Island, the utopian counterpart!

Mary Charleson

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