There is no denying that over the years, we have become increasingly more reliant on email. We use it to sell products, provide customer support, communicate with coworkers, and more.
But is this approach truly working to our benefit?
Could reducing our email use actually help us create a more productive business environment?
Since 2015, the average amount of business email received on a daily basis has grown by 3% annually. In fact, studies show that the average corporate employee currently receives 129 emails per day.
Because email is so speedy and simple to use, it often becomes a default communication method. By using it for everything — including processes that it isn’t best suited for — we reduce the time savings and ease of use.
Think about how difficult it is to find that one attachment in a month-long correspondence, or how many emails it takes to arrange one simple meeting.
Many messages that end up in business inboxes don’t even pertain to the recipient, but it still takes time to open the message and see that it’s a thank you to someone else from another department.
Given the volume and default use of email, slogging through inboxes consumes a significant number of man-hours regardless of how quickly an employee processes them. Furthermore, if the trend continues, this figure will only increase.
Completely eliminating email simply isn’t advisable in today’s business world, though. Email represents a default mode of communication and file transmission for many businesses. Addresses are easy to get and create, and sending a message takes only the click of a button. Eliminating its use altogether would create a disadvantage in the marketplace.
However, alternative internal communications systems present a unique opportunity to trim down those 129 messages a day to a more reasonable number. By moving these messages to a format other than email, you’ll increase productivity among your employees, who won’t have their workflow interrupted as frequently by the ding of a new message in their inboxes.
You’ll also reduce file confusion that comes with passing different drafts around by email and trying to keep track of the necessary changes to the master copy.
Evaluating Your Communication Needs
The reality is that there isn’t one industry leader when it comes to email alternatives. Instead, there are a variety of options, each with its own advantages.
Making the right selection is a matter of evaluating your internal email traffic and selecting the option that best fits your business.
Some options focus on streamlined communications, offering private messaging or chat functions to keep your employees talking without consistently defaulting to email. You may also find that reducing or eliminating internal email use makes your employees more likely to communicate face-to-face, increasing camaraderie and further building a team environment.
Or, if your company relies on team collaboration, and the bulk of your email chatter consists of everyone trying desperately to stay on the same page, you might consider an email alternative with a project management focus.
A project management system gives all of the files, messages, and media a place to live, and employees can drop in at any time to access the same materials that would have been delivered to their inbox piece-by-piece. This approach provides the added advantage of organizing this material by topic and also ensuring that all employees are working from the most current documents.
Available options are as simple as task cards that track current ownership of a given task, or as complicated as full-scale project management maps, depending on your needs.
7 Great Alternatives to Email
Once you’ve identified your needs, making the switch is simply a matter of selecting the alternative that eliminates the biggest time suckers for your business. The following list of email alternatives includes options frequently recommended by users. We winnowed this list down to seven email alternatives that offer unique features to give you an overview of the wide variety of choices available to meet your specific needs.
Contrary to popular belief, this software isn’t just for video chatting. Skype presents an ideal scaled-down or beginner option for business owners to try reducing their reliance on email.
How will Skype reduce your email usage?
If your email is cluttered with one-off attempts at emailing groups to gain a quick consensus, Skype allows your employees to initiate video or voice chats with the press of a button. A simple instant messaging platform allows them to communicate directly with single employees or create group conversations to coordinate larger projects.
You can share files via instant message or share your screen during calls to communicate essential information without cluttering inboxes.
Calls can even be recorded to reduce the need for transcription and make sure all information is available to participants later.
Given its simplicity, Skype may be an ideal option for you if your business is smaller and you need all of your employees to remain in the loop on most topics.
The standard version is free, although Skype for Business also offers additional services, such as cloud file storage, for a monthly fee. Skype comes pre-installed on many devices these days, and its cross-platform versatility makes it a good choice for any business.
According to its website, Slack has over 12 million daily users, and it’s easy to see why. This collaboration hub offers many of the same communications options as Skype, with a bit more organizational complexity.
Like Skype, Slack is easy-to-install and quick to get started without an extensive amount of setup or onboarding. With desktop and app options, employees can remain in contact regardless of their location.
Slack provides a variety of features to reduce your email volume. Like Skype, it can be used for voice or video calls to answer questions on the spot. But Slack offers a few elements that Skype lacks.
