The Team Collaboration Blog

27-06-2017
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Create an Effective Intranet Content Strategy

Learn how to build your own intranet content strategy

Employees visit an intranet with a goal. Whether it is getting company news, collaborate on a project, or find co-workers’ contact details, people use the intranet to accomplish tasks.

An intranet content strategy focuses on three main processes when creating useful intranet content:

  • Creation
  • Publishing
  • Governance

This blog post shows what an intranet content strategy looks like, and how to implement it in your organisation.

 

Why do you need an intranet content strategy?

Intranets have typically grown organically over time to thousands, or tens of thousands, of pages of content. Therefore, it is important that information is accurate and easy to find. An intranet content strategy defines policies for how to create, publish, and manage content.

Useful intranet content that is relevant and well-organized helps employees locate what they are looking for and perform their tasks more effectively. Well-organized content saves the company time and money. Ultimately, they finish the task they have at hand faster and better. With an intranet content strategy, you make sure:

  • Your content is easy to find
  • Your content is relevant
  • Your content is always up-to-date
  • Employees do not waste time searching for something they cannot find

If employees are unable to locate information on the intranet, they waste their time, and perhaps most importantly, they become frustrated and start making their own rules for storing and finding information.

But great content does not write itself, and your employees will not automatically find what they are looking for. With the huge amounts of content that float around in an organisation, there is a risk that an intranet may become clogged with information. An intranet content strategy is a framework for the rules and policies for creating, publishing, and governing content on an intranet.

 

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The fundamentals of an intranet content strategy

An intranet content strategy is not much different than any other content strategy, even though intranet content is not the same as other types of content. We will get back to the differences between intranet content and other content later.

Therefore, the definition of a content strategy also applies to that of an intranet content strategy. A content strategy has been defined by content strategist  Kristina Halvorson as “the creation, publication, and governance of useful content.” A content strategy is described as a continuous cycle that defines the entire editorial content development process for an intranet.

An intranet content strategy offers guidelines for content requirements, roles and responsibilities, formatting, and writing. It helps ensure that employees can easily find content, and are updated according to the organisation’s standards.

 

Intranet content strategy

An intranet content strategy is not much different than other content strategies and content lifecycles. The simplest depiction for the average content creator is one that illustrates the three components of the content management cycle.

Content Management Lifecycle

Create:

To plan, write content for the intranet, and assess the quality of current intranet content.

Publish:

To put content into a content template, add keywords and metadata, and to make sure that content can be controlled and found in the future.

Governing content:

To set up policies for accessing content, reviewing it as necessary, and to eventually archive or delete it.

 

The next section goes into depth with the three phases of the Content Management Lifecycle and describes how to implement it on your intranet.

 

Create content

You will be able to create content that is both relevant and accessible to each employee by following the four guidelines below.

Creating useful content requires time, focus, and knowledge about procedures. Make sure to keep you intranet content effective by following the steps in this infographic.

Infographic - Content model keep intranet content effective

 

Make sure your content is written for the intranet

Make your employees into content masters, but do not expect great content from day 1. It requires guidance and practice. You can provide guidelines for great content on the intranet, and show the employees content that inspires their writing. Advise them on how to write and build content that rocks.

Creating accurate, useful, and relevant content saves your employees time by making it easier to find what they need and carry out their business more effectively.

When creating intranet content, consider how information is consumed on an intranet. The thing is, writing for an intranet is not the same as writing paper copies, because people read online text differently than they read an annual report or white paper. People are visually driven and read in chunks when they read text online.

Furthermore, your intranet users are usually busy people. Being busy means that when they look up information on the intranet, they are usually in a hurry, so the content should be easy to scan.

