Prompting isn’t magic – just like driving, it’s a skill you can learn. But even the most expensive car will break down if you put the wrong fuel in the tank, and similarly, a text generator is unlikely to produce deathless prose if all you’re feeding it is garbage. And while we’re all amazed by ChatGPT’s capabilities, it can’t yet do your thinking for you. So whether the results it generates are useful, funny or just stupid is primarily down to your briefing.
We’ve already shown you how to put together a good copywriting brief. And regardless of whether you’re asking a person or a bot to draft your texts, the most important thing is to understand your own needs and then formulate them as precisely as possible. But how exactly? We’ve put together seven tips to help you get the most out of ChatGPT.
1. Provide (a lot of) context
ChatGPT can’t read your mind. If you give it a short instruction without any context, it won’t magically fill in the specifics of your target audience itself. In the worst-case scenario, the result will be copy that could describe anything from a toothbrush to an IT consulting company.
The best way to avoid generic output is to provide as much background on your text and where it will be used as possible. The following information can help:
- Style (formal, casual, funny, etc.)
- Medium (website, blog, app, etc.)
- Format (social media post, product description, press release, etc.)
- Audience (Gen Z, IT specialists, people outside the industry, etc.)
- Purpose (inform, entertain, persuade, etc.)
- Formatting (text length, title, sections, etc.)
The more details, the better the result. Adding company reference documents or specifying the precise topic you want it to write about are also worth their weight in gold. Should the AI imitate your brand voice? Adopt a specific style? Or take particular details into account? Then help it out by providing it with texts from your own portfolio in advance.
Example prompt: “I need a LinkedIn post about using AI to generate copy. The target group is marketing and communication specialists. The post should be entertaining but informative and address users directly. The text should start with a short teaser and consist of no more than three sections.”
2. Tell it what you don’t want
As simple as it is effective: to avoid multiple rounds of revisions, it helps to specify what you don’t want in the prompt, as well as what you do.
For example, does your corporate wording exclude certain terms? Or is there a specific text structure you want to avoid? You can do so by including these features in your initial prompt. This saves time that would otherwise be spent on revision or subsequent rounds of prompting.
Example prompt: “Write a short description of our next machine translation event, which will take place on 15 April and give an insight into the latest technologies. No headings or paragraphs. Don’t mention the names ‘ChatGPT’, ‘DeepL’ or ‘Google Translate’.”
3. Change your perspective
An AI chatbot has no idea who you are, so rather than trying to get it to write like you, why not let it slip into a different role? You’ll get better results if you let it pretend to be a poet, a plagiarism checker or a cybersecurity specialist, depending on your needs. Try it yourself: simply assign the AI a role, describe the setting and observe how the output changes.
Example prompt: “You’re an award-winning screenwriter and know from experience how to write riveting thrillers that captivate audiences of millions. Write me an outline for a gripping story about a backyard barbecue.”
4. Generate plots
Speaking of stories, ChatGPT is really strong when it comes to generating plots. All it needs from you are a few classic elements such as the characters, conflict, setting and resolution. Try this tip out if you’re looking for a gripping hero story for your next email campaign, for example, or a storyboard for your video spot.
Prompts like this work particularly well if you also provide a basic framework such as before/after, problem/solution or strength/weakness.
Example prompt: “Write a plot for a digital mailing using a problem/solution structure. The protagonist of the story is an IT specialist who is under time pressure at work. The solution is our new software integration, which automates the process of distributing tasks. Tell the story in a way that encourages the reader to buy our solution at the end.”
Your standards are high, so the first thing the machine spits out is unlikely to satisfy you. Don’t take it personally, though: even the best prompts usually require editing and a few iterations. So be prepared to adjust, improve, simplify and refine the text – either by yourself, using a hired copywriter or through another round of prompting.
For the latter option, the key is to use the same chat window and specify exactly what should be changed. The bot needs the existing conversation as a basis from which to learn (see the next tip).
Example prompt: “Reformulate the text, but this time with a maximum of 300 characters/no technical terms/in a more formal tone/…”
6. Make a counterclaim
Turn the machine into its own biggest critic by having it formulate counterarguments to its own output.
Example prompt: You have ChatGPT write five subject lines for a newsletter. Then, in the next prompt, you ask it to generate explanations for why an email with these subject lines is unlikely to be opened. Or you request tips on pruning hedges from the perspective of a gardener and then ask ChatGPT to swap into the role of conservationist for the next round.
The technique is also known as “yes, but…” and is a popular method for designing fiction plots, among other things. With the counterarguments in hand, the AI should be able to generate a new and improved text proposal. Another beneficial side effect: this strategy will make you more aware of possible criticisms of or discrepancies in your text, and you can either eliminate them in advance or at least prepare to defend them.
7. Play with formats
ChatGPT can do a lot more than just running text. Ask and you will receive anything from a crisp abstract to a table, a list of bullet points or a mind map. The different options give you more possibilities for distributing your content.
The new version of ChatGPT, based on the GPT-4 model, can also read and interpret images and other media. This can be used to generate explanations of complex infographics, for example.
Example prompt: “Create a list of keywords on the topic of social media marketing, with clusters of the most important terms and a mind map.”
These are just a few of the many tricks that you can use to tailor ChatGPT to your needs. With the right prompts, the bot can be used for everything from songwriting to search engine optimization. And if you’re already considering other AI writing tools like Jasper or Neuroflash, be aware that their quality also depends to a large extent on the prompt. The difference is in the fine-tuning, which happens via the controller instead of the chat feature. But as with ChatGPT, the output changes as soon as a parameter is adjusted.
And that brings us back to the kind of copywriting work done by humans, where almost everything depends on the briefing a writer receives. Or in other words, on you. Whether human or machine, your wish is their command. All you have to do is figure out how to phrase it.
We’re happy to help with any questions that come up while you’re testing out ChatGPT. Just prompt us to get in touch.
Cover image: Created by Stable Diffusion