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Communications, Intranet, Social Comms

Stop viewing your intranet as a single channel

‘Channel management’ seems to be an important yet glamour-lacking tactical responsibility for any internal communications team. A ‘channel audit’ is a regular requirement when a senior person joins the team; defining the capabilities, benefits, and reach of a channel and who is responsible for its use and maintenance is crucial to getting the best out of it.

City centre with skyscrapers
An intranet is more like a city than a shopping centre.

The intranet often gets defined as an amorphous mass, or just as bad, as the home page and news archive. This seems obvious and clear if the internal comms team are charged with just ‘sending stuff out’.

Defining the intranet as a single channel is as brutal as discussing the split between digital and print, as if digital is a thing of and in itself. Digital encompasses so much that it’s an unhelpful simplification to use the word. I could defend print in a similar manner.

As with all good comms, wise people match the message to the audience, and the channel to the audience. Communication is not a passive ‘send and receive’ event, it’s an active process. If you need to engage people, go where they are already, or where the audience is shifting to.

The audience is not sitting on your intranet’s main home page. So, instead of considering the intranet a single digital channel, consider it a multi-channel platform.

People care about what’s relevant to them, and relevancy is based on need and interest. You can discover needs and interests by assessing the activity analytics and the popular / successful communities and groups on your intranet.

Diversifying your comms

You may find that a single reference article, published in the relevant location, can be easily updated over the months and years by the designated owner, and so shorter, more pointed news articles can be published that then link back to it. Yet this ‘single source of the truth’ is still old fashioned single channel thinking. We need to go further.

News needs to be tailored to the audience and channel. This specifically means editing and re-writing comms, rather than just pushing out or copy n pasting the same article.

Considering content strategy and even content marketing, we might:

  • publish a reference article for the long-term, easy to find by navigation, easy to find by search;
  • publish a general home page news article which explains the context and reasoning in a human manner, and links back to the reference article;
  • re-shape the news article for the HR home page (not landing page*) so that instructions or process changes are communicated to the people responsible;
  • re-shape the news article for the Customer Service teams so that they know what to say to customers on the phone;
  • re-shape the message for the IT dept, the engineering teams and the product dev teams to briefly let them know what’s going on – just FYI;
  • shred the message down to 200 words for the mobile intranet for field workers and those people on the train;
  • shred the message down to 25 words and send as a text message to mobile Sales people;
  • socialise the 25 words along with a link to the relevant news article on Yammer (or equivalent) or profile status updates, and cross-post among target communities / groups;
  • re-shape the message into 30 words for digital signage around your buildings, and remember to explain how to find the main article;
  • consider a full email communiqué or a brief update with a link;
  • be online for questions and involved with social comms and backchannels.

Comms pros will know when to go heavy and when to go soft, when to release news all at once and when to drip-feed. This isn’t a process to follow slavishly, it’s a shift in concept from one truth, one intranet, to multiple sub-channels strung on the intranet.

People have always opined ‘that seems a lot of work’ whenever I’ve suggested (as the editor) improvements to their page or news story. Funnily enough, comms isn’t something you just do when you get a chance, it’s real work, it requires planning, and it demonstrates committment to values and employees.

[ Wedge ]

Photo credit: jaakko.hakulinen

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*Home pages vs landing pages

A home page is the page that comes up first when a person opens their browser or clicks to surf the intranet. Modern intranets have multiple home pages, so that an HR person’s experience of the intranet is different to that of an IT person’s. An HR person cannot see the IT persons’ home page as it is a bespoke experience set just for them.

A landing page is the main page of a department that everyone can visit. So when you’re told to go to the Legal team on the intranet, the Legal landing page is their ‘welcome to the Legal department’ page, followed by the obligatory ‘mission’ page and team photos.

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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.