11 practical tips for creating relevant intranet content:

  • Use short paragraphs – four sentences max
  • Communicate to people in a way that they understand
  • Written text should be easy-to-read chunks
  • Content should have a relevant and catchy title, and a summary to make it easy to understand what the content is all about
  • Bullet points can be used to emphasise key points
  • Text above the fold should be helpful, interesting, and should match the page title
  • Avoid jargon, as not all employees understand it
  • Images, videos, and infographics are important to attracting readers and bringing content to life, thus, making engaging people easier
  • Address intranet visitors directly, using the word ‘you’
  • Content should have helpful links to related content, either from manual links or automated recommendations
  • Visitors should be able to interact with the content, either through comments or giving feedback

Beyond the readability of your content, content guidelines should provide the creator with standards to make sure that all aspects of good intranet best practices are followed.

 

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Content migration

If you consider implementing a new intranet or have content from other places, content from your current intranet should only somewhat migrate to your new intranet.

Just because your new intranet is recently built, does not mean that it should not have older material. However, a simple ‘lift & shift’ approach to the migration of content to a new intranet is not exactly the best way to go about it. ‘Lift & shift’ occurs when content is merely moved from the current intranet to the new intranet, without any editing, reorganising, archiving, or deleting.

“Kill your darlings. You can't have everything the way it used to be and expect new results.” - Ninna Lauridsen, Chief Marketing Officer at Colibo

The people tasked with implementing a new intranet are often overwhelmed by the amount of content on the current intranet, and are themselves often not owners of that content. That means that they are not the best people to evaluate whether the content should be kept, edited, archived, or deleted.

Therefore, you should take the time to identify content authors and collaborate with them to create a strategy for evaluating the current content and create a content structure on the new intranet. Even though it is a daunting task, it is important to clean the clutter for a new intranet to be an effective tool.

Intranet designers and content authors need to find out which content structure is needed in the new intranet. They can do so by looking at commonalities among users and look for repetitive tasks. For instance, if some content is common between people, it helps designers to create a template or identify forms to make them searchable and be located quickly.

Take the opportunity to shake things up and make the content better.

 

Engage users with interesting content

The sentence “build it and they will come” has never rung true for intranets. Many intranets built with the best intentions fall into disuse for lack of employee engagement. But it does not need to be that way.

Intranets can be the vibrant social hub for organisations, particularly in today’s business world where many organisations need to collaborate across national and international locations.

Colibo on tablet outside

One way to increase interaction on your intranet is to make sure that there is a clear call-to-action on the pages and posts where you want feedback and dialogue. Opening for dialogue in the comment section won't automatically result in feedback. If your organisation doesn't have a culture that encourages employees to engage in dialogue, it will take time to create it. But, it will be worth it!

Publicly commenting on other co-workers' posts and pages can be worrying to some, especially if the content is about the economy of the company or strategic moves. You should encourage your employees to participate and leave comments and feedback. You can do this by asking a question at the end of your text, where you encourage others to show their opinion, just like you see on many blogs.

Try to avoid always being the first one to comment on the new posts if you are the content author or intranet manager. It might hold off other responses from employees because they expect you to answer. Instead, you can encourage a certain employee to participate or answer in a manner that facilitates dialogue. 

 

Publish content

When your employees create or evaluate current content, they are ready to add content to the intranet. The organisation needs to add policies and standards for what parameters need to be added to content for it to be accessed and controlled in the future. If the organisation develops a content template with the given parameters, they are already halfway there.

 

Content template

Many social intranets have content templates, where there are indicators for the most important parameters for success. A smart content template is a template where boxes for content are predefined with the formatting that your company wants. A content template makes publishing as easy as possible, and it is easy for content creators to fill out the necessary elements to find content again easily.

To ensure great content right away, make sure that the template has:

  • A strong headline
  • A summary that makes the text easy to understand
  • Metadata
  • Keywords
  • Text above the fold
  • The possibility to tag content
  • Author tagging
  • Date adding
  • Comment box
  • Photos and videos can be easily added
  • Internal linking to and from other editors

A template makes it easy to create content without having to consider form and style. A smart content template makes it easy for employees to create great content right away.

