Evanne Schmarder

Evanne Schmarder

Editor’s Note: Evanne Schmarder, longtime WCM Modern Marketing columnist and principal at Roadabode Productions, will soon be releasing the second book in her Marketing Your RV Park/Campground Online series. Details to follow at roadabode.com.

An avid follower of the news or not, you’ve very likely heard of, and perhaps even tried, OpenAI’s ChatGTP. While nowhere near free of flaws, this generative text tool is amazing.

Its detractors, or at least challengers, have publicized ChatGTP’s errors, including returning a plausible-sounding but wildly wrong answer to a question asking, “what mammal lays the largest eggs?” Elephants, naturally. What?? It is continuously learning, however. Another mammal egg inquiry returned the correct answer, monotremes. 

Others, like Henny Penny, are decrying the fall of creative civilization. But if we really think about it, aren’t all creative processes built on that which came before? Adding to that, we — your average human beings — are already using various forms of artificial intelligence every day. 

For example, I’m dictating a draft of this story (and correcting spelling with a touch of the screen) using my iPhone’s speech-to-text, of course after I opened the lock screen through facial recognition. When I take a coffee break, I’ll listen to a Spotify-curated playlist. Later I might watch a movie that’s been brought to my attention by Netflix’s algorithm. Or maybe I’ll read a book, one that Amazon suggested I might like. I don’t tell you this to share how I spend my private time but instead to demonstrate how artificial intelligence has already gotten a foothold in our daily lives.

So it’s here, another genie that can’t be put back into the bottle. Our best course of action is to figure out how it can serve us. As a digital marketer, the possibilities are endless. It can help your business by performing many functions, including writing a marketing plan, suggesting ad content, planning your rec program, you might even ask for help in responding to guest reviews.

It’s no Einstein

It’s important to understand what ChatGTP is and what it can or cannot do. Its brain is an amalgamation of publicly available information that has been fed into a machine, via the process called language models. Every query it answers is based on that data. As a good bot would, it makes its best guess about what you’re asking of it. It is not an Internet-based tool and has no capability of providing information on current or breaking news. It can’t tell you the latest road conditions on California’s Highway 1; it can tell you what it believes to be facts and details about the iconic road. Chat GTP is great at returning very believable answers to most queries, but as in our elephant example, smart modern marketers will trust but verify. If it is not to your liking, try again.

The right recipe

The queries that we enter into ChatGTP are called prompts. A well-worded prompt will come very close to hitting most marks. Something a little less structured is unlikely to return satisfactory results.

So what makes a great prompt? A prompt must have a purpose: write, create, describe, tell, etc. Be clear and specific about what you are asking; avoid jargon; provide context; use short sentences; be as brief yet concise as possible.

For example, if you want ChatGTP to give you three versions of Facebook ad text for your opening week you might prompt, “I run a family campground along Michigan’s Lake Superior. My guests like crafts, kayaking, sing-alongs and campfires. We open on May 15. Write three Facebook ads for opening week.”

“Act as a…” is what’s called a wildcard prompt. In this example, your prompt might read: “Act as a recreation director for a family campground in Maine. My audience is 10-12-year-old boys and girls. Give me ideas of what activities to offer.”

The results may not be ground-breaking but can be a great starting point. Then again, you might be surprised. In this example, it returned ideas including short explanatory blurbs, such as geocaching, movie nights and storytelling. Asked for more unusual activities, it returned geology, photography and orienteering (Orienteering: Provide maps and compasses and teach the kids how to navigate through the wilderness using landmarks and cardinal directions.)

Build on your prompt

If the results are not what you were expecting, continue the conversation thread, allowing ChatGTP to build upon its previous replies. If it returns something flat-out wrong, tell it. If it’s not specific enough or too specific, ask for more details or to try again. 

For example, I asked ChatGTP to “act as a marketing director for a family campground located on Lake Superior in Michigan. Develop a three-month marketing plan. The budget is $500. Include Facebook, video, email and website marketing. Allocate a budget for each step. Include the time required for each step. Tell me how to measure effectiveness.” 

As an aside, I first asked it to “act as a marketing director for a family campground located on Lake Ontario in Michigan…” It went about its merry way until I stopped it and mentioned that Lake Ontario does not touch the shores of Michigan. It responded, “My apologies for the confusion. It would not be accurate to say that a family campground is located on Lake Ontario in Michigan. I am constantly learning and updating my knowledge, please be assured that I will take note of this fact and update my knowledge in the future.” Trust but verify.

After ChatGTP returned a reasonably good (but largely uninspired) marketing plan, I asked “how would my marketing plan change if I added $500 to the budget.” It padded the previous ideas but added influencer marketing and print marketing to the mix. Regarding the amount of time required for these added steps, ChatGTP gave me a disappointing non-answer, “The time required for these additional marketing efforts will vary depending on the specific tactics you choose to pursue, but it’s important to allocate adequate resources to ensure that they are implemented effectively.”  

Overall, ChatGTP provided good, basic, actionable marketing advice. Of course, it can’t think outside of the box, it only knows what static data it’s been taught but it is a solid start for a busy park operator.

Chat it up

As artificial intelligence captures our imaginations, the floodgates are opening. Developers are vying for a place in the sun, releasing products that seem almost Jetson-esque. On the far-off horizon, VALL-E (not yet available for public use) is an AI tool that can simulate anyone’s voice, including tone and emotion, using a three-second sample, as part of Microsoft’s big money push into this arena.

While not as sophisticated as a 20Group or as valuable as attending a state or national conference, ChatGTP and other generative text AI models have a place in your business. From marketing, recreation and other ideation, including the 10-plus variations of s’mores it told me about, this is a tool that you need to have in your box. 

Now, anyone for bacon s’mores? I asked ChatGTP to join us but it replied, “As an AI, I do not have physical capabilities, so I would not be able to eat a bacon s’more or any food.” Touché.