Slack can interact with other apps, which gives you more options for keeping your employees up to date on other relevant conversations and project developments. It also offers more customizable messaging and interface options to better duplicate email’s capabilities. Channels can be used to organize discussions (similar to groups in Skype).
These features make Slack a good choice for companies that need to post a wider variety of information or information from a variety of software sources.
Slack offers free and paid options depending on your needs and the size of your company.
Microsoft bills Yammer as a social enterprise network, and it’s available on PC, Mac, and mobile devices as a part of Office 365.
Yammer adds another layer of complexity in comparison to the above options. It feels a bit like a Facebook hub for your business, where employees can crowdsource, collaborate, and communicate.
Yammer reduces inbox clutter by giving employees laser-focused control over the content they see. Employees can create or follow groups to get work done with a team. They can also follow specific people within your organization, facilitating information flow between collaborators.
Yammer allows your employees to share files and media and target their recipients. And polls help to collect information without a long email chain.
For larger companies with significant internal traffic, the Yammer inbox and Discovery feed help draw attention to the material employees need to see.
Complex businesses with large numbers of employees and a variety of projects to juggle may find Yammer to be a perfect fit.
Yammer comes with the Office 365 suite, so your company may already have access to this software.
Jive calls itself an “interactive intranet.” This means that it offers an extensive list of features and capabilities to replace a wide variety of apps and programs. This makes Jive one of the more comprehensive and complex options on this list.
If you’re looking for a custom organizational network with all of the bells and whistles, this may be the choice for you. Given its custom nature, it will take some setup and onboarding, but Jive users say that the payoff is worth the wait.
For Jive, the question isn’t “how does it reduce email?” It’s more “what doesn’t it do?” because the software covers all of your intranet bases. If you do want to retain some of your favorite apps such as Gmail, Sharepoint, Google Hangouts, or Salesforce, Jive will work with them to create a one-stop-shop.
It provides a huge list of features, from messaging and polls to internally hosted wikis and forums. With Jive, you can post blogs, ask the experts, collaborate on files, and more.
Analytics help you see how your employees are engaging with information, helping you to communicate essential content more effectively. Jive also offers the option to invite outside collaborators or clients to view pertinent information safely and securely.
If you’re looking for an all-encompassing internal hub for a large and complex business, Jive may be the answer you seek.
Given its complexity, Jive does not offer a free option, but since it replaces so many other apps and software options, you may still achieve overall cost savings by using it.
Trello approaches the communication question from the project management side. After all, every internal communication within your company is tied to some kind of deliverable, whether that’s getting a report to your client or putting a meeting on the calendar.
Trello organizes material on deliverable-specific cards, which can be assigned to employees, given due dates, and organized into lists. These cards can be commented on to keep the information that pertains to that task all in one place, and they can be moved and reassigned as they progress through your workflow.
Like Skype and Slack, Trello is easy to install and quick to bring employees on board. The big difference here is that the organizational focus is on the tasks, with all communication tied to a specific goal.
If a more simple project-based communication approach appeals to you, Trello may be a good fit.
Trello is free to start, although paid options with significantly increased features are offered. Business Class and Enterprise users benefit from increased security features, customization options, notifications, and app integration.
ProofHub also takes a project management focused approach to reduce email, but this option is significantly more complex than Trello. In ProofHub, tasks can be associated with each other to create an automated workflow that keeps projects moving — and notifies you when they don’t.
ProofHub provides discussion threads and calendars to keep both your employees and your organization organized without multiple back-and-forth emails. Integrated file storage, billable hour tracking, direct messaging, and project reports help to communicate essential project information. Kanban boards, Gantt charts, custom roles and workflows, and task and role assignments help you customize projects and keep all of your employees on the same page.
This software will provide much-needed assistance to companies that juggle multiple, multi-faceted projects.
Although ProofHub lacks a free option, the paid packages replace a variety of project management tools while also reducing email flow. All packages are priced with flat fees and unlimited users.
At The Writers for Hire, we use Wrike as an email replacement. Although Wrike doesn’t make most of the recommended lists, we highly recommend it as a project-management focused solution to communications.
Wrike is a project-organized communication and monitoring option most similar to ProofHub with integrated time tracking and file storage. It does an excellent job of coordinating our large group of writers and stable of projects to ensure that we remain on task — without cluttering our inboxes!
