Monique Zytnik on AI and internal communication

Are you using AI for your internal comms?

According to an IoIC survey of internal comms professionals, just over half (56%) of respondents said they were using AI in their work, with ChatGPT being the most commonly used AI tool (68.2%).

Despite a majority of the panel feeling unthreatened by the technology, concerns ranged from accuracy and security to bias.

So, how does AI fit into internal communication? What value can it add and what are the risks?

Monique Zytnik, an Australian-born employee communication expert, coach and mentor, now based in Berlin, works with companies of all sizes supporting change across all areas of business.

Her particular interest in communication and technology has led to her writing her book ‘Internal Communication in the Age of Artificial Intelligence’ where she focuses on helping leaders and communicators understand what good internal communication looks like given that content is now cheap, and change is fast in this age of AI.

We chatted to her about how AI is transforming internal comms, the threats and opportunities it represents, alongside her best practice tips for adopting an AI-positive mindset.


So how is AI transforming internal communication?

Monique Zytnik:

As internal communicators, we’re in a really interesting place of being not only the ones needing to use AI, because there’s a whole content part of what we’re doing, but also, there’s a big need for us to be involved in getting the rest of the organisation on board too. And it’s such a quick and fast-moving beast.

With so many organisations in different stages of their maturity, it’s hard to paint broad brushstrokes and talk about an individual’s role, because it really depends on the organisation and what kind of AI communicators have in their organisation.

I sometimes get a little bit frustrated when people just talk about AI in a generalised way rather than breaking it down to the different types of AI used for different things – from machine translation to facial recognition or even data analysis. For example, there’s the content production part of it, using things like large language models, like ChatGPT or image generation.

You can also use translation such as DeepL that you can add-on for your intranet, so that people can choose their own preferred language.

Then there’s also lots of opportunities for personalisation. So, the same kind of thing you’d get on LinkedIn, where you can tailor content more accurately based on people’s preferences and the types of content they consume.

Great AI powered measurement and analytic tools are also being developed to give even more valuable user insights.

So, we need to educate ourselves in terms of the specific types of AI and how it can help us in different scenarios.


So, how can internal comms help organisations make that shift towards using AI?


So, from my perspective, and this is how I position it in my book, it’s technology. It’s a new way of doing things. It’s a transformation. And with any change and transformation project you need to communicate it effectively with a thought-out adoption campaign. You need to make sure that you’ve got the right messaging. That you’re listening to people and providing support through learning and development opportunities.

You also need that leadership visibility and reinforcement using these new tools. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new intranet, or a new employee app. It’s about helping employees become comfortable and aware of what is possible over time.


Opinion on AI is divided. Some see it as an opportunity, others a threat. How would you address that?


Yes, there are two very different views. I see AI as a benefit, I use ChatGPT for a lot of things. It’s a tool to help you do things faster. It’s a tool to help you ideate. It’s a tool to help you data crunch.

But at the end of the day, you need to know what good looks like. And you need to understand the bigger picture and the strategy and be able to discern what these tools are giving you is correct.

On the other hand, it’s a threat as well. There are misconceptions amongst some senior leaders that now we’ve got these tools, that they can replace everybody. There are industry cuts in the marketing sector, for example, in Berlin at the moment.

I think we’re in a transition phase when it comes to the organisational restructuring where leaders are looking at how many marketing people versus salespeople. Or how many people are in internal comms and where to cut numbers, particularly with the challenging year that we had last year.

One of the differentiators for practitioners is going to be whether you appear to be comfortable with the technology and willing to wear the productivity badge.


What do you see as being the biggest challenge for internal comms professionals using AI?


One of the biggest challenges is understanding what good looks like. Is this a good news article? Is this a good image? Does it fit the strategy? Does it fit the messaging that we want and have that critical thinking component? This is particularly important because content is cheap now and our employees risk being spammed.

I have seen campaigns that have been run, that haven’t been based on strategy or had the wrong strategy or thinking from the start. And those campaigns are ineffective. Data including surveys proved this. So not only are you confusing staff by bombarding them with content, but you’re also wasting time in doing something that’s ineffective.


What are the biggest limitations of using AI tools?


Fortunately, products are evolving and improving all the time but there are still limitations.  Legal and governance issues are a big one for organisations. Whether to use open internet-connected products, such as ChatGPT, or whether they want their own system? And if it’s not internet connected, and it’s a closed system, then what kind of limitations does that have?

Data cleanliness is also really important. If you’ve got rubbish in, you’ll inevitably get rubbish out.

Then there are copyright issues. Unfortunately, some communicators are still not well educated on copyright law. Using generative images, for example, Adobe Firefly has some good solutions where they’ve got proprietary images that they draw upon so there’s a smaller risk of copyright issues cropping up.

Then there’s the whole area about misinformation. Should you label your content if it has used AI in some form?

Not to mention bias. JT Thompson from RMIT University did some really interesting research, over the past year or two, talking with different journalists across Europe, from different news outlets. And it was very clear from his research that there are biases towards urban, light-skinned and able-bodied people.

There are also bias limitations in terms of, if you ask for a nurse, you will be provided an image of a white-skinned female, if you ask for a construction worker, it’ll be a man with a hardhat helmet.

On the other hand, Gemini and Adobe Firefly came under fire for producing images that were not historically correct in an attempt to be more diverse. For example, a picture of the American Founding Fathers having a range of genders and ethnic backgrounds.

But bias isn’t necessarily just limited to what’s online, the bias come from somewhere. So as communicators, we have to be more broadly aware of perpetuating biases.


Monique’s best-practice tips for a successful AI implementation mindset:

1) Think of it like a new intern with lots of potential but not perfect. You need to work with it so that it knows what you want.

2) Prompt engineering skills are important. Think of it like knowing what to Google to get the results that you want, but then you can refine the results as well.

3) We need to move quite quickly from play to productive with AI tools.

4) The tools will keep evolving and if something doesn’t work well today, it will be probably fixed tomorrow so keep trying, being curious and investing a little bit of time often to keep learning.

5) It is just technology. It can help but like any transformation project if you need to change people’s ways of doing things you need an adoption campaign that involves peer championing, learning and development support, time, and constant tweaking to align with the current situation (based on your data and feedback).



Want to know more about how to navigate the transition to AI as an internal comms professional? Find out all about FreshMind, Fresh’s latest AI comms tool built into our SharePoint-based intranet as standard. Book a demo

Internal Communication in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Monique Zytnik is available for pre-order and will be available to buy from 27 May.