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 (very) 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 published the first draft back in January and a great many readers provided feedback and some great ideas, so here’s my second draft.
Intranet content proclamation resolution pronouncement manifesto
Our intranet can provide powerful tools for sharing and publishing information and documentation. Our 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 ensure our intranet provides up-to-date relevant information that is clearly needed to help us perform our tasks. We will carefully assess the value of any content we consider publishing. We will adopt our improved information management habits and focus on our new ways of working.
Our three inviolable rules
Publish with your audience in mind
Your audience might be your immediate team mates, your wider departmental colleagues or the whole Company (either directly or indirectly) and so knowing your intended audience influences the content, placement and security of your material. What action could / should your audience take because of your communication?
Publish with a business objective in mind
The time spent creating content has to be of value to the Company; the time spent reading and acting on your communication must be of value to the Company. Ask yourself “how does this material help our people complete their tasks and help our Company achieve our goal?”.
Take responsibility and accountability for what you publish
Keep track of your material; transient information (that demands a response or adds current value) may well need updating as appropriate. Our intranet is about ‘getting things done now’ – out of date material that clogs up our search results creates inefficiencies and confusion. As an individual, you are accountable for anything you say online as an individual.
Our intranet, our online workspace, is for communication, content, collaboration and activity. It’s no longer a ‘broadcast’ medium but can develop into 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.
- Responsible and accountable: we are responsible and accountable for what we write, share and publish.
- Fresh and relevant: we consider the lifespan of the information we share / publish. We know when and how to update and refresh the content we are responsible for.
- Version control: we use version control mechanisms on documents so that people know what version they’re reading.
- Think of your audience: we publish material to the appropriate audience; either simply to our team mates, our department, and when appropriate, to the whole Company. What action should the audience take?
- Reduce clicks, reduce depth: we focus on keeping our intranet sections (and departmental websites) wide and shallow – not deep. Reduce the number of clicks needed to get to content. The sweet spot is within three clicks of the Home Page or your Team’s Home Page.
- Appropriate location: we publish material within the appropriate section, not within the department that happens to own / maintain the information.
- Linking: we link to other pages around the intranet and the Internet as appropriate at every opportunity. Help readers move on to the next page or activity.
- Avoid email: we promote (and use) the sharing features of our intranet, to help people refrain from emailing material around.
- Great layouts: we 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.
- Great content: we avoid publishing 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. We write in the active voice.
- Considerate publishing: we avoid publishing 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 seven will suffice.
- Useful titles: we use descriptive page titles loaded with keywords that require no further context. The title says it all; we know this helps the search engine. Titles, unlike general writing, can be in the passive voice.
- Don’t delete, retire: we refrain from simply deleting 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.
Just to say again; I could not have honed this manifesto without the thoughtful, actionable feedback from so many helpful people over on my first draft page.
There was a good deal of talk about making my sentences more simple; I’ve done my best, but my audience are people who – well, people who don’t do what you and I do. What do you and I do? We write, and we read other people’s stuff. My audience don’t write anything other than emails, and evidence suggest that they don’t read blogs – they read BBC news and physical newspapers. So please forgive me if my manifesto seems a little verbose for your needs.
There was some talk about keeping the enthusiasm (thank you, text is now more positive) and avoiding the word ‘manifesto’. I’m keeping manifesto; in our Company, all of our documents are titled with repetitively dull business terms. This will be the only manifesto in the long long history of my company, so I hope that will help it.
Thanks ever so for your help,[Wedge]
If you would like to share or tweet this article, the short URL is: http://kilobox.net/1468 – the first draft was http://kilobox.net/1296
You’ve done very well to keep these short, easy to read and lively. I think you could at times be a little more specific, while only adding a few extra words, but this depends on what supporting guidelines or training you make available. For example: ‘Think of your audience’ – danger of writing to mass audiences v one to one / personas. ‘Reduce clicks’ – do you have a recommended number? ‘Profuse linking’ – easy to overdo this within material and to lose a reader – etc.
I would also emphasise as a 14th point the need to define the objectives / outcome / action required by the audience for each piece of material.
Very good work. If I might suggest, number 9 about ‘great layouts’. Most people will be more concerned with the content than its layout. While it is fine to recommend good layout for readability, it may intimidate or discourage others who feel they aren’t up to creating a ‘great’ layout. And conversely the design-oriented types may create great layouts with little or nothing to say.
BTW – will you be releasing this Intranet Content Manifesto under a Creative Commons By Attribution license? It’s a great way to promote yourself and your intranet.
Thank you Diana,
I’ve just updated the article above to pick up your suggestions in points 4 and 5.
I’ve (with some regret) removed the word ‘Profuse’ from ‘7) Profuse Linking’. Our company’s baseline is zero links per page, so I was trying to increase that, but I take your feedback, thank you.
Hi Mike – I’ll be right back after this short commercial break!
This manifesto is three years old, and it would be wise to review it, and move to a third draft.
Point 5 says to reduce clicks, reduce depth (because I expect intranets to be broad and shallow, not deep) but the ‘3 click’ rule is outdated. Yet still, nervous ‘amateurs’ may appreciate strong guidance.