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Recruiting Intelligence

The Questionable Use of Shortcut Tools – ChatGPT and Templates

Chat GPT


Until Threads, ChatGPT was the fastest-growing consumer app in history taking a short 2 months to amass 100 million users. Though Threads’ frenetic growth has tapered (and then some), interest in the AI tool has more than 1.4 billion visitors actively engaged with it each month.  

Today, it’s all about the tools we use that offer us shortcuts to our work as marketers. While ChatGPT is the latest shortcut tool, it is not so different in so many ways from the old school marketing template that saves us time and if misused (like ChatGPT) reduces, even eliminates, our creativity and effectiveness.

On the surface, we can point to a plan well executed, right? Our starting point has already been legitimized based on past performance (ChatGPT or some previously used design or report template). So, it stands to reason that using those tools will produce similar results. Uhm, maybe…

But probably not.

It is basic human nature. Use of shortcut tools often means we slack off on scrutinizing the details of what we are producing. Less scrutiny of what we produce and deliver to the world, less customization of our messaging and content, means we are prone to error. Some of those errors can be hugely damaging.

There goes our credibility with our target audiences.

Opportunities to Meet In Person 

The Intead team is gearing up for some amazing presentations and we hope you can join us. 

  • 2024 AIEA Annual Conference in DC, Feb 18-21, 2024
  • ICEF North America in Niagara Falls, Canada, May 1-3, 2024
  • NAFSA 2024 Annual Conference and Expo in New Orleans, May 28-31, 2024

Let us know if you’ll share a cup of coffee and a conversation about all things global and digital (info@intead.com) 

Looking particularly at ChatGPT, its ability to read and synthesize the entirety of the internet is amazing, staggering. Searching and understanding for complex information and analysis of huge datasets - what a time savings. Useful with even not so complex information. If only it provided reliable results without blending information inappropriately and even fabricating results out of thin air. Recent ads we've heard from AI service providers include the claim, "hallucination-free AI." Uhm, what?

Can you truly promise that? How did we get to a place where you need to promise that? 

When even the experts cannot explain to us how and why AI is producing falsehoods, when we get information that might have completely fabricated results and basic users (non-subject matter experts) cannot identify which pieces of information are accurate and which are not, we are in serious trouble.

Read on for perspective and our actionable what to do checklist. We want to help you, as a marketer, use shortcuts like AI and marketing templates wisely and avoid falling into the banality of functionality – the death knell of any marketing effort and potentially, the killer of a brand's soul. 

Important Note to Readers: This is not another article on how to master ChatGPT prompts to get ‘genius’ responses.  

Summing Up the Promise of AI  

There was a good piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education recently by Taylor Swaak (@tswaak27) titled “Admissions Offices Need More Students and Less ‘Drudgery.’ Is AI the Answer?” This quote from John Solewin, director of admissions at Rosemont College in Pennsylvania, was telling: AI-related efficiencies have “made us better admissions counselors to our students and families, because of the time we’re able to focus on them.” Well said. It alludes to both the very real problem of overwork and the promise of AI. 

The article goes on to discuss all the ways AI is now or will soon be helping admissions teams. From the pros and cons of reviewing applications to finding statistically significant anomalies in the recruitment field to improving the transfer process and more. AI is obviously a game changer in many ways and can be easily(?) implemented into your enrollment/admissions workflow.  

Easy AI uses worth evaluating: 

  • Chatbots, duh. By now your university is likely using a chatbot to help answer prospective students’ questions 24/7. If not, it has surely come up as a need. A highly valuable tool that is becoming ever easier to implement on any website. A chatbot is great at answering the 20ish questions that come up ALL THE TIME and annoy the heck out of your recruiting and admissions team. Still, AI-powered chatbots can only provide answers based on the information sources it relies on which is often content on your website – which is often outdated and inaccurate in key areas. So, yes, chatbots still require work if you want them to replace the human capacity to answer the full range of student inquiries with the latest, accurate information. 
  • Copy editor. Admissions teams do a lot of writing. A lot. Between tours, events, and other recruitment activities, there’s no shortage of emails, texts, flyers, brochures, ads, landing pages, microsites, and more to create. (Keeps our marketing team busy, we’ll say that). AI can be a great tool for spot checking grammar. And it can help ensure your team speaks with a unified voice. But don’t fall for its sweet siren song of efficiency or market/target audience customization. Its promise is not what it seems. May sound self-serving, but we don't suggest you fire your creative copywriting/editing/design team just yet.

