Is anybody going to read your intranet content?

I have to admit as a former Intranet Manager, the question ‘is anybody going to read this content?’ used to cross my mind on a frequent basis. Usually after I had spent a great deal of time writing an article for the intranet, or after I’d crafted a particularly good email (in my opinion, of course). The feeling was even stronger after I’d spent hours researching and writing a report or a blog post.

To overcome this question I created a short checklist to make my articles more readable and more widely read:

1. Visualise your audience

We offer a ‘Writing for Intranets’ course and one of the first questions we ask attendees is,‘Do you know who you are writing for?’

I asked the same question when writing this article, I presumed it was going to be placed on Interact’s customer Community site – (an online community solely for Interact Intranet customers to share knowledge and thoughts about intranet best practice) possibly our main website and maybe even our company intranet. That led to me visualising three target reader personas:

  • The Interact Community User – I’m assuming the average user possesses some knowledge about intranets, maybe manages an intranet and is possibly looking to find out best practice.
  • The Website User – Maybe you’re a prospective customer looking for an intranet, or an industry expert looking to find out what those smart people at Interact Intranet are talking about, or you may be a competitor trying to find out about our mantra and the advice we give.
  • The Intranet User – I’m referring to my colleagues within Interact Intranet. As with any forward thinking, learning organisation we like to learn from each other’s experiences and knowledge.

These mental profiles are broad and overarching but they helped me to generally assess what you, my reader knows about writing content, which in turn helped me to decide the information I want to share with you.

Going back to the Writing for Intranets’ course, another key question we ask is ‘Are you writing to inform, persuade or both?’ Essentially what do you want your readers to do after they read your content? At the risk of breaking the fourth wall, in my case I’m trying to persuade you to adopt my ideas about content by sharing my experience with you.

2. Attract your reader

I find the following few rules help to increase the chances of my content being read:

Rule 1 – A catchy and relevant title/headline definitely helps to attract readers. A good title should catch a reader’s attention, indicating what it is they are about to read. The title of this blog should have indicated that this article is about intranet content and in my opinion is a little bit more interesting than ‘Five helpful tips for creating content’.

Rule 2 – On the same note, finding good and relevant images (with appropriate copyright permissions!) can help to attract readers. We all have different learning styles and some of us are more visual than others. The correct use of pictures can help to break up text and add additional context.

Anomaly Alert! – Although relevant pictures are our preferred method, our internal research at Interact has revealed that pictures featuring a recognisable face, are more likely to draw readers attention to a page, rather than an inanimate object.

Rule 3 – Summaries are often neglected, yet they are an excellent way of attracting your reader to the main body of your content. How often do you pick up a book and turn to the back cover and read the synopsis to help us decide if you are going to read it? Try the same with your content writing.

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3. Welcome reader feedback

Whether purposefully or not, we make an emotional investment in what we write; especially when we feel that what we’ve written is really good. But how do you know your content is being read? Well for this article, I can check the number of people who have visited my article, counting the number of likes and shares across the various platforms. I find comments are a great source of knowledge, including the ‘constructive’ ones, to help develop my content.

This could be sought by adding an “invitation” to comment or give feedback in the content that is being written.

4. Link to relevant content

In an ideal world, I would like to pretend that I am the first to think of this topic but several informative articles are already on our Community and Website. Linking into other content helps to validate your work and points to relevant useful information for your readers. For example my colleague wrote a great blog recently called, ’10 steps to Awesome Intranet Content’, which I think you will find beneficial to read alongside this blog.

5. Make your content easy to find

I have seen Content Authors fight to have their content appear on a homepage. However, you don’t need to have your content appear on an intranet homepage for it to be found by your target audience.

Tagging your content with the correct keywords is a big weapon in your arsenal to increase findability. The easy option (one that I’ve been guilty of) is to simply regurgitate your title – perhaps think of a couple of alternative terms. However there is another more fruitful alternative. Going back to knowing your audience, think about what kind of search terms that they would use and work up from there.

Not everyone uses search functions to look for content; there are some of us who like to navigate. Again I’m guilty of this; I often choose to ignore the big shiny search bar and choose to navigate for what I’m looking for. So I have discovered that placing your content in the right area definitely helps.

These are just a few of the tips I bear in mind when writing content for an intranet, but if there are any you think I have missed let me know by adding your comment below:

To find out even more ways to improve the content on your intranet download the free and newly updated intranet guide, ‘Planning and Deploying a Successful Intranet.’ Get your free guide now >>