Jack E. Appleman, APR, is a PR/business writing instructor and coach and author of the highly touted “10 Steps to Successful Business Writing (2nd edition).”
Can AI write your pitches, releases and other content? Not completely — but it can give you a head start. If you want to generate attention-grabbing copy that engages the reader (and who doesn’t?), use AI to generate ideas. But be sure to tap your own expertise for the finishing touches. See what happened when I asked ChatGPT, the popular artificial intelligence chatbot, to draft a pitch for Aldo Allen, president of Aldo’s Almonds in Fresno, California (all fictitious) to a health and nutrition journalist.
Secure interview with a Wall Street Journal health columnist for Aldo Allen of Aldo’s Almonds to discuss the health benefits of almonds.
My prompt to ChatGPT
Please write the first paragraph of an email to Alex Janin, Wall Street Journal health columnist, to secure an interview with Aldo Allen, president of Aldo’s Almonds, Fresno, CA almond grower. The interview would be the first step in convincing Alex to write a big-picture story on using natural remedies for common ailments, including almonds for headaches. See the background information below.
Health benefits of almonds
Almonds are effective against headaches because they contain two potent ingredients—salacin and magnesium. Salicin is an anti-inflammatory component found in aspirin. Magnesium helps ease nerves and muscles that are caused by stress. According to the Association of Migraine Disorders, around 50% of people experience a decrease in the intensity and frequency of headaches with the daily intake of magnesium.
Background on Alex Janin
Alex Janin is a reporter covering personal health and wellness for The Wall Street Journal. Her work focuses on physical and mental health, exercise, fitness, nutrition, relationships and wellness trends. Here are some headlines of her recent stories:
- Over-the-Counter Birth-Control Pills Are Up for FDA Approval. Should You Switch?
- Can Botox in Your 20s Really Prevent Wrinkles?
- An Allergy Season So Bad You Don’t Need Allergies to Feel Miserable
Subject: Request for Interview with Aldo Allen, President of Aldo’s Almonds—Potential Big-Picture Story on Natural Remedies
I hope this email finds you well. I have been an avid reader of your insightful health columns in The Wall Street Journal, and I greatly admire your expertise in covering personal health and wellness topics. I am reaching out to you today with an exciting opportunity to explore the world of natural remedies for common ailments, specifically focusing on the remarkable health benefits of almonds. As the president of Aldo’s Almonds, a renowned almond grower in Fresno, California, Aldo Allen possesses invaluable knowledge about the potential of almonds as a natural remedy, particularly for headaches. I believe an interview with Mr. Allen would be the first step towards a captivating big-picture story that highlights the effectiveness of natural remedies.
What does not work in ChatGPT’s version
- Too many words in the subject line (which I didn’t request),
- Pitch goes on too long (fifth sentence) before asking for the interview.
- Omits key evidence on almonds’ pain-killing ingredients (salicin and magnesium).
- Unless you know Alex Janin, you wouldn’t begin with, “I hope this email finds you well.”
- The overly patronizing line, “I greatly admire your expertise…,” could annoy her.
- The closing sentence, suggesting that “…an interview with Mr. Allen would be the first step towards a captivating big-picture story that highlights the effectiveness of natural remedies,” is too presumptuous. No journalist wants to be told how to write their story.
ChatGPT’s language that could be incorporated into our pitch
- “the world of natural remedies for common ailments”
- “the potential for almonds as a natural remedy, particularly for headaches
- “remarkable health benefits of almonds”
Strategy for the finishing touch
While we can include some of ChatGPT’s language, we should modify the approach to convey more respect for this Wall Street Journal columnist while presenting a newsworthy story idea that could incorporate Aldo Allen’s quotes. We could start by highlighting the overdependence of over-the-counter pain medications (one in three Americans, according to StudyFinds.org)—a point ChatGPT didn’t mention. Then we could identify a potential trend of using common foods like almonds as natural remedies. See the revised pitch opening below.
Revised subject line and opening
Subject line: Trend: Natural pain relievers like almonds
Given the alarming overdependence on pain meds (1 in 3 people in U.S.), many are turning to natural remedies—including almonds for headaches—for relief. I suggest an interview with Aldo Allen, president of Aldo Almonds, Fresno, CA almond grower, to explore this trend and discuss how almonds, with the anti-inflammatory agent salicin, can relieve headache pain.
Even as we get more experience using AI to create content, we’ll still need to finesse the final wording based on our knowledge, savvy and gut instincts—especially in PR where our copy should stand out and grab attention.
So how would you have used ChatGPT to write this pitch? Would you have submitted a different prompt and followed up with specific questions? I welcome your feedback as we’re all learning how to best work with AI!