Asking the right questions is one of our mantras at Long Dash. We know that a good story resonates because the creator understands their audience—who they’re creating content for, what’s going on in the reader’s world, why their audience needs this content, and what core ideas the reader should take away.

But one’s ability to craft deeply resonant, authentic narratives is strained by the fast pace and demands of work. Great stories require introspection and ideation—aims that can often seem lofty as we navigate the very real obstacles of time, energy, and focus. Tight deadlines, multiple stakeholders, and distractions from other tasks all conspire to pull our focus away from the craft.

AI tools can ameliorate these challenges. They can help us spend more time on the things that matter, the things that make us distinctly human storytellers. As editors and strategists, we’re actively embracing the use of new tools, not competing against them. 

Instead of us slogging through the middle of the creative process, scaling our ideas manually, and spending hours and sometimes days fleshing out our stories, AI allows us to spend more strategic time at the beginning and end of the storytelling process.

It’s these bookends of the creative process where human storytelling skills are most valuable—and where in a pre-AI world we often neglect to invest the time and effort.

You may be thinking, “OK, people keep telling me AI can help me, but how? How can I make it feel like less work, not more?” Here are three ways collaboration with AI can help move you through the writing process more consistently and effectively than ever before.

Step 1: Offload ideas trapped in your head onto the page 

Dedicating time for unstructured creative exploration—guided by the questions we’ve already asked or have yet to ask—is crucial for developing compelling narratives. Ideas trapped in our heads often fall through the cracks and never have a chance to be fully developed. We may have resisted this practice in the past because it seemed like a waste of time.

But in the age of AI, these explorations translate directly into unstructured data that AI can help you scale and shape. Suddenly, this practice is even more productive because we can do amazing things with that intel.

Best practice: When sitting to think about your next communications assignment, don’t jump straight into the format. Instead, spend 30 minutes with an open doc, writing out everything you know about the topic at hand. Get into the psychology of your audience, distill the main messages, and let your thoughts flow freely.

This messy, unstructured data provides AI with the raw ingredients and nuanced perspective it lacks, setting the stage for amazing results. Generative AI is great at taking this unstructured data and organizing it into narrative threads or themes that can guide your work.

Sample context-setting for AI

The information you share up front with AI helps to set the context and may include who your audience is, what their biggest challenges are, what they care about, and what they need to succeed with whatever their aim may be in using your content. 

Once you’ve input original data or content, ask:

  • Could you organize this information into some key themes for me? 
  • Is there anything else on this topic that I should consider?

Step 2: Rapidly prototype and iterate

Sometimes we commit to an approach that initially seems promising but fails to hold up as the work progresses. There’s a name for this bias in psychology—the “sunk cost fallacy”—where we continue to invest in a suboptimal path because of the resources we’ve already put into it.

With AI, you can rapidly prototype multiple directions and formats for your core ideas, allowing you to test and refine your approach without investing excessive time and resources. 

Best practice: After completing your brain dump from step one, ask AI to provide iterations and variations of your content. Put on your managerial hat and direct the AI with clear, specific prompts. This positions you as an editor, director, and curator, ensuring that your storytelling is packaged in the most effective way possible.

AI sample prompts 

Once you’ve input original data or content, ask:

  • Can you help me think of 5-6 examples of how brands use editorial content and thought leadership effectively? Try to come up with examples from the finance world: banking, venture capital, private equity. Be sure to include examples from varying formats, like articles, podcasts, and video documentaries.
  • Can you write me 20 sample subject lines based on best practices? These subject lines should be optimized for the highest open rates. 
  • Can you preserve the message but change the tone to be more conversational?

Step 3: Refine and edit

Editing with care means putting yourself in the reader’s shoes. It’s an act of empathy because you take yourself out of the writer’s mind and into the reader’s perspective.

In the traditional creative process, we often don’t leave enough time for editing. As a result, subpar content can make its way into the world, chipping away at your brand reputation. Using AI forces us to get back in the editing chair and provides us more time to do so.

Best practice: AI can be of value to you even in this largely human-led stage. Ask it to find your blind spots, pose questions from different stakeholder perspectives, and uncover logical flaws. By combining your human expertise with AI’s insights, you can ensure that your final product resonates with your target audience.

For example, an executive communications specialist refining a CEO’s speech can use AI to analyze the speech from the perspective of employees, investors, and customers. By iterating on the speech with these insights in mind, the specialist ensures that the final message is clear, compelling, and tailored to each audience’s needs.

AI sample prompts

Once you’ve input original data or content, ask:

  • What else can you tell me about this story that I may not have thought about? What sticks out? 
  • How would our customers interpret this message?
  • How will a member of our association react to this language?
  • What concerns might employees have after reading this?

You got this

As AI transforms the content creation landscape, you may think that our role as creators has diminished or been rendered obsolete. But the rise of AI has amplified the value of our human curiosity and strategic questioning.

For us at Long Dash, we experiment with and interrogate this new technology with the same inquisitive mindset that we bring to our brand collaborations. When we collaborate with brands, we are like reporters guided by our inquisitive nature. It’s through this process of asking questions—and more questions—that we unearth the authentic, human stories that lie at the core of every brand.

The question is not whether AI will replace the human storyteller or not. It’s how we can leverage its inevitable rise to help us be even more human, more compelling, and more trustworthy in an age of cheap, proliferated content. 

These three steps offer you a new way to think about your creativity and your use of AI, allowing you to spend more time on the edges of your creative process—the very beginning and the very end—while allowing AI to help you navigate through the laborious and often not terribly fulfilling middle part of the work.

So get inspired, get creative, and go tell great stories.