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Intranet content manifesto – 1st draft

Hey! The second draft is right here.

I’m planning the launch of our new intranet. I need to engage hundreds of people, perhaps thousands, to get them to see the intranet as a work tool, not as a company news channel. I’m slowly going to make everyone able to publish stuff – and of course our people are not writers or web workers – the intranet isn’t their passion as it is mine.

I say “I” when of course it’s a massive IT project with dozens of stakeholders, but I’m the intranet manager so it falls to me to put voice to many a matter.

Here’s my draft manifesto, to guide everyone who writes, publishes, comments, blogs, uploads or interacts with our new intranet system. Can you help me smooth it out? I haven’t edited this; I’ll come back to it over the days and weeks, but this really is a first draft straight from my brain-fingers into the computer.

Intranet content proclamation resolution pronouncement manifesto

In comparison to the old version of the intranet, our new intranet provides powerful tools for sharing and publishing information and documentation. The old system was restricted to a few dozen people, and restrictive in how and what and where we published material. The new intranet system provides so many options for uploading, sharing and publishing material that there’s a risk that parts of the intranet could become a dumping ground – no better than a room full of unmarked boxed filled with paperwork from 1995.

We will not simply move outdated and unneeded data from the old intranet to the new. We will not simply continue with poor information management habits inside our new system. We will not accept ‘the way we’ve always done things’ as good enough in 2010 and beyond. We have new tools that bring new ways of working.

Our intranet, our online workspace, is for communication, content, collaboration and activity. It’s no longer a ‘broadcast’ medium but rather a conversation medium.

We will solve problems at our own level, and be responsible and accountable for our online actions. We will fix and improve content without relying on outmoded approval cycles, while adhering to agreed processes.

Everyone with access to the intranet will be able to publish / share some kind of material, and so we’re all publishers now. Therefore, whatever our access rights and publishing permission, every one of us will uphold the principles in this manifesto.

  1. We will always be responsible and accountable for what we as individuals write, share and publish.
  2. We will consider the lifetime of the information we share / publish. We know when and how to update and refresh the content we are responsible for.
  3. We will use version control mechanisms on documents so that people will know what version they’re reading.
  4. We will publish material to the appropriate audience; either simply to our team mates, our department, and when appropriate, to the whole Company.
  5. We will focus on keeping our intranet sections (departmental websites) wide and shallow – not deep. We will reduce the number of clicks needed to get to our content.
  6. We will publish information where it is most obvious it should be – we will maintain pages that are outside of our departmental website if that’s what it takes to meet the expectations of our audience.
  7. We will link to other pages around the intranet and the Internet as appropriate at every opportunity. We will always help our readers move on to the next page or activity – we won’t assume everyone knows where to find the applications or documents mentioned…
  8. We will help our colleagues and managers reduce the number of documents they email around, and instead promote the sharing features of our intranet.
  9. We will learn from those people who write and publish interesting and well written / well laid out material, rather than simply copying and pasting paragraphs from Word  into web pages.
  10. We will not publish material without checking it over for sense; we will not publish material without context; we will not assume that ‘everyone knows what we’re talking about’; we will not use acronyms without explaining them the first time in each article / document. We will not ask people to open the attached document when we could simply tell them everything in the web page.
  11. We will not publish transient news without updating it. We will not spend time publishing material that does not add value to the business and our colleagues’ work. We will not create ‘welcome pages’ – we will publish pages that immediately communicate details. We will not publish nine pages where eight will suffice.
  12. We will use descriptive page titles loaded with keywords that require no further context. The title says it all.
  13. We will not simply delete material, but rather ‘retire’ it. Other intranet pages may well link to our pages, and so total deletion is not the appropriate remedy for out of date material.

:)

What do you think? Too prescriptive? Too draconion? Too untrusting? Too confusing?

[Wedge]

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About Wedge

I’m Wedge, and this is my website! I’ve worked within internal communications since 2004, managing intranets and digital comms. Now I’m a freelance comms and intranet specialist - I help organisations plan and improve their intranets. I work with other agencies, and write a lot of blog and magazine articles. I founded the Intranet Now conference. You can catch up with me on Twitter - I’m @Wedge.

