James Robertson is one of the undisputed global experts in the field of intranets and we think his book – What Every Intranet Team Should Know is an essential read for anyone involved in their company intranet and should be a staple item on your desk. It is full of great advice and tips on intranet best practices, which as James very correctly states in the introduction, “are not easy to discover.”

The comprehensive book, which is purposely digestible at only 110 pages in total (who has the time to read reams and reams of text these days?) is broken down into succinct chapters, so you can quickly grab references from it whenever you need to.
If you haven’t already read the book then we thought you might be interested in one of the chapters (or “concepts” as James refers to them) – ‘How to deliver great content.’ This chapter contains some really great ideas on how to fulfil one of the most fundamental purposes of an intranet – as a platform to communicate content.

We all know how easy it is for an intranet’s content to spiral out of control – content is always needed and accepting contributions from authors across the organisation is essential but it’s a mean feat to maintain quality content throughout the length and breadth of your intranet.

James lists 10 attributes to what he thinks makes up ‘good’ intranet content:

  • Useful
  • Accurate
  • Complete
  • Up-to-date
  • Trustworthy
  • Easy to read
  • Concise
  • Targeted to audience needs
  • Delivered in a suitable format
  • Cross-linked

He then goes on to talk about the 7 practical approaches that can be taken to achieve these attributes:

  1. Not all content needs to be of equal quality. In this step James talks about the different types of content that goes on to an intranet in terms of importance and target audience. He suggests that core information such as policies, support materials and corporate comms should be carefully written and well-structured, whereas information including project updates or meeting minutes will naturally not have the prerequisite to be written as skilfully.
  2. Target efforts to highest value content. Here, James acknowledges that intranet teams are usually under-resourced with many having many additional responsibilities in addition to maintaining the intranet, so he suggests that although it is a natural goal to strive to publish ‘perfect’ content – this is usually unachievable. James proposes adopting a targeted approach, in which the the largest majority of effort is concentrated on the most important information and gradually less effort is given to content which is not so. James writes: “Define and formalise multiple levels of quality across the intranet. Develop appropriate policies and standards to match and communicate these to intranet authors and content owners.”
  3. Use a mix of publishing models. James groups the methods of publishing and managing content on an intranet into five categories and suggests a mix of these should ideally be used, depending on your organisations culture and requirements:(which he goes into further detail in step 4.)– Fully centralised publishing – when all content is published by the central intranet team, with other business areas contributing
    – Decentralised publishing – business areas are responsible for producing and managing their own content
    Publishing with review – content is produced by business areas but has to be reviewed before publication
    – Federated publishing – Each business area has a coordinator who has responsibility for managing intranet authors within their area
    – End-user content contribution – all staff across the organisation can contribute content – including blogs, widgets, calendar events
  4. Pick the right models. In this section, James advises experimenting with publishing methods to suit the unique needs of your business and that publishing approaches should be adjusted over time (as with everything on your intranet – it should be constantly evolving.) He says: “Target the approaches to fit the skills of the authors, the nature of the content, the section of the site and the need for content quality.”
  5. Focus on the people aspects. In this approach to achieving great content on your intranet, James stresses the importance of “people issues” and how intranet teams should focus their efforts on those who are directly involved on your intranet. Five really handy tips to intranet teams: Understand the motivations of authors – their skills, motivations and objectives; Help authors to be effective – supporting them with publishing if they lack experience; Build bridges between authors and the central intranet team – maintaining good relations; Encourage good practices rather than reinforcement – using a soft approach wherever possible; Present a human face – the intranet team should talk to authors face to face to be fully effective.
  6. Pursue multiple approaches James advises that intranet teams should establish a range of supporting approachesto take you on the road to great intranet content. Creating standards and guidelines, author training and mentoring and establishing intranet feedback mechanisms are just some of his suggestions.
  7. Establish an authoring community. This is a really great idea and one we particularly love at Interact! By setting up a community of intranet authors, publishers, reviewers and the central intranet team who meet once a month, will establish a, “vibrant, active community that has a clear purpose for both participants and the organisation as a whole.” If a meeting isn’t achievable – why not set up a team on your intranet where members can collaborate and share ideas?

James will be in London taking the main stage at Interaction 2012 on October 3rd 2012 – this is a rare opportunity to see James in the UK where you can put all your burning intranet questions to him! Book now and take advantage of the early-bird discount.

See the full Interaction 2012 schedule here >>