Content Strategy

Is Authenticity Lost When AI Enters The Narrative?

By Andrew Wheeler on February 20, 2024

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It's no surprise that Merriam-Webster's 2023 word of the year was "authentic."

According to Webster's, our cultural obsession with discerning the 'real' from the 'fake' is surging—when it comes to everything from media and politics to individuals, organizations, and products.
Generative AI is at the center of this phenomenon. The fact that algorithms are now capable of generating human-sounding content in seconds, has sparked debate over whether we've arrived at a cultural crossroads.

I've participated in countless debates over whether machine-generated text, built from cold logic and algorithmic precision, can match the authenticity of human-generated content. And as an admitted proponent of GenAI, you might be surprised to hear my stance is probably not—at least not at this point.

But that doesn't mean AI-generated content isn't valuable.

When MIT published research demonstrating consumers' preference for AI-generated ad copy over copy created by humans, it raised questions about whether the human touch is necessary at all costs.

I'd argue what we really need to decipher this year is: can AI-generated content be impactful even if it's not as inherently authentic as human-written work? And, perhaps more importantly, how?

What does authenticity really mean?

In my opinion, when it comes to content, authenticity is about showing up on an inherently human level with a unique voice and perspective to offer. In marketing, this is often associated with first-hand experience, expertise, and a certain level of candor and transparency. (GenAI can be prompted to mimic these qualities, but the output often displays critical flaws.)

Authenticity also plays a critical role in building trust.

Jaded by hollow greenwashing and inauthentic influencer endorsements, today's consumers yearn for unfiltered brand experiences that offer a refreshing respite from the barrage of traditional marketing tactics. The worst thing a brand can do in this climate is try to dupe them by passing off AI-generated content as authentic when it's not.

Unfortunately, brand giants like Microsoft, Uber Eats, and Sports Illustrated learned this the hard way.

Understanding generative AI's role in content marketing

While GenAI can mimic human language patterns and replicate ideas, it can't be relied on for original perspectives, draw meaning from lived experiences, or provide true first-person opinions. It's inherently synthetic.

But that doesn't mean it should be discarded as a content creation tool altogether.

Instead of fixating on the singular pursuit of authenticity, we need to broaden our lens and consider when to prioritize utility. Not all content requires an individual perspective or emotional depth. Some content, like a product manual or technical report, simply needs to be accurate, clear, and serve its intended purpose.

If I'm trying to get my ice maker to work on my refrigerator, for example, do I need to understand how the writer felt when their own fridge was on the fritz? No. I just need informative, step-by-step instructions that help me quickly reach my goal. Conversely, if I'm nervous about having foot surgery and doing research on post-operative orthopedic and podiatric equipment, I might want to hear personal accounts of the recovery process from others who have had the same medical procedure.

The key lies in understanding the different objectives and formats of content and then choosing the right tools accordingly. A heartfelt blog post about overcoming adversity will naturally require a different approach than a product description for a new appliance.

And remember, it's not always an either/or decision—to AI or not. In some cases, your strategy may be to enlist humans to create authentic content and then leverage GenAI to scale, using a tool like ATOMM™ to repurpose that content across multiple channels and formats to improve your reach and relevance.

Embracing different content values

While valuable, authenticity is not the only measure of effective content, and, when using genAI, can often come at a high cost. Instead of chasing an elusive ideal, I propose we champion a trifecta of core values that can guarantee impactful content, regardless of its origin:


Facts matter. Whether human-written or AI-powered, any content you create should be grounded in truth and reliable sources. Verifiable, credible information is the bedrock of trust, regardless of its storyteller.

  • Fact-check your facts: Don't just sprinkle in "experts say" — cite verifiable sources and become a trusted wellspring of information.

  • Go beyond the surface: Dig deeper than headlines and explore diverse perspectives. Be a curator of nuanced and reliable knowledge.

  • Build bridges, not walls: Acknowledge and debunk misinformation, fostering a space for open and critical thinking.


Whether it's a seasoned travel blogger or an AI trained in travelogue databases, the voice behind the content needs to be established and trustworthy. Demonstrate authority in your subject matter, showcase relevant qualifications, and build a track record of reliable information.

  • Employ an expert: Enlist the help of expert third-party content creators to ensure the most reliable and accurate information on any given topic.

  • Be transparent: Clearly indicate where AI was used to create or augment content to build trust with readers.

  • Build a community of trust: Engage with your audience, answer questions, and foster a sense of shared knowledge.


This is where the magic happens. Yes, even AI can weave narratives and capture imaginations. But true engagement comes from unique perspectives, innovative storytelling, and a spark of originality that keeps your audience captivated.

  • Think outside the box (or algorithm): Engage your audience with unexpected storytelling techniques.

  • Embrace diverse perspectives: Weave diverse voices and experiences into your narratives to create a richer tapestry of reality.

  • Be original: Clearly and confidently express your perspective. Challenge conventional ideas or approaches and create something uniquely your own.

This trifecta isn't about pretending you're someone you're not. It's about focusing on what truly matters: delivering valuable, compelling content that resonates with your audience. These days, there's more than one way to achieve this.

The future of content

The future of content isn't about authenticity at all costs. It's about building bridges of trust through verifiable information, established expertise, and a touch of inspired storytelling. Embrace the strategic use of AI while prioritizing accuracy, creativity, and audience trust.

Remember, ultimately, the responsibility for producing meaningful and ethical content lies not with algorithms, but with the humans who guide them. So, as we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of content creation, let's do so with discernment, a commitment to quality, and a healthy dose of critical thinking.

This year, we need to step up to the challenge, embrace the tools available, and tell stories that resonate, regardless of whether they're crafted by hand or by code. The future of storytelling in the GenAI era belongs to those who can bridge the gap between technology and humanity, weaving narratives that are both informative and impactful, original and authentic in their own unique way.

It's time to claim your voice in the age of AI. Not sure where to start? I'm here to help.


Andrew Wheeler

Andrew C. Wheeler is the Chief Executive Officer of Skyword.