19 thoughts on “Intranet content manifesto – 1st draft

  • Good, like it but too much text. Can it be scanned? I gave up after point 8 or 9.

    I see where you are going with “We will…” but with 13 points that is a lot of repetition and makes it harder to trim. You could say, for example:

    13. Don’t Delete, Retire. Other intranet pages may well…

  • Thanks for the help Len, I can certainly work to make it more concise; I intend to edit it all down before using it.

    Did you have any thoughts on the content? Can I ask people to agree to these principles? Are they the right principles when it comes to inexperienced content writers and publishers?

  • Wedge, this is going to need a more substantive examination than I can offer at the moment (darn dentist appointments…), but I do want to weigh in with a couple of themes.

    Don’t discount the “bully pulpit” of news content. Organizations still have information they need their employees to know, understand and in some cases, act upon. We can never get to they point when the organizational objectives are absent from the conversation we’re attempting to create. We also don’t need to apologize for that.

    Now, I’m not talking about the “babies and bowling scores” school of employee communication. Instead, it’s the organizational strategy, how different departments contribute to success, seeing the line of sight between what I do and what the company achieves, and how our clients/customers/ stakeholders see us and our mission. That type of context is at risk if the organization’s professional communicators drop out.

    Read this paper for more on what I/we did at one company:
    http://www.instituteforpr.org/files/uploads/IPRRC_11_Proceedings_4.pdf (start on page 536; by agreement with the company, my name is redacted from the proceedings)

    I’ll be back later with a few more thoughts.
    Cheers!
    Sean
    @commammo

  • Wedge,

    Who is the audience for your manifesto? I can see it being useful for a limited number of stakeholders involved with intranet decisions and communications but it needs to be shrunk down to a small number of simple one line statements to be memorable and actionable by all publishers.

    I completely agree with what you are trying to do and wish you every success in achieving it.

    Let me know if I can help further from BT’s own experiences.

    Mark

  • I would be interested in seeing your final draft as I will have to develop something similar this year.

    In terms of style — in order to make it flow easier for the eye a suggestion would be to take the theme word(s) and bold it at the beginning of the point and then add a drescriptor. For example: Don’t Delete, Retire: descriptive text.

  • Hi Sean,

    thanks for your comments; I *think* you’re saying that I *am* allowed to demand decent standards from inexperienced local communicators / publishers, but I’d welcome your clarification if you get time. I’ll work on my second draft very soon.

    I’ll look over that PDF report, thank you (at least your bits!).

    Hi Mark,

    I’m not going to say the manifesto’s audience is “everyone” as that’s rarely true, however, our new intranet system will allow ‘nearly everyone’ to create intranet pages – or at least their own blog articles(?) and so I do want to reach ‘everyone’.

    But in the first months I want the manifesto to be taken to heart by several hundred ‘never written anything before’ people.

    I know; intranet decisions are taken by a few stakeholders – that’s me mostly; however, we’re radically decentralising publishing permissions (except our front page; that’s mine!). With this massive decentralising we risk people using the intranet as a dumping ground. People who have never heard of ‘Information Architecture’ will spend hours creating navigation structures for content that never gets written, and writing pages of content that is duplicated 10 times across departmental sites.

    The manifesto (if it turns into a useful tool) is to give people who know nothing about sharing info a set of principles. I will give them lots of ‘how to’ guides, but this manifesto is the “what to do” guide.

    I absolutely expect you know more about massive intranets than me! So I’m very interested in your experience and I’m reading your blog, if you’d like to direct me to any specific ideas?

    Dana, hello Dana,

    thank you. This is a real piece of work for me, so the manifesto will get polished and hopefully I’ll be allowed to put it into use if my boss approves.

    Yes, thank you all; I’ll take your advice (and mine) and make each directive succinct.

    Cheers!!!

  • Wedge, it might be worth getting a key group of future contributors to the intranet into a room and around some key words from your manifesto to discuss them and see how they resonate with the group.