For some, the term wiki conjures up images of an online encyclopedia. For others their first thought is of leaked documents, exposed government secrets, and confidential information. The word itself is actually a Hawaiian term that simply means quick. But, if you have a business with offices in multiple locations, or you utilize remote workers, you should get to know the wiki on a more personal level.
Wikis are a valuable communication tool that are relatively easy to set up. Of course, you probably use several forms of communication within your company already. Why do you need another?
But wikis are not just another portal for corporate communication, yet one more inbox for you to check. In fact, they are quite a lot more, and might be the solution for the limitations inherent to some of the tools you are probably using now:
Websites are mostly for the benefit of your customer. They are outward facing, and function primarily as an arm of your marketing department.
Intranet or Internal Website
This tool is inward facing—it speaks to your employees—but the information is usually non-collaborative.
Blogs are an example of one-direction or hierarchical communication. Information goes down, but it is not passed back up. They also can be time-consuming and costly from a payroll perspective.
Email is the most widely used method of communication in most offices, which means it can be overwhelming. Time-sensitive and urgent messages go unnoticed in clogged inboxes.
Wikis distinguish themselves from these other forms of communication because they take the best qualities of the above tools and merge them into one simple platform. With only four basic operations: edit, write, link, and save—wikis are easy to use. They are also searchable, dynamic (changeable), collaborative (multiple users can contribute to the conversation) and can include hyperlinks to other relevant pages both within the wiki, and out to the internet.
For these reasons, wikis have become the go-to communication solution for many businesses. But what are the best ways to use your company wiki?
Some of the most common ways to use a wiki:
Many companies are now using wikis as the place to store and access vital corporate documents such as forms, company processes, and employee handbooks. The reason they are turning, more and more, away from the intranet and toward the wiki is because of the relative ease and distributive quality of updating information. These features help keep the knowledge bank relevant with the most current versions and processes.
Onboarding New Employees
Wikis can be a valuable tool in onboarding new employees faster and easier. Keeping large files like the employee handbook and policies and procedures manuals within the knowledge bank saves time and resources that would otherwise be used for printing. Beyond that, however, wikis can link out to other training tools such as videos and quizzes for tracking progress, they can include invitations for collaboration, as well as provide for real-time responses from supervisors and corporate trainers, even if off-site.
Rather than having a printed or digital copy of an FAQ sheet, the wiki FAQ functions more like an ongoing conversation. Both questions and answers can be frequently updated, as often as is necessary, with limited waste of time and other resources.
Project Management Communication Central
When wikis are used as the main hub for project management communication, they are a collaborative space to collect ideas, track progress, and provide visible updates for the entire team. Each team member contributes to the conversation and stays current, all without clogging up email inboxes.
Brain Trust for Key Employee Essential Information
When key employees are promoted from within, or move on to external career opportunities, their job-specific knowledge does not have to leave with them. Many companies are using an internal wiki as an easily updateable brain trust for those key employees to leave behind valuable information for the next person who fills the role. This makes for faster assimilation for the new employee, even if an outside hire, because they do not have to start from ground zero. They have a job-specific knowledge bank to draw from beginning on day #1.
Each of these uses are time-saving, email box unclogging, team project friendly ideas, that make using wikis a good choice over blogs, emails, and even intranets. In many instances, all of the other platforms can be completely replaced with one combined purpose wiki, eliminating clutter, chaos, and miscommunication.
Some companies out there are getting even more creative, and have found outside-of-the-box ways to use their internal wiki in new ways for new reasons.
Creative Uses for Wikis:
Ongoing Corporate Training
Some companies are using their internal wiki quite extensively for ongoing corporate training. Beyond the basics of onboarding for new employees, the classroom applications for wikis are almost unlimited.
- Wikis are so well organized and easy to navigate; very little direction is needed to get students started.
- Training can be accessed from any location around the world, and from any web or mobile device.
- Pages as simple as a glossary of terms, to as complex as 3D architectural renderings, can be added without the cost and hassle of printing and are available to all attendees.
- Students also have the ability to contribute to and modify the content, which opens up the classroom to discussion and teambuilding exercises.
- Once the training is over, the wiki can be used for tests, assessments, course reviews, links to other relevant sites, and follow-up beyond the classroom.