    Consider this: If every enrollment office turns to AI to produce the standard email (or other) lead nurture content, do you think your content just might be the exact same as every other institution's? Trust us, we've seen it a lot already. So much for sharing distinctive ideas and unique attributes with your prospective students. So much for the soul of your brand.
  • Top-level analytics. Take market diversification – a big item on many institutions’ agendas right now. When entering a new market, generative AI can be great for pulling together a brief summary of where a market stands for instance. Or providing insights into high-level questions you may have about the local economy, job market, etc. However, we continue to see data points fabricated. So, if a report is 92% accurate and you don’t know which 8% is made up (fabricated data points thrown in for no apparent reason), how valuable is that report? How much time will your team spend fact checking before you are confident you can rely on the information? 
  • Marketing strategist…Nope. Keep reading 

AI, Like a Misused Marketing Template, Produces No-Result Marketing 

You know we love tech and all things digital here. We use ChatGPT and other AI-supported tools all the time for one thing and another. And the Intead team knows not to rely on the results without doing more research and fact checking.

So many marketing experts talk about the importance of authenticity as the way to connect with your target audience. AI doesn’t achieve it.  

So, the tie-in with old school marketing templates that we want you to consider: When your team takes the last ad you produced, the last flyer you produced, the last anything really, and simply follows the pattern, swaps out a headline, an image, the academic program description -- even though they want to approach a new audience or achieve a different goal. Are they asking whether the resulting marketing effort aligns with the overarching goal? Does the resulting effort consider the specific audience behaviors and influencers? Creative assets are called creative for a reason.

Hye, but, sticking to the template absolutely does produce something on-brand very quickly and the higher-ups see it and think, "Well, that's on brand. Has our colors and our logo." ChatGPT can do the same thing for you. Add to that, copyright infringement and fake news abound when you rely on AI algorithms. And the marketing strategy is empty (see below for pointers). 

This kind of marketing happens, more than you’d like to think. We’re talking about the over-reliance on pre-structured content. It’s a trap that’s easy to trip up on and comes from marketers who think internally about your institution and not externally about the students who might be interested in your institution. We wonder, deep down do these dime-a-dozeners hold the belief that all academic institutions are generally delivering the same product so a cookie-cutter approach to marketing makes sense?

Templatized work is efficient and looks like it does the job. It’s so easy that ChatGPT can create a “new” marketing plan in 5 seconds flat or less. Take the logo off of one campaign and replace it with another logo. Repeat. It’s simple. It’s economically efficient. And, it’s a really bad idea because your institution will not stand out from any other option your desired students are considering. 

Your student audience, the ones you truly want on campus, is discerning. No matter their age or academic interest (high school, undergrad, grad, transfer, credential-seeking, international, domestic), they are the ones for whom authenticity and creativity resonate and ultimately attract. They are the ones you need to convince that your option is the one that matches their needs.

Basic marketing tip often overlooked: it is your consumer's needs your content must address, not your institution's needs. 

When you put creative humans on the job who understand and prioritize the overarching goal and all the nuances of your institution's strengths, they produce something new, with elements not previously connected, in ways that surprise and delight your audiences. They produce results that the lazy marketer will never match regardless of the tech they can draw upon.

Our Actionable What To Do:  

  • Create and use marketing templates that prompt your team to think creatively along a common path (see below). 
  • Use ChatGPT to gain general context and data that inform the creative process (check for accuracy before you rely on that stuff). 

How does a useful marketing template prompt your team to think and perform? It asks the basics without giving any answers. It ensures your team is covering the marketing must haves:

  • What business problem are we solving for?
  • Why are we engaging in this exercise?
  • What is our marketing goal?
  • What outcomes do we want to achieve and by when? (use numbers) 
  • What strategic imperatives do we need to consider (Institutional level? Project level?) 
  • Which of our market differentiators will feed the value propositions per target audience segment?
  • Which tactics are going to be effective for our specific marketing goal? 
  • Which channels can we truly leverage for each audience? Avoid relying on the same old marketing channels just because you are familiar with them. Be curious and thorough in your research. 
  • How will we deploy our plan? Who will lead? Who will support?
  • How will we control our implementation and measure our results? 

Give your team this kind of marketing template and a whiteboard with colorful markers and watch the creativity emerge. Encourage curiosity with every project, every creative piece you produce. Because when you start with the last thing you produced and ask the team to apply that template to the next marketing need, you’re going to end up with essentially the same thing you produced before. And as far as your audience is concerned, you know the folks you are trying to convince of something, they will see something flat and largely ineffective. 

Our plain and simple take: Generative AI is no replacement for human curiosity and ingenuity. And ChatGPT, for all its smarts, is no marketer. But we know some who are. You’ll love them when you meet them. We promise. Be in touch. 

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