    With all the best will in the world, you won’t get people to sign up to/agree with a list of principles from someone else.

    I’m going through an intranet redesign at the moment too, and I can reassure you that the internal politics where I work are the worst you’d ever experience!!

    Dave

    P.S. Love the blog, by the way – hooked!

  • Hi Dave,

    so glad to hear you like my offering – sometimes I feel like I’m writing into a vacuum (not today mind, as you’ve all been so responsive) and I worry that my acerbic tone comes across as unprofessional; but hopefully you like my wit and inconstant charm?!?!

    OK OK, enough ‘me’, now to ‘you’.

    Yes, I should engage with the audience to get them to feed into the manifesto – involvement often = support; thanks for the reminder [although it’s hard to get anyone in a room, we’re a big company :( ]

    Would be interested to hear of your intranet strategy with your redesign – do you publish your thoughts anywhere? Would you like to post a Guest Article here are kilobox communiqué?

    Cheers

  • Dave, I think we all “favor” the internal politics at our present places of employment. My sympathies.

    Wedge, I wouldn’t do this as a manifesto, more as two documents: one a statement of policy which is dry (outdated documents will be taken down, old documents are not being ported), and the second an inspirational letter. Something nice to introduce it, and then as Mark suggests, a smoother list:

    1. Write responsibly.
    2. Keep it fresh and relevant.
    3. Show the version.
    4. Think of your audience. Who are you writing for?
    5. The less clicks to get to your document, the better.
    6. Put it where it most belongs.
    7. Link, link, link.
    8. Don’t email your document, put it on the Intranet.
    9. Make it look nice.
    10. Writings is rewriting. Edit for context, edit for common sense, edit out assumptions, explain acronyms once, the less attached documents the better.
    11. Update news to keep it fresh. Less is more.
    12. Write grabbing headlines, not keywords.
    13. Don’t break links by deleting files.

    As a rough idea. #13 is interesting. Maybe there’s a way to keep track of backlinks, as deletion is sometimes desirable.

    btw, I appreciate all the thoughts and work details of internal comms that you write here, it’s very useful. I wanted to be able to respond to your request for writers to join you (although it seemed from your comments that you got many responses), but time doesn’t allow me to blog, just comment here or there. Good luck!

  • Hi Yossi,

    thanks for your actionable help there, I’ll have a good think, cheers.

    Would love to monitor backlinks, but fear I have no system. Suggestions? My workaround is to ‘retire’ pages by replacing / updating the content for a year, and then in the next year recycling the page ;) But with the new system, I may be given better ‘retirement’ tools. Deletion, IMHO, should be a last resort – why publish if it’s transient? (e.g. use a static news page for transient material) http://www.w3.org/Provider/Style/URI

    Anyway, many of the 13 points above could (and should) be individual articles, so perhaps I’ll explain myself better in the future.

    Thank you! Time is short, I know that, and I’d love to see more of you around the comments section if you’re not yet up for writing a Guest Article?

    Yes, a couple of fabulous comms people should be joining me here at kilobox communiqué shortly – very exciting.

  • A guest article? Crikey, that’s a sure-fire way of getting myself fired!!

    Just kidding! It might be interesting for people to hear my rants and musings; I’ll send you a short epistle when I get a chance. It’s been a struggle so far and quite a frustrating process, but it’s now a personal goal to get a new intranet off the ground which is both a) what I want and b) what the company will allow/sign-off.

    Talk soon – keep up the good work!
    Dave

  • Btw, loved Yossi’s concise rewrite (and sympathising!) – funnily enough, our CIO rates deletion and ‘flushing out the old content,’ but I heartily disagree with him and was nodding in support of your question: “why publish if it’s transient?” Excellent point.

    I wonder: is there a way of slimming down the homepage ‘stub’ of a story once it has gone past either a system-defined or user-defined expiration date? To explain, could you have new posts with, say, a 100x100px graphic until it’s a week old, then a 50x50px graphic with less information for the next few weeks, then a text listing (indexed and searchable still, of course) thereafter. Just a thought.

