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Communications, Intranet

The right formula for your content strategy

I spoke at length to Sam from Content Formula about what seems to be a bit of a buzzword phrase.

Content strategy’ is a crucial concept in communications, but isn’t as arcane or abstract as you might fear. Content strategy is about generating communications, information and reference materials that actually apply to what your company is trying to achieve. It’s about meeting the needs of the audience and helping people get things done.

Content strategy takes into account the needs of the audience, the purpose of the content, its distribution and consumption, and the ongoing maintenance and governance of the content and channel.

It’s not a numbers game, it’s not about dumping as much content as possible online and hoping people will discover it ‘somehow’. It’s about making the right information available in the right format, through the right channels at the right time. There’s an element of curatorship necessary, as not everything can fit on your intranet’s home page or within the latest edition of the company magazine.

Communicators have limited time and space to reach people, and people are very selective in what they read, in what they give their attention to. Communications need to be relevant, interesting and usually concise.

“If you don’t give visitors material that’s relevant to them, then you’re not going to attract people back and you’re going to spend a lot of time and money on tools and channels that no-one’s using. Leaders and material contributors need to agree that investing in the intranet can help people meet the company’s objectives.”
Sam Rich, content strategist and editor, Content Formula

Without a clear understanding of the purpose of content, a vision, a content strategy, a comms channel, like an intranet, can quickly get bogged down with irrelevant junk. News stories that have no impact on a person’s day-to-day work will lead people to perceive the intranet as just a dumping ground for company announcements and top-down decrees. Audiences will feel as though time spent consuming this material is wasted, and stakeholders and publishers will become frustrated that the intranet is underused and that communications fail to have an impact.  All because there’s no overarching purpose for the intranet and the content that’s published.

Content strategy ensures that momentum is maintained and that a new intranet or new company programme is continuously supported, rather than being launched and let go. Caring about employee engagement means maintaining the intranet and its content; investing time and money into keeping the content relevant and up-to-date.

Communications planning

Every new business programme, change or project, needs a communications plan. A project may not require communicating to the whole business, but it still needs a comms plan to include stakeholders, sponsors, implementers, champions in the decision making process and progress. Content strategy is part of the communications plan; it’s one and the same. A project will need a certain number of documents, as laid out in your company’s Project Management System, and that’s content strategy right there.

Comms plans and the content strategy both need to address objectives and ensure the project or channel supports the company.

Planning the launch and supporting the ongoing success of a new programme or change across the business is a more obvious area where communications planning comes in. Considering content strategy, the generation and maintenance of material to support the objectives, will help make sure you comms plans have greater impact down the road. Short-term goals are one thing, but longer-term objectives require continual investment of time and resources.

Intranet strategy

The content strategy might be part of the overall intranet strategy. If you don’t have an actual intranet strategy document then a shared understanding of the main purpose of the intranet might suffice if you and your colleagues discuss and refer to it often enough. The content strategy should direct your company as to how to create, distribute, structure / organise and maintain reference material and news articles so as to meet the needs of your audience.

“The intranet is a channel that can be used by everyone within the organisation, it’s an online area that can bring people together to share information, share knowledge, share news. The intranet is essentially your company’s hub; it should help people access what they need in order to get things done, and support real collaboration within and between teams.
Sam Rich, content strategist and editor, Content Formula

[Wedge]

Photo credit: Revivalthedigest

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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.