Service industry and related businesses are using wikis to collect real-time customer reviews and feedback. By adding an outward facing portal, businesses can conduct on-the-spot assessments and instantly see how their customers are responding. Using a wiki eliminates the need for an outside application or an internal web development project, so the set-up is quick and easy. This can be especially helpful during promotions, or when trying out new and experimental products or services. Managers can see the results immediately, and can make alterations on the fly, if necessary.
Perhaps the most creative use for an internal wiki that we found was the example of a high-end restaurant that is utilizing one in the kitchen. Using the wiki platform, a real-time updated kitchen inventory, much like a running grocery list, is accessible and modifiable by the entire staff. If a line chef runs out of a particular ingredient, or the hostess notices a particular dish is extremely popular that day, the wiki is updated, and the manager knows immediately. They are also using it as a database for the master chef’s unique and specialty recipes. When alterations and substitutions are made, no matter the daily or weekly specials, the kitchen staff always stays informed. While there may be software packages available that would provide many of these same functions, the restaurant chose to use this simple to use and mostly free option that works really well.
As a communication tool, the wiki really stands alone in its versatility. Wikis can help eliminate unnecessary emails while still keeping remote employees and multiple offices updated on company news. They can be used as a repository for voluminous mostly static documents, as well as a hub for idea-sharing and team-project management.
But what really sets the wiki apart from other tools, including an intranet or even custom software, is that they are easy to set up, easy to use, customizable to your company’s needs, accessible from any location, and extremely cost-efficient.
Are you using an internal wiki in your business? If so, what are some of the best ways to use your company wiki that you’ve discovered?
It’s no secret that shorter paragraphs on web pages makes for easier reading.
But, did you know that shorter webpages are nearly 60% more usable?
Additionally, tweaking your copy and re-writing it to be more concise, scannable, and objective can increase the usability to 124%!
According to this interesting article from Wylie Communications, by simply cutting down on the amount of words you use and getting rid of some of the unnecessary clutter, your readers actually retain more information and are far more likely to read through your entire webpage.
The article also gives some great pointers on how to make your webpage more Web and Mobile friendly.
Your files are inventoried and you know exactly which ones you’ll migrate to your DAM solution, but there is one more thing you need to do: optimize that all-important metadata so your system will function as you need it to.
Let’s start by defining what metadata is and talk about why it’s so important to the functionality of DAM.
What is Metadata?
Metadata is what allows users to find, retrieve, edit, and share content.
Kevin Gavin, CMO at Canto.com sums it up nicely. “Metadata is information about the digital asset that makes it easy to search and filter in order to organize and manage large collections of digital assets,” he says. “Standard metadata for images, for example, include things like the date, time, and location that a photo is taken as well as the camera and resolution.”
Amy Chan, SR Product Marketing Manager at Extensis says “Metadata is the underpinning of an effective digital asset management system. Without a good process in place,” she says. “a DAM can fall short of its effectiveness.”
Most metadata fall into these 3 categories:
This type of data helps manage your content and includes things like the date it was created, who created it, and who should have access to it.
Having the right descriptive metadata helps users find the content they’re looking for. Some of the descriptive data to include in this are the title of the content, the author, and keywords. A keyword is what an end user types into the system to find content. For example, by typing “DAM” into the system, the user would see content related to that subject. Gavin says a keyword list can include as few as a dozen or up to hundreds of keywords, depending on what the DAM administrator determines. Additional keywords can also be added as the system grows.
Rights Management Metadata
When you include metadata that shows the copyright status and licensing provisions of your content, it will identify how and where it can be used. Gavin says that digital rights management is built into DAMs and “can be tracked at the individual asset level.
What is a Metadata Schema?
A metadata schema, according to Chan, “is the framework or concept that helps organize and interpret information.
It is your structure and the list of fields (such as: date, author, name, subject, etc.) that you would like your catalogs to contain.
This helps define how people add, categorize, search, and understand assets.” In other words, a metadata schema is the structure you use to organize your metadata.
