Association Connect

Generative AI and Navigating Member Communications

By Samuel Hoffmeister | May 22, 2023

If you haven’t been paying attention for the last year or so, AI has arrived—and disruptively so. Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, DALL-E, and Synthesia have taken media and business by storm. On the surface, these tools seem like no-brainer solutions to cut time and effort on tasks down to fractions of what they currently are. But for associations—organizations rightly defined by their uniqueness in industry, audience, and offerings—it may not be that simple.

What Is Generative AI?

Generative AI is the process of using algorithmic technology and machine learning to generate or create an output such as text, photos, videos, code, data, 3D renderings, and more. To use an analogy that’s perhaps easier to understand (at least for us nerdier types), think of it as the holodeck aboard the USS Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Describe the setting to the program or software, and voila, you now have access to a new world, completely AI-generated—a creation as accurate as the algorithm is able to deliver, based on the input description.

A more straightforward example: Say you want a new recipe for roasted asparagus. You go to ChatGPT to see what it can come up with. In the prompt field, you type something like “recipe for roasted asparagus with lemon and garlic in less than 20 minutes.” ChatGPT will use the data it’s gathered through machine learning, and almost instantly respond with a perfectly viable, likely easy and delicious recipe.

Not So Perfect

There’s no denying the efficiencies of generative AI, and many tools have been created solely for the purpose of making business processes more efficient. It’s taking the time a human would take out of the equation and removes the variable of human error. That’s the bright side—administrative tasks, communication, marketing, and sales processes done faster and thus cheaper than ever before.

So, where’s the rub? Let’s go back to another pop culture icon to help us out: “South Park.” In a recent episode of the show’s latest season, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone turned to OpenAI’s ChatGPT to assist with some of the writing. It may not have been their direct intent to bring to light one of generative AI’s biggest issues (or perhaps it was), but the show’s last few minutes, written by ChatGPT, featured some of the least creative writing that has ever run on the show—clearly. The audience was almost made to know when ChatGPT writing stepped in, without explicitly being told until the credits.

The point here is that although ChatGPT and other generative AI tools can save tons of time, they can make your communications uninteresting, unthoughtful, and completely miss the mark of what your audience is truly looking for. Pair that with the trend that association members are continually seeking a unique, customized experience and that qualitative member data can be just as important as quantitative data, and the efficiencies gained by solely relying on AI become null. So when it’s time to deliver a message that resonates deeply with your members, whether it’s tied to an event, educational benefit, advocacy work, or any other community-focused initiative, you can’t confidently count on generative AI to provide the magic solution. Your members—your people—are what make your association special, so don’t let them down by leaning heavily on a nonhuman tool to reach them.

The Bottom Line

Generative AI has undeniable advantages. Use it to help organize data, brainstorm ideas, look into how it could help with coding, and keep track of how members are engaging with your content. But it’s nowhere near a replacement for your communications staff or vendor. (One day, maybe, but not yet.)

For now, take advantage of it for more conventional, less creative tasks, but leave the member communications to a trusted vendor partner who knows associations and can take a personal, human approach to meeting members where they want to be met. Your communications are too important to phone in.

If you’re looking for a smart, comprehensive, human approach to member communications, complete with return on your investment, connect with us.

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