5 Ways to Use Generative AI Without Losing Control of the Message

Mar 27, 2024

In 2005, Staples released the iconic “Easy Button,” a fun gimmick that showed how simple the company made shopping for office supplies. We’ve come a long way since then, and in 2024, we have a new “easy button” solution for the workplace—AI. Hailed as a revolution for industries and businesses everywhere, these programs are meant to make work easier and more efficient, and they certainly do. Maybe a little too well. 

From CNET publishing a number of AI-generated articles that were factually incorrect (and plagiarized) to the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s use of a poorly generated image in a Facebook ad, there are plenty of cautionary tales about the liberal use of AI. While these programs may lighten the workload, it’s important to remember that their purpose is to supplement human skill, not replace it.  

In reality, there is no easy button, and AI is no exception. Effective use of these tools requires maintaining an element of control. Here are five ways to use generative AI while maintaining that crucial human element: 


1. Always bring an idea to the table 

It cannot be said enough: AI is meant to enhance, not replace, human work. Think of it as adding salt to a dish. Sure, it makes the food taste better, but you can’t make a dish out of salt. You still need to provide ingredients. 

This does not mean you need to start with a fully developed first draft or concept. After all, AI can be a great brainstorming tool, too. But all critical thought must come from you. What is the purpose of the piece? Who is the audience? What are their pain points?  

Starting a project with these answers in mind will help you better guide the AI. You’ll be able to be more descriptive in your prompts and shorten the refinement process. 


2. Work in pieces 

Just like people, AI can make mistakes. Unlike people, AI cannot recognize when a mistake has been made. Therefore, keeping track of any changes made to a piece of work, whether a byline, a social media post or a promotional video, is essential. Breaking projects into pieces, like paragraphs or design elements, makes it easier to keep track of any changes and helps to maintain more control of the work as a whole. 

Another solution is to use AI only for specific tasks. For example, you can use it to generate content ideas or turn notes into outlines. AI does not have to be involved in every step of the creative process. Experiment with different tasks and see how they best fit into your workflow. 


3. Be specific 

Details are critical when it comes to using AI effectively. In its simplest form, AI is an application of statistics and probability. Models are trained to provide the output most likely to receive a positive response to the prompt. The broader your prompt, the more general your output will be.  

Some people have compared AI to an untrained intern. It’s excellent at following directions, but you need to be good at giving them for it to be of any use. Fortunately, AI’s advanced understanding of language means it can follow a wide range of instructions. For example, you can prompt an AI to produce output for an audience with a certain knowledge level or use a specific design style.   


4. Repurpose existing assets 

Repurposing content for a different audience or format is a great way to extend the use of existing collateral, and AI is the perfect tool to help. Starting with an existing asset gives the AI more context for a prompt and helps maintain consistency in the messaging and branding. For example, you can upload a blog post and prompt the AI to rearrange it into a byline for a business publication or pull the main takeaways and turn it into a social post. 

However, it is important to note that proprietary information should never be fed into an AI, as it will be added to the AI’s training data. Like people, AI can learn from past experiences (data) and apply learnings to new ones. While it is highly unlikely any information will be repeated verbatim, any underlying ideas or themes could potentially be shown to other users.  


5. Always start and end with a human 

AI is a great assistant, but it is not an independent worker. Human eyes and minds need to stay involved, especially when it comes to creative tasks. While generative AI can make assets like copy and design, it can’t tell stories or create connections with the audience. That is something only humans can do.  

When you’ve finally reached an output you’re satisfied with, bring it to another person to look at, just like any human-made piece of work. A fresh perspective is always good for spotting any overlooked mistakes, ensuring your message remains clear and, most importantly, maintaining a human element.