The future of communications: A new approach

Communications Consultant, Thomas Mickeleit, speaks with podcast moderator, Ingo Notthoff, about the challenges in communications, artificial intelligence, and the role of newsrooms.

Thomas Mickeleit
The Agenda Podcast

The Agenda brought to you by Sherpany uncovers the journey leaders take from facing challenges to making decisions. In this unique series of podcasts, leaders talk candidly with podcast moderator, Ingo Notthoff. #LeadingTogether

In this podcast episode, you’ll hear:

Communication Consultant, and former Head of Communications at Microsoft Germany, Thomas Mickeleit, as he discusses the challenges professionals in communications face, and the role artificial intelligence (AI) plays in this field today, and tomorrow. With a varied set of experience in communications, for organisations such as Volkswagen, IBM, and Grundig, Thomas knows his way around the field, having experienced first hand several crisis moments throughout his career. He also shares insights into leadership, meetings, and ways for new professionals in communications to equip themselves for future demands.

Here are some of the topics covered in the podcast episode* that will help you understand better the new approach to communication:

  • Challenges in communications today: What needs to change
  • Communicating differently using artificial intelligence (AI)
  • The newsroom: An organisation's communication hub
  • Leading with purpose, and with the help of good meetings 

*Please note: The podcast episode is available in German.

The future of communications with Thomas Mickeleit

Challenges in communications today: What needs to change

"It is obvious that there are drivers that influence communication, and the top priority is the keyword 'digitalisation'. [...]

Digitalization is not done by introducing a tool somewhere. We are talking about digital transformation, about new business models, about structures that are changing. Thus, communication is also of importance to accompany this transformation. 

Not just in the sense of hanging posters in the hallway, but to make an internal contribution, so that these transformations can also be managed. This is a new dimension in the task of communication, which is of the highest importance. The reality is also, from my personal experience, when such digital transformation projects take place, the CEO or the management turns around and says 'HR, you have something to do with people, now you have to do it somehow.' 

Or, they also turn to Communication and say 'We have to communicate there.' Both functions, fair enough, do not have change management in their genes, but HR does training, onboarding, maybe payroll management; Communication is more in the spread of information, and management of information as a part of the transformation process. 

But that's what describes the biggest change in communication. Everything is based on the point of digitalisation of our environment ."


Communicating differently using artificial intelligence (AI)

"We can't see it very clearly yet, because we see how quickly technology changes at this point. What we didn't consider possible six months ago is reality today. And the difference between GPT 3.5 and 4 is so huge that it opens up completely new possibilities again.

What is possible with the use of artificial intelligence in communication? I'm sure you notice at first that AI can write texts. That's something that communication claims to be able to do. We now realise that AI can do better, at least in a direct sense. In any case, it can do it faster. And that is a big advantage. 

That's why today, I would say that in most communication functions, ChatGPT is used for this purpose. That has become a daily routine, in my observation. And where it is not yet, it will come soon. In some companies they say we are not allowed to generate any texts with ChatGPT, and enter company information. This fear is when you have publicly accessible [information].

It's about the protection of company secrets and data protection aspects, which are also to be considered as copyright. And of course you have to do that properly. But there is a whole range of possibilities under this threshold that can be used. As I said, that also takes place. So in addition to text production, it is of course the generation of images. That has always been a big pain point for communication: to get the right pictures together at the right time. Especially if you know that without a picture you don't need to be in the mood for communication at all, because the algorithms are already sorting themselves out, the attention is accordingly less, and so on. 

Then there is the theme of conception, which plays a big role. So, ChatGPT can make pretty good suggestions pretty quickly, for example, how to build a communication plan accordingly."


You want to communicate strategically. The newsroom is a construct that helps you to implement this strategic communication.

The newsroom: An organisation's communications hub

"What is meant by this is that you want to communicate strategically . The newsroom is a construct that helps you to implement this strategic communication. And we've already talked a little bit about the rifts between marketing and communication, and the necessity of the various actors who communicate today. That's not just communication and not just marketing, but everyone.

Employees in an organisation require this orchestration. The newsroom is the means to carry out this orchestration. And the first thing the newsroom does is to create transparency for all actors. What happens then? What is in the pipeline? What is planned? What do we want to do? On which channels do we want to play out which information? 

That ensures first of all a synchronous content and a synchronous time. And that the information can be played out on as many channels as possible. That's what the newsroom should do. We have already talked about change management, which is also a big step for communication. That you share knowledge with each other, that you interact very strongly with each other. [...]

We always said we wanted to do it, but we didn't do much. Newsrooms set the framework for that. It is also a change, a change management required to get there. Unfortunately, there are many newsroom projects that are introduced with a big tumtum, and then fail after six months because unfortunately no one is involved. And that's what's missing: to explain what the added value of the newsroom is. What is the use of it? Does it make my life easier or does it make it more complicated? If the latter is the case, they don't want to do it, then it won't be successful. Does the newsroom help to break up silos? Absolutely. I say that transparency is the big credo that the newsroom pursues.

Transparency is the accelerator for the silo dissolution. We want the information to be shared, that we work together on projects early on, that the organisation is more agile. All of this is inherent with the idea of the newsroom, and so often a change driver, also a behavioural change driver in the organisations."


Leading with purpose, and with the help of good meetings

"The employees always have to know what they are working for, what the above-mentioned goals are. If you are not clear about that and you set them up accordingly and everyone just fumbles around without having a big goal in mind, without a clear goal and the way to achieve it, then it doesn't work. It doesn't come from the results, but above all from the employee's satisfaction. That's the crucial point. [...]

Clear understanding of a meeting that has an agenda. You don't have to go there and just create such a framework. It's clear who takes part in a meeting, who can also contribute to it, and why others don't take part. There is an agenda and minutes that make it clear what came out of it, and what follows from it. All of this is decisive. With that, the number of meetings can be reduced properly. [...]

If you feel like you can't make a contribution to a meeting, because it's not your topic or it doesn't concern you in any way, then you just don't go there."

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Thomas Mickeleit
About the author
Thomas Mickeleit is a Communication Consultant for digital transformation. He leads the working group CommTech at the Institute for Management and Economic Research. With decades of experience in communications, Thomas worked as Head of Communications at Microsoft Germany, and senior communications roles at Volkswagen, IBM and Grundig.