Have you been tempted to write content with a Large Language Model (LLM) or Generative AI such as ChatGPT or Google’s Bard?
After all, more content is better, right?
Well, that’s a discussion for another day (spoiler alert: more is decidedly not better), but I absolutely understand why writing can feel like just one more marketing to-do competing with all of your other business priorities.
I get it, it’s hard.
So, the temptation is there: ask one of the bots such as Bard, ChatGPT, or Magic Write to handle it for you.
I thought it would be interesting to do a little experiment with a recent newsletter in which I compared my newsletter about what business strategy my readers could learn from the Tour de France versus what Bard (Google’s Large Language Model aka AI) wrote on the same subject.
The following is my 100 percent human-written newsletter:
Subject: Tour de Strategy 🚵🏻♀️
In our house, it’s an important time of year—it’s Tour de France season.
My husband and I started watching this epic cycling event waaaaaay back when we were college students on a summer backpacking adventure in Spain. This was in the 1990s, folks!
We ended up in beautiful beachside town in Catalonia, Cadaqués, and we found a charming pension (aka a cheap hotel type thing) that had something fancy: a television.
It was hot, we were tired. I’d gotten super bus sick on a way too exciting trip on a winding road through the mountains (we were college students, we took the cheap, slow, multi-stop bus).
And this little TV beckoned. The only thing on that was accessible to us without much Spanish language was the first day the Tour de France.
I grew up in rural Oregon—no one watched a three week long European bike race. Sure, I’d heard of it, but I’d never seen a minute of it until that afternoon in a random schoolhouse turned budget hotel.
From that point on, it’s basically become an annual tradition that we watch all three weeks of this bonkers bike race. Over the years, what my nerdy brain come to love most is seeing strategy in action.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that this sort of competitive cycling is a team sport. So, you’ll see people on the same team, all working together towards several different shared goals.
- someone may be the team’s best chance for an overall (general classification) top ten finish for the whole three weeks
- someone else may be an amazing climber and be working towards getting the King of the Mountains win
- another person may be a great sprinter
- others may be incredible at helping a sprinter or a climber or a general classification rider reach their goal
- then, of course, we’ve got team members in charge of fetching snacks and water and ice socks. (Is this the most important role? I’d argue yes—no one can win if they’re hot and hangry!)
On any given day, there are also other, smaller goals.
On a flat stage, a team may plan to have their sprinter go for a win. Late in the tour, when riders are exhausted and injured and miserable, you may see some of the smaller, less talented teams try to make a go of it in a breakaway (when they try to get away from the big, main group of riders—the peloton—so they can win against a smaller group). Or, a team may decide that a day is a good one for their riders to take it easy because the opportunities just aren’t there. Or a team may even decide to get in a breakaway for a short time if they want to get their sponsors some TV time to prove that the sponsorship is worthwhile.
Then, we’ve got ad hoc alliances across teams—people competing against each other will collaborate to work together towards a shared goal for a day or even a few kilometers. Or, people will team up to work against a team or rider that’s causing everyone a problem. Oh, and the entire peloton coordinates “nature breaks” (this isn’t birdwatching break, unfortunately), which equals more cooperation across teams.
You can see why I love it. When it’s all working, there’s a plan, everyone knows the plan, everyone believes in the plan, and they follow the plan.
However, they also—because there are so many unknown and uncontrollable variables (weather, mechanicals, illness, injuries, fan interference, crummy roads, surprise tactics from other teams, a rider forgetting to eat), lots of decisions need to be made on the fly.
Sometimes these are bad decisions, sometimes these are amazing decisions.
This is what strategy is all about: Lots of micro moments, decisions, and risk taking based on the best information at the time and the plan that’s been laid out.
A lot of times it works, a lot of times it needs adapting and tweaking, sometimes you need a new strategy because forces you never expected impacted it.
This is all strategy.
Understanding how all the goals and variables work together and having the right team to adjust and handle what comes at you is strategy.
I most often see people abandon their strategy when they believe it is a fixed, tactical set of actions rather than an elastic, movable, living thing. Of course it “doesn’t work” if you don’t allow your strategy to live and breath and grow.
Imagine if one of these teams riding 3,500 kilometers over three weeks didn’t adjust their plans when a tire popped or a rider was injured or their best climber blew up on a mountain (uh, this is a metaphor used a lot in cycling—to my knowledge no one has ever literally exploded on Alpe d’Huez). What would the point even be? (Okay, this happens sometimes too, if we’re being really real—but it’s embarrassing for everyone.)
To bring this all back to our own realities, if you have ever declared that your strategy didn’t work, what if you gave yourself permission to think of it differently?
Instead of carving your strategy in stone, what if it were written in pencil?
Next, we have the newsletter that Bard (Google’s Large Language Model), in which I asked it to help me write a newsletter that explains to readers what they can learn about strategy from the Tour de France.
