In my role at Interact, I’m responsible for organising UK Customer Meet-Ups, which are inspiring in their exchange of ideas. They are also a chance for customers to receive support and advice on making the most of their intranets. Attending these events has given me invaluable insight into the ways in which our customers keep users engaged, keep content flowing and make their intranet a place to collaborate.
The sessions are a great learning opportunity, so here are a few ideas that I thought were particularly pertinent.
Have some fun
Though social intranets have obvious benefits for employees, they still need something to hook users in and make them attractive places to visit. It can be surprisingly easy to fall into the trap of putting information on the intranet as quickly as possible, rather than thinking through your presentation. Just telling employees to read a document isn’t likely to motivate them to do so, and the process of overcoming this issue is your chance to have some fun.
Ultra Electronics CIS exemplified this on their intranet, The Hub. They used a large homepage banner to ask employees to sign up for their employee benefits through HR. Rather than a dry message of only text, their designer Gary whipped up cartoon versions of the HR team to make the announcement:
Proof that even serious, technically oriented companies can have a little fun.
Hand over the reins
We see some comms teams who are reluctant to hand over the responsibility of creating content to their users. Anything that is put on their CMS has go to through them. Whether this is an issue of trust or governance differs from company to company. When trust is a factor, it’s important to remember that on a platform associated with work – their livelihood – people are unlikely to write anything that will get them into trouble. Otherwise, a strong and transparent governance plan will combat the risk of pesky unexpected content appearances. Make sure your users know best practices for using the intranet, including what content is appropriate and where to share it. Senior team members often serve as examples, with other employees looking to their content to learn what to post and what not to post on the intranet.
Having dedicated authors for each department is a great way to keep up the flow of content, while having the reassurance that anyone making additions to the site is adequately trained to do so. Nottingham Community Housing utilizes trained content authors for each department, giving each part of the organisation ownership of their own content and encouraging them to post.
Blogging is an easy way to give individuals a voice on your intranet, keep the content wheel turning, and encourages users to check for updates.
Sport England use blogging for company related news on their Intranet, Inside Track. Their Internal Communications Manager, Matt Phillipson, produced a thorough style guide for employees to help them post useful content. Giving employees this sense of site ownership is one of the many reasons that Sport England have 92% of users contributing.
Other customers of ours have less prescriptive approaches to blog content. At our meet-ups we’ve heard stories of people documenting their efforts to getting a pilot’s license, charity efforts, new pets, and major life events. People like to read about people and, as much as we hate to admit it, we’re all a bit nosey. If your organisation has a particularly disparate workforce and people don’t know each other within the company, blogging builds team cohesion. We have previously written about how effective work friendships are for staff retention.
Get senior management on board – or at least make it look like they are
Imagine you’re going out to dinner and have to choose between an empty restaurant and one with only one open table. It is fair to assume that the empty restaurant is unpopular because the food isn’t as good. The same goes for CMSes and social intranets. While you can ask workers to get on and start blogging immediately after launch, they’re much more likely to do so if they see people on the intranet already.
This is a prime opportunity for senior management to lead by example. Having them as intranet champions from the time you launch is an ideal position. To combat a problem we see often – when executives start as strong bloggers but get too busy – we recommend lending them a helping hand. Try ghostwriting, and keep that executive content coming.
Hop on the in-jokes
My final tip for content excellence is to be a good listener. Sometimes unexpected content gets impressive engagement. When this happens, don’t miss an opportunity to capitalize on that employee attention.
At our Manchester Customer Meet-Up, Ayesha from Federation of Small Businesses told us a great story about someone trying to sell a chicken on their ‘Buy-and-Sell’ forum, much to the amusement of the rest of the company. People started logging onto the intranet just to follow the saga, and users who had never before contributed began commenting. Ayesha didn’t let it stop there. She used the chicken’s picture, scattered it across their intranet, and set their users the task of finding them all. #gamificationgoals
Have some #contenttips of your own? Connect with us on Twitter @IntranetExperts, and let us know!