Chan recommends organizing information into 3 buckets:
- Crucial information:Information you need to have about your assets. Make this a mandatory field for anyone cataloging your digital files. In an example workflow of a sports photographer for a university, crucial metadata could include: » Event » Subject » Photographer » EXIF metadata’]
- Nice to have information: Data that you would prefer to have, but it’s not essential in your workflow. Following our previous example, this could include: » Full description of photo » Opposing team
- Negligible information: Information that you could live without, but it does not hurt to capture. Examples: » Final score of game » Relevant keywords’]
When and How to Add Metadata to Your Files
You will have the choice of uploading your metadata as is, or editing it before you migrate to your new DAM solution.
“Some metadata is added when an image is created such as the time, location, camera, and settings of photographs and they are tied to the file,” says Gavin. “Other metadata is custom and gets added along the way.”
He believes the more metadata that is added and the earlier it’s done, the better.
But he says that metadata should always be retrieved and migrated.
“It is a judgement call if it is worth the work to go back and add metadata to old files,” he says. “The more the files are used and needed, the more important it is to have metadata so that they are more easily found when conducting a search of the metadata.”
If you’re confidant that the existing metadata is good, your DAM solution probably has the capability to automatically import it when ingesting the files.
On the other hand, if you want to change or expand the metadata, you can choose to do that before migrating or afterwards.
Once you get a clear picture of the metadata that exists on your assets, you can determine whether or not you will need to edit or add to it.
There are some widely used open source tools that help edit and manage metadata such as EXIFTool and Python. Both of these tools can be used on Windows and Mac computers.
If you would rather add the metadata using the tools on your Windows PC before uploading to a DAM, you’ll have to create an Excel spreadsheet.
In this case, you would create a spreadsheet listing all of the files, and then create columns for each metadata field you want to create. You can create as many fields as you want.
Next, you can embed some of the metadata directly into the document, or use the spreadsheet as a guide while you’re migrating the content to the new DAM.
To embed the keyword metadata directly into the Word document, follow these steps:
- Use the “Save As” function.
- After you’ve typed in the file name, click on “Add a tag” underneath it.
- Add tags or keywords related to the file. These tags will become part of the metadata associated with the file.
If you’re adding metadata to images on a PC, use Adobe’s Bridge to help embed the data directly into the photo.
If you decide that your metadata needs editing, once it’s complete you should export all of the newly revised metadata to a .CSV file so you’ll be able to ingest the entire batch to your DAM.
Keep in mind that if you add metadata to your files on a Windows Machine, you will need to update the files one by one.
On the other hand, it’s possible to embed metadata to your files in batches if you do it while migrating to a DAM.
Once you get a clear picture of the metadata that exists on your assets, you can determine whether or not you will need to edit or add to it.
Bringing it All Together: How Preliminary Work Will help you Choose the Right DAM Solution
Doing the preliminary work will give you a better idea of what you need from a DAM solution, and that will help in the selection process.
Chan stresses that “The long-term success and adoption of a DAM starts with the foundation you put in place in the early stages.”
In other words when you take the time to define your workflow, structure, and metadata practices, you’ll ensure your DAM is set up for success.
But she says success also requires best practices be put into place after the migration as well.
“Ensuring the guidelines are clear to all users is imperative for maintaining the effectiveness of the system,” she says. “Some companies will hire a digital asset librarian to manage this foundation. At a minimum, having a person to champion this infrastructure is key.”
Your company’s hiring manager has a great human-interest story about a group of employees who donated vacation days to help out a sick co-worker. She shared the story in an email the people in her department — but the story never found its way to the company’s social media director. Nobody outside of the HR office heard about it.
An engineer from your company just presented an award-winning whitepaper at a global conference. Your clients would benefit a lot from the information, and it could even be re-purposed into a great editorial for an industry publication. There’s one problem, though: The paper hasn’t found its way to the marketing team.
Your company’s VP of marketing creates a beautiful, informative new brochure — but half of the company doesn’t know it exists. The sales department starts writing a totally new brochure. The CEO starts writing another one. None of the new brochures look or sound alike.
We could go on — but you probably see where we’re going with this: communication gaps lead to missed opportunities, duplicated work, and wasted time and resources. This happens with all sizes of companies, in every industry. Everyone assumes that they’re communicating and sharing, but they’re often unaware of what’s going on in other departments.
But how do you close those gaps? How do you ensure that your company’s departments are communicating and sharing information?