  • Hi Wedge – yes, establishing standards for publication is a very good thing.

    I’d start with three rules — inviolable and essential, that paraphrase some of the items on your manifesto (btw, I agree with Yossi – don’t make it a manifesto…:
    “Publish with your audience in mind first.” The material you publish has to consider how your audience is expected to make use of the material — just “getting the word out” isn’t a strategy.

    “Publish with a business objective in mind.” How does publishing this material help us achieve our business goals? Again, wanting people to know what your team is doing is not a strategy — it’s not “internal publicity.”

    “Take responsibility and accountability for what you publish.” Keep track of your material, and transient info (that demands a response or adds current value) needs updating or removal as appropriate. Keep in mind the ethical standards and values of our organization, as well as professional courtesy.

    Try these out on a few people — you obviously will need some detailed policies (the attorneys always want posters to agree to follow the rules) but the more simple, easy to follow guidelines work very well at keeping people out of trouble.

    Finally, measure! Have a baseline, make your changes, then evaluate progress and report. Facts and data win the day in our business.

    Best regards,
    Sean
    @commammo

  • Perhaps add “I will take the time to share the knowledge and expertise lodged in my head”. A problem we often come across is that the movers and shakers in an organisation don’t have the time to communicate on the intranet (sad but true).

  • I’m chiming in a bit late here, but I have a few comments to add to the great feedback you’ve already received.

    I am the founder and primary manager of the Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community, which began as a LI group. Based on my experience, esp. with the LI group, I would suggest that you keep the rules very simply initially and refine them based on what happens in the initial months after implementation. Since this is an intranet, there’s less risk to the organization if people screw up, so I wouldn’t over-engineer it. Plus, a complex set of instructions full of do’s and don’ts seems to contradict the idea that this is going to be a community-driven forum. Though well intentioned, the manifesto is likely to discourage people from engaging.

    I’d also suggest when you roll this out you don’t talk about how things used to be (paragraphs 1 and 2), just talk about how things will be with great energy and enthusiam. Again, if there’s a history of not encouraging participation, and you’re trying to change that, why would you remind them of it. I would just focus on the future, and leave the past where it belongs – in the past.

    Bottom line, I’d keep it very simple at initial roll out. Open the door, make them feel welcome, encourage them to make themselves comfortable, and let them take it from there. When someone screws up, correct them – if the community doesn’t do it first – and let the guidelines emerge from the experiences of the group rather than being dictated up front. Not only will that help you create a better, more accurate set of rules, people will be more likely to respect, appreciate, and abide by them because they will understand their value.

    Hope this helps. Best of luck to you.

    Courtney

  • Thanks!

    This is something I need to review and hone, so I’ll definitely return to this subject to craft a Manifesto I can use with people.

    Cheers.

  • Hi Wedge,

    My organization is spread over some 30 countries worldwide and since 2006 we have a global intranet with decentral content management (local publishers). Also, some 2 years ago we started to roll out social media (blogs, yammer, wikis, videos, social bookmarking and sharepoint department and project sites).

    What we’ve seen:
    – There was never anything published which was inappropriate
    – Publishers need insight in how their audience looks at their web pages, as they are mostly inexperienced web publishers
    – They also need info abt how to make their information findable using search keywords and tags
    – Publishers get an email reminder every month with a link to a tool which lists links to pages which have not been changed in 12 months, allowing them to check if the content is still valid and up-to-date
    – People don’t read, so no matter how often you communicate how tos in writing, the information will not come across. Use the momentum of the introduction of the intranet to communicate the essentials (in a short list, I agree with those comments above)
    – In how far is sharing information and expertise part of your company culture? It needs to be supported by management (eg reward required behaviour), else it won’t work and you’ll end up with a lot of people saying they don’t have time for that

    As global intranet manager you’ll not be able to monitor everything as time goes by and the quantity of content grows. That’s why we have appointed a so-called location manager who is responsible for the content structure and training of local publishers in each country. That’s also the person who could get people into a room to get your message across.

    Should you require more detailed information, please contact me.

    Good luck

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