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Employees don’t want content

Piles of documents and papers.

Employees don’t want content

Your colleagues don’t want content, they want to get something done

I just presented my concerns and hopes for more relevant intranet content at the ‘Digital Workplace Brussels’ conference, to a good-humoured audience of communicators, intranet publishers, and knowledge managers. I suggest you set a reminder for April of next year so you can get tickets to the next one.

It was great to hear how Rabobank moved to Microsoft and brought the IT department into HR! Jan De Nul deployed Valo intranet, while VNZ chose Involv, and interestingly, Carrefour moved off Microsoft and onto Google Workspace! Now to my bit.

The outcome of publishing content shouldn’t just be a good page, it should be work

I don’t want content, I want help to understand something, to do something, to complete a task and achieve my goal.

Content is expensive. Beyond the cost of the intranet, the price of creating and maintaining content is a massive investment, meaning that content is a valuable asset. But the true value is in what good content does for people – what it helps them avoid (mistakes, wasting time) and helps them achieve (self management, task completion). Intranet content should mostly help people get stuff done!

Relevance | Accuracy | Trustworthy | Clarity | Structure | Engaging | Interest | Readability | Comprehension | Actionable | User centred | Audience targeting | Visual appeal | Medium | Format | Shareable | SEO | Scannability | Accessibility | Inclusive | Consistency | Voice | Tone | Value | Problem + Solution | Relatable | Compelling | Authentic | Evergreen V timely | Interactive | Mobile | Multilingual | Measures | Feedback | Discoverability | Research | Links | Review | Maintenance
Slide: Content is hard. You have to keep all this in mind and focus on your priorities.

So the outcome of drafting, reviewing, and publishing guidance, reference material, and ‘how to’ pages isn’t merely a good-looking piece of content – the outcome should be work.

I believe AI within the digital workplace should be a content butler, not a content generator, but there are smart tools that can help you plan your points and spruce up your language. Haiilo already helps authors summarise or expand draft text, and Interact checks vocabulary and suggests ways to make the language more inclusive, for example. I sometimes use ChatGPT to help me think about the important bits of a topic, but anything generated needs careful review and editing to avoid bias and waffle. ChatGPT’s goal is to sound accurate, not be accurate.

The annual content review

Many intranet products and platforms will remind publishers to review content every year or so. When the publisher is not the author or subject-matter expert, this can cause a bit of a bottleneck, but I hope publishers are happy to work with the content ‘owner’ to maintain quality standards.

My worry is that annual reviews are all about checking the accuracy of what’s published. A quick read through and a press of a button. Nothing’s really changed in the business, so ‘click’. Done. Ideally, content review should be about relevancy as much as accuracy. It should be about rigorously improving or ruthlessly reducing the text. I suggest that content review needs to be properly budgeted for, and standards should be set to ensure reviews take longer than 45 seconds. The reviewer needs to consider if the content still addresses a need.

Because, as I’ve said, content is a valuable asset, I’m sure you agree. Which makes me wonder why we throw 75% of it away every time we move to a new intranet system! But content migration is another matter.

It takes a village

Whether you rely on centralised publishing (high quality, slow turnaround) or devolved publishing (lower quality, speedy) improving the intranet and making reference material more actionable and genuinely useful isn’t the job of one person. Yet departments are unlikely to dedicate a person to comms and content; it’s always a part role, a shared responsibility.

So we need a community of practice, a community for the intranet publishers and champions. We need everyone to care about quality standards and layout. This can’t be done with only a PDF guide and some page templates. A shared understanding takes time, so a community where every publisher can learn together is essential. But communities often fail; they’re often so very quiet that when a query is raised it can be missed. So here are the new rules!

Whether you have centralised content management or decentralised (federated) content management, you must engage your comms and content community.
Slide: Engage your comms and content community.

Community management

The new rules for the editor / publisher community:

  • A purpose statement ­– something about shared learning and responsibilities
  • Mandatory members (all publishers) – hopefully they get training and membership
  • Clearly expressed reasons to join ­– for other interested people such as subject-matter experts and project leaders
  • Should be Yammer / Viva Engage but MS Teams is acceptable I suppose
  • Regular webinars – communities need things to coalesce around and to spark discussion
  • Regular actual meetings – to develop relationships and responsibilities as only through R n R (relationships and responsibilities) will things actually get done.

Fix your priority concerns

I completed my talk with seven challenges for the year, and ask that you pick your priority problems or solutions and fix them.

  1. Adopt some Content Design principles and techniques
  2. Go beyond news, and consider reference pages as valuable assets and the main purpose of your intranet
  3. Make news and reference content actionable
  4. Improve the content lifecycle (streamline or standardise the creation and review process, and consider the annual review and end-of-life process)
  5. Build content maintenance into publishers’ regular workloads
  6. Have a framework for saying ‘no’  – categorise news by topic and audience and put content in the right channel (it’s not all for the home page; much can be pushed to social)
  7. Launch (relaunch) your publisher community with regular meetings because you need good relationships – develop good practice together.
Adopt some Content Design principles and techniques
Go beyond news, and consider reference pages as valuable assets
Make content actionable
Improve the content lifecycle (get rid of the ick bits)
Build content maintenance into publishers’ regular workload
Have a framework for saying ‘no’  – categorise by topic and audience and put content in the right channel
Launch (relaunch) your publisher community with meetings – develop good practice together

A little help

Join me in my July webinar to discuss the purpose of intranet content, and review content design principles and techniques.

Wedge Black

I support ClearBox in everything we do online, and I assist clients that are considering redeveloping or replacing their intranet platform. I worked in global and regional organisations as the intranet manager as part of the comms team, before becoming an intranet consultant. I'm the founder of the Intranet Now annual conference. I’ve tweeted about intranets and comms for fifteen years now.

  • David Weir
    Posted at 2:18 am, 9 June, 2023

    I’m excited to tackle some of these challenges – I think starting with some content design principles is the next cab off the rank for our author community 🙂 Thank you for a great inspiring read!

  • Tom Chippendale
    Posted at 5:33 pm, 26 June, 2023

    Thanks Wedge, some really valuable tips!

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