What’s filling your intranet pie…….?

This guest blog is from Kelly Freeman -Internal Comms Manager for Superdrug. In this blog, Kelly gives intranet managers advice based on her personal experience in managing the Superdrug intranet – The Hub on how to keep the content flow to your intranet constant and engaging

What’s filling your intranet pie…?

Superdrug launched our Interact Internet ‘The Hub’ earlier this year (in phases covering our head office, distribution and store colleagues) and whilst initially we had lots of ‘functional’ content that previously existed in folders and some interesting articles and videos, the flow of new formal content has been challenging to say the least.

Alongside this, we’ve had feedback about our navigation and layout, so we’ve set about reviewing the whole shebang with a view to re-engaging before the lead up to our busy trading period between October and December – the big lead up to Christmas that is so crucial to retailers everywhere.

Superdrug's Interact Intranet Homepage

I’ve been working with a web-expert colleague to present some well researched principles and proposals about the homepage and navigation and along the journey have come to the absolute conclusion that the layout, look and ‘feel’ is just the crust of the pie. You can make a pie look beautiful and tasty with golden pastry, crimped edges and pretty patterns on top but if you bite into it and there’s not much filling inside, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Content, and the regular flow of it to your intranet, is absolutely vital and any considerations about navigation and homepage layout and design must go hand in hand with driving interesting, engaging, relevant and useful content: the lovely succulent cherries in your beautiful looking pie.

Anyone who has ever attempted to make a pie from scratch will know that this is easier said than done. You have to decide what your filling is, gather your ingredients from the people that own them, mix them together with a pinch of this and a dash of that.

In content management terms this means engaging with the people in the business who hold the keys to the interesting information. This is not always easy; especially if this kind of social intranet is completely new to your business (as it is with ours), you have other existing and vital methods of communications that are long entrenched in business processes (as we do), a busy workforce (check) who don’t yet see the value of your intranet (double-check) a tiny intranet team (that’ll be me then) and a very small budget to spend on interesting information like videos, illustrations, graphics etc.

So what’s the answer?

Nine months ago, I knew nothing about intranet management. I can only impart what I know so far which as of today is slightly more than nothing! I’m learning more every day through reading on the Interact Community, looking at articles online, joining LinkedIn groups and reading books (I highly recommend this one by James Robertson –What Every Intranet Team Should Know).

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

The best piece of advice that he gives in this book is to target efforts to highest value content. I repeat:

Target effort to the highest value content

Acknowledging that intranet teams are usually under-resourced with many having many additional responsibilities in addition to maintaining the intranet, he suggests that although it is a natural goal to strive to publish ‘perfect’ content – this is usually unachievable. He proposes adopting a targeted approach, in which the largest majority of effort is concentrated on the most important information and gradually less effort is given to content which is not so.

Sometimes it’s hard to see past the initial launch and the effort it takes to load first wave content on to your new intranet. However, you absolutlely need a content plan for what’s coming up to keep the intranet fresh. Talk to people in departments, get hold of business plans, find out what’s happening when. Make friends with your PR and marketing team and your heads of department (I mean make them your really good friends – invite them to your wedding/bar mitzvah/cocktail parties/children’s birthday parties/out to lunch).

Practically speaking, to get your intranet off the ground, this could mean spending lots of time chasing the stories that matter and assisting those authors in every way possible to get their content on the intranet. Even if that means doing it for them. Yes, you heard me – bake their pie for them (but try to teach them how to make it themselves going forward).

Some other of my tips:

  • Buy yourself a camcorder (or use your smartphone) to take short videos. People love to see people they know.
  • Buy some credits to istock or shutterstock or the like so you can get professional looking pictures, images and flash to support your stories
  • Get a decent camera if you haven’t got one (or use your smartphone)
  • Get a Dictaphone (or download Dictaphone app to your smartphone) to record interviews and meetings so you can make sure you get the message right

In summary, simple navigation, plus interesting homepage, plus regular updated content = a successful intranet. As easy as pie …!

Have a live tour around the Superdrug intranet at Interaction 2012 >>