Here are a few strategies to help you improve communication across all of your company’s teams and departments:
1. Establish a point person/content manager to keep track of all content, across all departments. This person should be responsible for keeping up with everything from digital and print ads to whitepapers and editorial content to internal newsletters.
2. Invest in digital asset management software. If you need a starting point, check out the solutions provided by Widen Collective, Brandfolder, and Libris. All three solutions have high customer satisfaction ratings and are designed to be user-friendly. Widen’s VP of Marketing Jake Athey cites Widen’s depth of design, highly integrated platform, and responsive service. Brandfolder incorporates a “visually elegant UI” and a “unique twist on folder hierarchy,” according to Product Marketing Manager Laura Hamel.
On a budget? You can even use free cloud storage options like Google Drive. Whatever you choose, make sure that you organize your content in a way that that makes sense and is easy to search/browse.
3. Spread the word. Once you’ve got a point person and a cloud-based library in place, it’s time to let everyone know about it. Use email, intranet, and/or your company’s internal social media accounts. Include important information like the name and contact information for your new content manager and login info for your storage system.
4. Establish a “communicate before creating content” policy. Encourage everyone to check in with your content management point person before starting a new project. A simple Skype message like, “Hey I need X type of content”, or “Do we have a brochure about X?” should help cut down on duplicate work. You could also use your company’s intranet to share and exchange quick updates about the content you need, the content you have, and share any other useful information.
5. Consider project management software.
If your company creates a lot of content, a project tracking tool might be a good investment. Tweet thisProject management software allows real-time collaboration, and it helps ensure that everyone is on the same page. Web-based project management tools such as Asana, Wrike, Basecamp, or Trello) are ideal for workforces that are dispersed across geographic regions. To learn more, read reviews, and compare platforms, g2crowd.com is a handy resource.
6. Have monthly or quarterly and check-in calls. Your content manager should conduct regularly scheduled calls with key people from each department to ensure that everyone is in the loop about new or updated content.
7. Keep your content up to date. It’s important to review your content library periodically. This will give you a good opportunity to update, discard, and revise your content as needed.
Deciding on Content for Your Intranet
What makes you want to open your morning news source? A shrieking headline?
A New York Times Morning Briefing text every five minutes on your IPhone?
The latest from your local journal?
Answer: you open, turn on, watch, or buy the news because you’re looking for something that peaks your interest. Maybe even something you can’t afford to miss.
That’s what you’re going to offer on your intranet.
And although you can’t use screaming headlines to lure people to your homepage, you can offer plenty of legitimate content-bling, more than enough to make everyone from the CEO to the stock boy want to check in at least once a day.
On an intranet, content is the star of the show. No question that the co-star is superb engineering. Without it, content is nothing.
And great graphics improve the experience exponentially. But content is what keeps the crowd coming.
That’s why decisions about what content, how often it will appear, how much space it will be given are made long before the site goes live. And knowing what your audience wants and needs will help your intranet team make some of those decisions.
As far as the ‘what’ of content goes, Christie Atkins of the Thought Farmer says four favorite intranet features with employees are:
- company success stories, written up in detail with all the team names and accomplishments so everyone can share in the win
- an event section, whether it’s internal or something nearby in the community
- a humor section where people can share memes, gifs, videos and jokes
- job postings
Chris Charlwood of Simple Intranet listed another five:
- an Employee Directory—profiles with photographs and some personal information—for ease of contacting one another
- a file repository that provides a powerful search function for content, allowing people to access information more readily
- HR forms that can be filled out online
- real-time activity feeds that permit commenting and empower employees to share what they are doing. This also provides a venue for thanking colleagues who went above and beyond in helping out.
- interactive tools that keep employees engaged such as surveys, feedback forums, or wikis.
Other interactive features can include threaded discussions, Q & A forums, competitions, and micro blogs.
Entire intranet sections are sometimes set aside for
- training and educational opportunities
- executive communications
- document libraries
- corporate news
Intranet content is as diverse as the companies and organizations that host them. The more networking you do, the more you’ll find out what unique features and devices other intranet teams have created.
Writing for Your Intranet
Okay, putting some of the above features onto your intranet will only involve transferring digital data. But some will involve actual writing.
And you and your Intranet team probably don’t have staff writers.
You have busy HR professionals, trainers, accountants, and coders. Perhaps you even have mechanics, pastry chefs and airline pilots.
