How I Learned to Love ChatGPT for Shelter Marketing

Photo Credit: Devilyn Rugaz

This blog is for anyone who is curious, and perhaps a little nervous, about ChatGPT’s uses in animal shelter communications. 

When marketing and communications spaces started exploding with talk about ChatGPT earlier this year, my first instinct was to bury my head in the sand. 

Most feelings of anxiety in my life can ultimately be traced back to a fear of inadequacy or failure. I was terrified that a machine could possibly do my job—I’ve done marketing and communications for a major metro government shelter, for 12 years—better than me. 

After working with ChatGPT for several months, that’s not something I’m concerned about anymore—at least not at this stage in the life cycle of artificial intelligence productivity tools. 

Now I view ChatGPT as an amazing, free, on-demand assistant. It can produce high quality work, and also needs lots of supervision and hand-holding.

On the Memphis Animal Services marketing and communications team, we use ChatGPT for two main purposes: brainstorming/idea generation and writing. We’ll take each of these in turn.

Using ChatGPT for Idea Generation

One of the earliest prompts—that’s the term for what you ask the AI tool for, and you get better results by having better prompts—I gave ChatGPT was: “What would be a creative adoption promotion for an animal shelter to hold during awards season?”

ChatGPT suggested we hold an adoption event called Red Carpet Rescue on the day of a major awards show where we could have a red carpet, take photos, and have awards such as “Best Dressed” and “Top Dog.” I liked and considered it, but the timing didn’t work out for us. There’s a free idea for you!

I love puns. I’m not sorry. I can’t say the same for ChatGPT because as an AI language model, it does not have the ability to have personal preferences or feel emotions. But I can say it’s helpful for generating puns. I asked it to help me come up with some Valentine’s Day dog puns, and it gave me 10! 

Editor’s note: If you like animal welfare and word play, be sure to sign up for the HASS newsletter! It’s got puns galore AND great, actionable info—you’ll also get early word about new blogs and upcoming webinars.

pun ideas - How I Learned to Love ChatGPT for Shelter Marketing
Some of the Valentine’s Day dog puns ChatGPT gave me were usable, and some…aren’t (#8 is particularly unhinged).

While we were on the subject of Valentine’s Day (this was in February), I asked it to come up with 50 Valentine-themed pet names that I could give our intake department.

name ideas - How I Learned to Love ChatGPT for Shelter Marketing
ChatGPT did OK for about the first 25 Valentine-themed pet names, and then it just started combining Love + [Insert animal here]. Even computers sometimes get into a naming rut!

The lesson is that sometimes the ideas ChatGPT generates are really basic and nothing I can really use. But sometimes it gives me ideas I’ve never thought of before—and we can use those ideas as-is, or use them as a launching point for our marketing and communications efforts.

Using ChatGPT for Shelter Marketing Writing

Writing is really where ChatGPT saves a ton of time for shelter marketing and communications. Our team has successfully used ChatGPT to write a whole lot of different types of content, including: 

  • Adoption bios
  • Social media posts on every social platform
  • Professional recommendation letters
  • Thank-you emails to donors
  • Email newsletter articles
  • Website copy
  • FAQ responses
  • Editorial calendars

One of our digital communications specialists (who is nearly fluent in Spanish) also finds it to be much better for Spanish translation than Google Translate or Spanish.dict, another tool she frequently used before ChatGPT.

adoption bio - How I Learned to Love ChatGPT for Shelter Marketing
Here’s an example of an adoption bio where I didn’t give ChatGPT a whole lot, so it assumed some information. The assumptions ChatGPT made are common dog personality traits: likes toys, walks, and exploring new places. Overall, the bio made Ireland’s quirks sound very charming.

Here are a few things to keep in mind for successful ChatGPT writing results:

  • Don’t use ChatGPT to write your story/article if you’re writing for a media outlet. ChatGPT can still help you with journalistic writing by brainstorming topics, proofreading, or editing for brevity, tone, etc.
  • Be sure to tell ChatGPT what medium it’s writing for. Is it a tweet? A Facebook post? An email to your boss? An email to the Board of Directors? A blog post?
  • Give ChatGPT a maximum word count if the results are too lengthy.
  • Always proofread! In my experience, ChatGPT likes its output to be long. If you give it a very short prompt, it will placehold with assumptions, and sometimes get things wrong.

To learn more about using ChatGPT, here are a few resources I recommend: 

We are just at the beginning of incorporating AI into the work of communicating with the public about our shelters and pets. Is ChatGPT here to take our jobs? Not yet. Can it help us do our jobs more quickly, and more effectively? Absolutely! 

Katie Pemberton is the Marketing & Communications Supervisor for HASS pilot shelter Memphis Animal Services.


Sign up to our