Intranet governance

Intranet governance defines the policies for content creation, ownership and management including:

  • Roles & Responsibilities
  • Decision-making processes
  • Policies & Standards

Many companies have experienced intranets that are overcrowded with information, difficult to navigate, and have large amounts of outdated content that no one looks at anymore. Your current intranet might suffer from the same problems. Often, the reason is that no one is appointed to update old content, and the few people publishing news on the intranet are short of time, ultimately creating a pile of old content.

Some intranet software governs itself, but intranet administrators still need to keep the community on track with policies and standards.

 

Intranet governance structure

With multiple content owners, workspaces and project areas, an intranet can quickly become unwieldy. Giving everyone the opportunity to create content can result in large amounts of unindexed, poorly written, non-searchable content. Creating a well-defined intranet governance structure diminishes these problems. An intranet governance structure defines:

  • Your intranet strategy
  • Intranet moderators
  • Key intranet administrators
  • Rules of intranet engagement
  • Who oversees what on the intranet
  • Frequency of updating content

With an intranet governance structure, everyone knows who oversees what on the intranet.

It is a delicate balance to govern an intranet because too little governance provides a risk that things get out of hand, and too much control runs the risk that employees lose the desire to engage in the intranet.

Therefore, intranet content works best if there has been an intranet governance structure considered. Make sure that the intranet governance structure is well-defined and communicated to all employees.

Having a clear and well-written intranet governance structure gives the right amount of interaction, and less manual governance is needed.

 

Content Archives

There is a chance that you have an endless paper trail of old documents, many of which are still relevant. Old documents may be: financial records, tax documents, and insurance papers that you need to keep for several years before discarding them.

Intranet content archive

Upload relevant, archived materials to the intranet instead of just letting them sit in a filing cabinet. Organising old content can be rather time-consuming, but once the content is uploaded and organised, you can free-up time and a great deal of physical space in your office, and all employees can access the information directly on your intranet.

Community members need access to archived content occasionally. Content archives can be a labyrinth, especially after a few years of use. Making archives easily accessible for employees will cut down on frustration and make them easier to navigate. One of the ways to make the content archive easily accessible is by placing a link to the archive on the homepage.

 

Policies for deleting content

Besides evaluating, reusing, repurposing, or archiving content, create policies for who and when to delete intranet content that is no longer in use. When it comes to keeping your intranet useful and relevant, it is essential to identify content that has become obsolete. You can choose to either archive the content or delete it.

To avoid intranets clogging up with unused content, intranet administrators need to set up criteria for obsolete content. The criteria can be:

  • The expiration date - to notify the content author that their content is obsolete and they need to act, either by repurposing the content, updating it, archiving it, or deleting it, if the content is of no use.
  • Last use data - to ascertain when the content was last accessed. This gives an idea of whether the content is, in fact, being used or not. However, do not rely only on the data because some content might not be used as often for a reason.

Intranet governance needs to be well-defined, documented, and shared with all employees to make sure everyone knows how to create, publish, and govern the content that is on the intranet.

In conclusion

An intranet content strategy is set in place to make sure that all employees are adequately trained to create content, know what standards are set in place when publishing content, and know what to do with old content.

With an intranet content strategy and a governance strategy, there is a higher likelihood that the content in the intranet is, in fact, useful, up-to-date, and relevant for all employees using the intranet. Thus, this makes the intranet a relevant and important place for your employees to find what they are looking for, and have a great experience using it as a working tool.

When you work on creating your intranet content strategy, consider what measures should be taken so that your intranet content makes your intranet as useful as possible. Strong policies and standards make it easy for your employees to know exactly how to create, publish, and manage their content.

If you have applied the points above, you should be on the right track to creating a successful intranet content strategy.

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Nicoline Sørensen
Blog Author
Nicoline Sørensen
Nicoline was Colibo's Head of Marketing. Her interest is in employee engagement, intranet best practices and SEE ALL POSTS

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