The intranet is supposed to be a one-stop shop for employees to get all the information they need—but it’s worthless to employees unless you actually use it with a purpose. Why go to the effort of writing a feature on the employee of the month if only that employee reads it?
A survey of internal communicators suggests 44 percent do not have an internal communication strategy. Yet without a carefully designed strategy, your intranet can easily become a random dumping ground for articles that fail to resonate. Employees shouldn’t have to go to your intranet for information—they should want to.
Intranets are perfect for storing communication that’s relevant to your employees. You can post content like industry articles so they’re aware of what’s going on in the world around them and how it directly impacts the work they do and the people they interact with. Other content might support outside-the-box thinking that employees can use in their own work—or maybe it ignites an entirely new idea.
Intranet content should be informational, sure, but it must also be engaging, and it must help reinforce your organizational values. Let’s start with the last piece first.
How to write content that reinforces organizational values
Promoting the organization’s values should be the very first thing you consider. Why? By nailing down your values and objectives as an organization, you can then prioritize the information your employees need to know while also making it engaging for your internal audience.
Asking the right questions will frame the strategy in your mind.
First, establish whom you’re trying to reach. Of course, it’s not about titles and roles of your audience—you already know that information. A good strategy is more about audience personas, or psychographics, which, as CB Insights puts it, “focuses on understanding cognitive attributes, such as customer emotions, values, and attitudes, among other psychological factors.” These factors are not always easy to pin down.
What do employees value? What are their motivations? Are they prone to accepting new changes or are you going to have to convince them of an initiative’s value?
You can find this psychographic information through a quick poll, with a link to a survey, or with a great intranet platform. By searching through posts and comments to gather insights on key stakeholders, you can find an enormous amount of information that’s difficult to quantify but is nonetheless helpful for creating content. Maybe your sales team responds well to customer case studies, while HR specialists prefer thought leadership pieces. The types of content you create should inspire engagement.
With these answers in mind, you’re able to answer the next set of questions around goals and objectives. For example, say you want to emphasize good behavior to build a sustainable culture. You can help create a great culture through consistent communication, where you discuss with your employees their performance, expectations, rewards and recognition.
So, now that you have a sneak peek into creating content around your audience and your organization’s values, how do you write informational content?
How to write informational content
Get to the point quickly. That’s the key takeaway from this section. According to data from NewsCred, the average time spent reading an article or blog is about 37 seconds. Even that estimate is probably generous.
Think about writing content like a journalist. You’ve probably heard of the journalistic style of writing in an inverted pyramid, like this example from the University of Leicester. This means you start with the most critical information first, answering questions like who, what, when, where, how and why. Your employees are busy, and they need to get on with their day jobs without spending a ton of time reading your content.
I don’t mean to be curt, but the truth is that the content you’re publishing on your intranet is likely far less interesting than what’s in The New York Times, or the deluge of work-related emails, or messages from friends and family. Pair that with the literally hundreds or thousands of messages they receive every day through marketing, chats, apps and everything else, and you can start to understand why you must get your readers to the important bits as soon as possible.
The rest of the pyramid is helpful as well: After the critical information, you can supply relevant (but essential) details, and then move onto supplemental and background information. This helps establish what content is most valuable to the employee.
There are also more ways to communicate than just articles. Sometimes the most informational way to communicate might be a short video, especially for things like announcements. You could target your more visually inclined audience with videos like this, or charts, graphs, photos, and much more.
How to write engaging content
Now that we’ve established how to write the information your readers need quickly, we can talk about what makes some communications more interesting than others. With so much out there bombarding your employees all the time—like we mentioned earlier—what separates your content from everyone else’s?
In light of failing newspapers and flagging media revenues, many journalists have been arguing in publications like Harvard’s Nieman Lab about how to write content that’s worth paying for.
That’s the key to writing engaging content for your organization: Would your employees pay to read this? Although the answer to that question is usually “no,” thinking about it as you’re writing helps put a little zing in the prose. Think of your content as a knife cutting through all the humdrum messages your employees receive on a daily basis.
Other questions to consider are: What types of articles help employees with their day jobs? What would drive them to go to the corporate intranet for news, announcements, or simply a story that invites them to not only click but read through to the end? Is it the topic, or is it the way it’s presented? Is it related to the industry, or is it passed on from someone they know? Answering these questions will help narrow down how to communicate in a more engaging way.
Another tip for internal communication departments is to adopt a “challenger” approach. This comes from research by Gartner called The Challenger Sales Model. Of course, you’re not in sales per se, but in a way, you are selling something—important information—and you need your employees to “buy” it from you.
One of the ways to do that is to provide what they call “commercial teaching.” This approach uses the “understanding of their customers’” businesses to deliver new insights and drive their thinking in new and different ways. They bring new ideas, like how to save money or avoid risk, that the customer hadn’t previously considered or fully appreciated on their own. Substitute “customers” with “employees” in that paragraph, and you’ll get an idea of how to develop this approach in your internal communication.
Be purposeful, be brief and be insightful
Employees use intranets in lots of different ways, from knowing what other employees are doing to getting company announcements to diving deeper into a new employee program. The intranet is more than just a communication tool. It’s a resource.
With these tips in mind, you can leverage your intranet’s communications in ways that will keep your employees coming back again and again, not because they have to, but because they want to.