Subject: The Tour de France: A lesson in business strategy
Dear [subscriber name],
The Tour de France is one of the most grueling and demanding sporting events in the world. Riders must train for months, pushing themselves to the limit both physically and mentally. But what can we learn about business strategy from the Tour de France?
Here are a few key lessons:
- Have a clear goal. The goal of the Tour de France is to win the yellow jersey, which is awarded to the rider with the lowest cumulative time over the 21 stages of the race. Just as the riders have a clear goal, businesses need to have a clear vision of what they want to achieve.
- Create a strategic plan. Once you know your goal, you need to create a strategic plan to achieve it. This plan should outline your objectives, strategies, and tactics. Just as the riders have a detailed plan for each stage of the Tour, businesses need to have a detailed plan for how they will achieve their goals.
- Be flexible and adaptable. The Tour de France is a long and unpredictable race. Riders need to be prepared for anything, from bad weather to mechanical problems. Businesses also need to be flexible and adaptable, as they will face challenges and changes along the way.
- Work as a team. The Tour de France is a team sport. Riders rely on each other for support and motivation. Businesses need to work as a team as well, with everyone pulling in the same direction.
- Never give up. The Tour de France is a test of endurance and determination. Riders must be willing to push themselves to the limit, even when they are tired and injured. Businesses need to have the same level of commitment and perseverance if they want to succeed.
The Tour de France is a great example of how strategic planning can help you achieve your goals. If you want to be successful in business, take a page from the riders’ playbook and develop a clear goal, create a strategic plan, be flexible and adaptable, work as a team, and never give up.
P.S. The Tour de France is not just a great sporting event, it’s also a great source of business inspiration. If you’re looking for some tips on how to improve your business strategy, I encourage you to tune in to this year’s race. You may be surprised at what you learn.
I was pretty unhappy with Bard’s results so I asked it to add some humor to the newsletter, because I make a lot of silly jokes, to which it added the following phrases:
- After all, the Tour de France is not a beauty pageant. It’s a race to the finish line, and sometimes that means getting a little muddy.
- After all, the Tour de France is not a prison sentence.
I personally don’t think either one of those are particularly humorous, but that’s just me!
I realized that asking a LLM for jokes was probably a bigger lift than was reasonable, so I instead asked it to reference some cyclists, to make the piece more interesting, and it gave me the following:
- Tadej Pogačar: Pogačar is a Slovenian cyclist who has won the Tour de France twice. He is known for his attacking riding style and his ability to win both in the mountains and in the time trials. Pogačar has said that he is inspired by the business world and that he believes in always looking for ways to improve. He also believes that it is important to be humble and to be willing to learn from your mistakes.
- Chris Froome: Froome is a British cyclist who has won the Tour de France four times. He is known for his powerful riding style and his ability to time trial. Froome has said that he believes in setting ambitious goals and then working hard to achieve them. He also believes that it is important to have a good team around you and to be willing to help your teammates when they need it.
- These are just a few examples of professional cyclists who have used business strategies to achieve their goals. There are many other cyclists who could be mentioned. The important thing is to remember that the Tour de France is not just a race. It is also a test of character and a battle of wills. The cyclists who are able to win the Tour de France are the ones who are able to combine their physical and mental strength with their business acumen.
Real talk? This is a hot mess on several levels—I would be embarrassed to publish this.
Now, I do realize that a lot of folks will be screaming, “But Sarah! You just need to train generative AI to work better for you.”
But my question is: Why?
There are so many better uses of my time—and yours—than training a Large Language Model or Generative AI!
Start that podcast.
Make a YouTube video.
Use speech to text to finally write that blog post.
Work with a trusted write who can capture your voice for an evergreen newsletter sequence.
All of these are better uses of your limited mental bandwidth and calendar space than training a bot—and that’s before we even wade into the intellectual property issues.
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It turns out, it’s not just me who feels a hunger for actual humanity in their content.
In the messy debate about artificial intelligence (AI) content creation, the folks at Medium (a platform for writers on all kinds of topics) have radically changed their policies in response to the demand for human connection in what’s displayed on their site.
[Read the full Medium Announcement]
“Over the last few years, our members have told us in no uncertain terms that they are tired of clickbait and content mills, want ‘get rich quick’ siloed into a constrained area, don’t want stories that are generated by AI, and, in particular, want to read human stories that deliver actual human wisdom. The rest of the Internet is filled with cheap, attention grabbing content. We are most proud Medium can deliver our members something different. One of the keys to doing that is how we incentivize and reward the authors here.“
As I’ve said before, there’s nothing inherently wrong with leveraging these tools when you’re stuck, you need ideas or inspiration or you are challenged by some phrasing.
But, if you’re a thought leader, a change-maker, someone who wants to make impact?
Using the bland, uninspired voice of generative AI instead of your own will only get in your way. Your audience wants to hear your voice, they want to know your stories, they want to know what drives and inspires you, they want to know what makes you laugh. Ultimately they are eager for connection.
ChatGPT can’t do that—only you can.
Looking for more marketing advice? These hand-curated articles will help you take the next step.