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October 27, 2017

Intranet updates are key to internal communications – Part two

Written by Investis Digital

So after wondering whether or not your internal communications content was serving its purpose, you've scrutinized your stats, held focus groups and sent out user surveys. Results from your intranet audit show that users want a more dynamic, easier-to-navigate site. It's time for intranet updates.

Where do you start? A great first step is to create an action plan. A close second is to lock in the support and budget for the intranet updates from senior management. From there, be sure to touch on the following considerations.

Who's hosting?

Revisit some of the major decisions you've made about your site. Reconsider, for example, where you want to host it. Maybe you've hosted it internally for the last few years, but your audit revealed your company just doesn't have the capacity to handle the updates and security necessary for a robust site.

More and more companies are moving to cloud-based hosting services, where an outside company manages their intranets for them. Experts liken it to renting an apartment versus owning your house. Like renting, when you use a cloud-based service, it's someone else's job to repair things when they break. Forbes reports that 28 percent of all enterprise software solutions provided will be cloud-based by 2018.

The right structure

Once you've figured out hosting, consider how you want to restructure your site. Many first-generation intranets are designed along organizational lines, where business groups manage their own sections of the site. But users often find this design confusing. Organizing your site instead by subject or activity can be more intuitive.

Design is also key. Keep your home page simple and uncluttered, while providing users with an easy-to-understand road map of where to go to get the information they need. Remember your goals. Maybe you want employees to read three corporate blogs a week and update their profile once a quarter. Make it easy for them to do that. And don't forget that one goal of intranets is to reduce email traffic. How can your design to help you accomplish that?

Content that looks appealing is more engaging and will get more clicks. Consider including more videos or photo galleries that users can click through. Work with your company's user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) and tech experts to determine what your system can support. There's no use drawing up fancy interactive designs if your system can't handle them.

Find your style

After you've decided on hosting, structure and design, it's time to focus on content. You'll need to make tough decisions about which pages to get rid of. While you will be able to migrate existing content to your new site, be firm. If no one takes ownership of a page, consider leaving it off the new site.

You may find you need to rewrite some existing content. If you don't already have an intranet style guide, now is a great time to create one. Only 21 percent of communicators say they keep their language simple and free of jargon, according to the UK blog of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). But well-written content will get more traffic.

Before you launch your updated intranet, establish new processes for further updating the site. Who's responsible for creating blogs? Who updates the vacation calendar? Get it all in writing and share with staff so that everyone understands their role. High-performing organizations are 80 percent more likely to establish a procedure for generating effective corporate stories, according to the IABC.

Promote your intranet updates

Once all these pieces are in place, it's time to promote your intranet updates. Organize a launch that includes an intranet article outlining the site's benefits for employees. When Pennsylvania State University launched its intranet, it created a series of posters that shared little-known facts about employees, which piqued interest in the site's employee profiles.

Other companies have created launch videos, run intranet scavenger hunts and created a "no-meeting day" so that employees can spend time exploring the intranet. Consider putting your site on the big screen — the television in your reception area, for example — during launch week. Whatever you do, build excitement around the new site. It's contagious, and it will help make your intranet updates a success.

Deborah Blumberg has more than 15 years' experience writing business and finance topics for The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, The Christian Science Monitor and Newsday. She was a Knight Center fellow and a Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism fellow and is a founder and co-president of the Texas chapter of American Society of Journalists and Authors.

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