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Communications

Talk about what is, not what will be

calendarIf you’re communicating with an audience that expects news to be new, then yes, of course you want to tell them about stuff that’s launching next month, or changes to their working conditions,  in advance. You need to give your audience (especially if they make up your workforce) enough time to prepare for any changes.

The front page of your intranet (or website, if you’re addressing customers) may well be one of your main communication channels for letting people know what’s happening around your company. But have you noticed how your search engine brings up results from years ago, and how hard it is to find the date on such old articles? What about departmental sections within your intranet? Do they have pages that talk about ‘imminent change’ that actually occurred last year? Let’s consider how best we can talk about times and dates.

Today does not exist

Don’t say “today we launched” on your website. ‘Today‘ does not exist on the Internet. Your readers might come across your article late, perhaps a day late or very much longer. Don’t ever say ‘today’, say exactly what you mean, specify days and dates.

Tomorrow does not exist

See above.

Deep pages

OK, so maybe on your front page you’ve got some news that says ‘next month we’re going to increase sales in EMEA by blah blah blah‘ – that’s fine; if you’ve got some initiative that is ‘going‘ to do something, then sure, talk about the future. It’s good to keep your people informed about (solid) plans. But don’t fall into the ‘out of date when read‘ trap on your deep web pages.

I have a seen a number of departmental intranet sections that launch with a big fanfare, and their front-pages proclaim that the department ‘will review‘ and ‘will change the thingy‘ and ‘will be renovating blah blah‘. These pages then rot, never to be updated ever again. Even though dozens of people spent countless hours writing, reviewing and publishing the pages, once the department’s site was ‘done’, no one bothered with it ever again. As a publisher, it makes me wonder why we all went to the effort in the first place.

The section should be tended to like a garden, and as such, someone who cares should be in charge of periodically reviewing the content. That’s unlikely, so the best advice I can offer is to talk about what ‘is‘ and not what will be.

Just talk about things in the present tense. It’s as simple as that. If a page slips into past tense, oh well, no big problem, but don’t talk about the future. In three month’s time, your pages will still be saying ‘In January we will’ and your department will look like people who build castles in the clouds but don’t produce anything in reality. Just talk in the present tense and avoid this foolishness.

Talk about what is, not what will be.

[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.