The intranet often gets defined as an amorphous mass, or just as bad, as the home page and news archive. This seems obvious and clear if the internal communications team is charged with just “sending out information.”
‘Channel management’ seems to be an important yet glamour-lacking tactical responsibility for any internal communications team. A ‘channel audit’ is a regular requirement when a senior person joins the team; defining the capabilities, benefits, and reach of a channel and who is responsible for its use and maintenance is crucial to getting the best out of it.
Defining the intranet as a single channel is as brutal as discussing the split between digital and print, as if digital is a thing of and in itself. Digital encompasses so much that it’s an unhelpful simplification to use the word.
The Intranet is Living and Breathing
Just like any living person, what you see initially is just the surface to what can be find underneath. Employees do not go to just your intranet’s main home page — and in fact, you shouldn’t want them to. Rather, the home page is an entry point — but not the ONLY entry point — to a breadth of news, tasks, information and reference material aimed to help employees to learn, plan and do their work and personal lives.
So, instead of considering the intranet a single digital channel, consider it a multi-channel platform. And being multi-channel is not easily as easily achieved by simply making “tabs” or categorizing your left-hand navigation into content buckets. It’s recognizing that employees enter the intranet from a variety of sources (e.g., e-mail, e-cards, mobile devices, other internal sites) and that information should be organized and targeted in acknowledgement of this.
Diversify and Target Your Communications
As with any good communications strategy, the message is matched to the audience, and the channel to the audience. The changing trend in internal communication has moved beyond one-way communication in that it is no longer a passive ‘send and receive’ event. Instead, it has now become an active, tw0-way conversation. To engage an audience, go where they are already, or to where they are shifting.
It’s easy to publish a single reference article that can be updated over the months by a designated content owner, and then have shorter, more pointed news articles that then link back to it. Tailoring intranet content to the audience or channel means editing and re-writing communications, rather than just posting redundant versions of the same article. The challenge is in balancing “single source of truth” against uniqueness and variety — customizing the information so that it is relevant to your diverse employee audience.
Considering content strategy and even content marketing, we might:
- Publish a full-length article for the long-term, which can be easily found through search or navigation, and has a longer shelf life in the news archives;
- Highlight employee transactions or tasks relevant to the article, so employees know an action is expected of them;
- Spotlight a unique “teaser” or banner on the intranet home page that instantly draws attention to purpose of the news article in a compelling and interesting manner, and links back to the original article;
- Re-purpose the news article for the HR home page (not landing page*) to communicate specific instructions or process changes to the individuals responsible for enforcing this change (HR business partners, etc.);
- Customize the message for all areas of the business so all employees have a full understanding of changes to the business and how it impacts their individual organizations;
- Shorten the message down to 200 words for the mobile intranet for traveling or employees in the field;
- Shorten the message even further to 25 words and send as a text message to employe mobile devices;
- Socialize the 25 words along with a link to the relevant news article on internal collaboration platforms such as Yammer (or equivalent) or as profile status updates, and cross-post among target communities / groups;
- Re-shape the message into 30 words for digital signage around your buildings, and remember to explain how to find the main article;
- Be prepared to address questions and be involved with social communications and feedback channels to not only respond to concerns but to also solicit feedback and comments.
Communication professionals know when to go heavy and when to go light, when to release news all at once and when to drip-feed. This isn’t a process to follow slavishly, it’s a shift in concept from a single, flat intranet to multiple sub-channels strung on the intranet.
And remember, the depth and breadth of a multi-channel platform should not be confused with complexity, multiple click-throughs and overly hierarchical information. It’s about building self-service, enabling simplicity, and being relevant. Effective internal communications isn’t something you just do when you get a chance. It’s real work. And it requires planning, and it demonstrates commitment to values and employees.
*Home pages vs landing pages
A home page is the page that appears when an employee first opens the intranet. When content is personalized to an employees role or organization, an intranet can have multiple home pages, so that an HR person’s experience of the intranet is different to that of an IT person’s.
A landing page is the main page of a department that everyone can visit. So when you’re told to go to the Legal team on the intranet, the Legal landing page is their ‘welcome to the Legal department’ page, followed by the obligatory ‘mission’ page and team photos.