And you are asking them to produce a regular amount of intranet copy in a lively consistent style.
Hmmmm. Big ask. Other than offering fresh cookie rewards, these ideas may help:
- Encourage your writers to stick to a few basic rules of style (punctuation and usage) to give the site some consistency. A good resource is the AP Style Guide.
- Subscribe to the shorter-is-better concept: shorter words, shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs. (Note: Not necessarily shorter content.)
- Don’t write for your college professor. Write for a fifth-grader. Microsoft Word helps you do that; see The Writers for Hire blog titled ‘Word Tip of the Week: Using the Readability Feature.’
- Cut back on the adjectives and other descriptives in general, unless you’re sharing your trip to Botswana.
- Don’t ramble on. Before you start writing, ask yourself, “What am I trying to say here?” And then, just say it. Keep it simple.
- Let your personality shine through! Presumably, you are not required to be anonymous.
- Use plenty of graphics.
- Update! Update! Update! Keep your particular task area fresh. Don’t let readers see the same thing week after week. I know you can think of something new to say!
- Make it relevant! Irrelevant content was the No.1 gripe among Intranet Haters polled in 2017. Keep it real!
A word to administrators. Producing good content, whether it’s writing, editing, proofing, or updating, is time consuming.
So, a strategy for accommodating employees tasked with this new responsibility—post launch—must be developed.
Success for the shiny, new intranet means giving writers adequate time to attend to their new intranet duties, be it researching, writing, editing or updating.
If your stable of newly christened writers are a little wobbly, help is at hand.
- First of all, be sure they have the technical skills needed to upload copy.
- Next, schedule a half-day writer’s workshop, presented by a professional writer.
- Offer one-one-one training from a professional who can help inexperienced writers organize materials and produce copy more easily.
- Create easy-to-use templates with goals for each piece and instructions on types of information required for each content area.
- Set doable deadlines that are agreed to by the subject matter experts (SMEs), and give SMEs a reason to meet those deadlines. Tying content to a real time event – even if it’s just a weekly announcement giving kudos or mini-awards to contributing authors, can help encourage your SMEs to push through to the finish line.
The Graphics: How Your Site Looks
Think of your intranet visuals as the cover on the book, the headlines above the fold, the landscaping in your front yard, the façade of a retail store.
The exterior is not where the real stuff is, but it does invite you in.
And even more important, like Ikea’s endless aisles, if the exterior is enticing, it might just lure you deeper into the interior!
“Don’t spend all the time and effort planning out your intranet and coming up with content strategy just to stumble because it doesn’t look pretty,” advises Carlos Ruiz, Phase2 Account Director. He warns that sometimes out-of-the-box solutions lack the ‘wow’ factor companies are looking for.
But beyond simple esthetics, the visual appeal of your intranet can be extremely important when it comes to building a lasting relationship your users.
Think of the many Websites you’ve been exposed to.
Each site is meant to influence a visitor’s psychological state of mind as well as impart information.
Designers will tell you that’s because the colors, the lines, the slant of the curves, the movement of the eye either to the left or the right, or up or down, are all calculated to please a particular audience.
It’s no different with a company intranet.
It sends a visual message about who you are as a corporate entity and it adds to the value of your corporate brand.
Equally important, good graphic design increases the usability of a site, helping to keep navigation simple,
No doubt when you’re in the planning stages, you’d like to take a look at other intranets to get a feeling for visuals that appeals to you.
But unlike print materials, and Websites, you can’t view intranets and say, “Hey, I like the visual feeling of that one.”
Intranets are, by nature, private.
However, you can catch a glimpse of other intranets by ordering The Neilson Norman Group’s Intranet Design Annual: 2018.
This 463-page report has detailed information about its ten prize-winners for the year including 155 full-color screenshots of before-and-after designs, which are usually protected behind the organization’s firewall.
Think about it.
When it’s done, your intranet site will be an amazing communications channel with usability and features that would have been impossible even a few years ago.
Serving multiple objectives and reaching a broad audience, its many features will function in a variety of ways that that owe their existence to constantly improving technology.
At the very least, your intranet will be easy to use, pleasant to look at, make work faster for your employees, give them a greater sense of engagement, and a greater voice in the company as a whole.
Pretty cool, huh?