HOW TO BUILD A SUCCESSFUL INTRANET

You and your company have already made the decision. This is your intranet vision: a dynamic, collaborative experience that is

Possible? One-hundred percent. It’s been successfully achieved by countless organizations. But one thing they all agree on—whether you’re a big company with thousands of employees worldwide, or a small company with a few offices scattered across the state—is that embarking on Project Intranet is not to be done lightly.  So, let’s get started.

Strategic Planning for an Intranet

 

1. Decide: Go or No Go

On the Plus Side for Project Intranet

Is an intranet a foregone conclusion?  Maybe not, but connecting with employees is. The Deloitte University Press in its 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends listed employee experience as a central theme and a primary challenge for human resources departments across the country. And for companies eager to help employees engage with company culture, intranets are the obvious channel.

  • TIP: Millennials in particular are looking for ways to connect as employees. Values matter and they report wanting to have a sense of purpose in the workplace and greater insight into company goals.

 

More Pluses: Standard but Sooo So Satisfying

When basic information, standard to every company, becomes easily available with a minimum of hassle, everyone breathes a sigh of relief.

  • HR materials
  • Benefits forms
  • Training manuals
  • Insurance forms

 

Even More Pluses

  • Cost savings (if the new intranet solution is cheaper than old communication hardware and software)
  • Higher productivity from employees who feel more engaged
  • Higher earnings as a result of higher productivity
  • Better knowledge management
  • Better corporate security

 

On the Minus Side for Project Intranet

But before you become too accustomed to those rose-colored glasses, take a hard look at the less pleasant realities.

1. Cost of software and hardware

2. Cost of labor at outset and ongoing

  • Teams from each department must be trained to contribute content and staff must understand all the technical aspects of the intranet. Without effective training, implementation can actually hinder the employees’ ability to perform well.
  • Routine maintenance is a must and is another aspect that consumes time.
  • There must be intranet overseers who are constantly on guard for the uploading of excessive information that causes confusion. If navigation and organization of the intranet is affected, productivity can be impacted.
  • Even out-of-the-box software solutions are never truly complete and will need some customizing.

And as an extra incentive to do things right, take a squint at Blogger Deb Lavoy’s little survey called, “Why I Hate my Intranet”. Most answers circled around lack of usability and irrelevance but there were others:

Some responses were more colorful, one referencing the movie, Independence Day. “The president asks the captured alien, ‘What is it that you want us to do?’ The alien answers, ‘Die!’ That’s how I feel about Intranets. And I’d be willing to wage intergalactic warfare for the cause.”

Rose-colored glasses off but still ready for Project Intranet?  We thought so! On to the all-important human element: your team.

 

2. Assemble Team

Corporate entities that will probably be involved in the team include:

  • IT
  • Communications
  • HR
  • Training
  • End-users
  • System administrators
  • Intranet champions
  • Departments that will have content represented

If at all possible, schedule a day to go through the project goals and timelines.  To help people understand their individual roles, consider using a RACI responsibility assignment matrix, which assigns each team member to being Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, or Informed for each task.

Source: http://easyprojecthub.com/raci-explained-pros-cons/

It will be important for potential team members to have a clear idea of what the commitment means in terms of time and labor.

 

3. Identify Audiences

 ‘Know thy audience’ is the cornerstone of every good communications campaign. And lest we forget, an intranet is just another communications channel.

Companies often do employee surveys prior to setting up a major communications channel such as an intranet; others feel they have a good grip on end-user wants and needs. It’s important to have team members – such as end-users – who can represent those wants and needs truthfully in order to create an intranet that will be widely used.

What you find my surprise you.

In his article, “The Design Process: How to Redesign Your Intranet”, Toby Ward noted that “Not all of your intranet users will have the same needs. This means that the employee from Santa Monica will look for different resources than the one in Atlanta. Similarly, the associate from Communications will need different information, tools, and forms than the one from Sales. Also, not to be overlooked are the ways these different user audience types may wish to interact with content, and with one another. It is highly unlikely that your Millennials will wish to consume and communicate information in the same ways that some of your more seasoned employees do. So, analyzing your people becomes a fantastic place to begin your redesign journey.”

By knowing your audience well, you can be specific about your objectives and how to prioritize them.

Intranet Meets Culture

Knowing your audience also enables you to create a user experience that matches your company culture. To the left are examples of two prize-winning intranets that couldn’t be more different, but were equally effective in representing their organizations.

The Fred Hollows Foundation of New Zealand, a non-profit devoted to treating and preventing blindness, focused on gorgeous, moving photographs and an easy-to-use format that would inspire its workers throughout the world.

The Hulu Intranet, its users fondly dubbed Hulugans, was built with Igloo software and has a rowdy feel that invites its users in and celebrates its entertainment roots. It was voted one of the year’s best in 2016 by Intranet authority Neilson Norman Group.

4. Set Objectives

There are several different players with skin in this game so there are going to be diverse objectives to meet. They might go something like this:

  • Corporate Objectives: insight into corporate values and goals
  • Departmental Objectives: dissemination of essential materials
  • Management Objectives: motivational tools
  • Employee Objectives: social and interactive features
  • C-level Objectives: announcements/information

Or it might go nothing like that. It’s your intranet reflecting your priorities.

 

5. Create Action Plan and Timetable

Now that specific objectives are in place for Project Intranet, your team will create an action plan, consisting of ‘tactics’ to bring your goals to fruition. At the same time, you will begin to think about your timetable.

Actions

The action plan for every intranet project differs according to objectives and priorities, but the basics might go something like this:

  • complete decisions about and design of key content features
  • create features drafts and submit for end-user review
  • acquire hardware and software as required
  • migrate content
  • develop a training manual
  • plan for performance measurement
  • plan for launch
  • training for content providers end end-users
  • implement login for employees
  • execute internal marketing plan
  • launch

Some of these decisions, will be made departmentally. Other decisions will be made as a team.

Timeline

According to the Nielsen Norman Group in January of 2018, Intranet development timelines are getting shorter. “This year’s average of 14 months (or 1.2 years) is the shortest yet for our Intranet Design Annual winners,” said authors Kara Pernice, Amy Schade, and Patty Caya in The 10 Best Intranets of 2018.

Even though better Website development tools and out-of-the-box solutions are making the process faster, as with every major project, time is money. Every contributor to Project Intranet will depend on every other contributor to bring in his or her portion on time. So, a solid timeline, constantly updated, is a tool to live by.

 

5. Measuring Success

Yea! Launch day with all its festivities has come and gone and colleagues in the hall (and digitally of course) are high-fiving you all over the place. Your ‘likes’ are off the chart. But that doesn’t let you off the hook for constantly measuring the success of your creation.

Stakeholders in Project Intranet will be eager to celebrate with you but they will also be waiting for the kind of metrics that show you have met your objectives. Remember that showing how things have improved is only possible if you can show how they were before you began. So be sure you have the before statistics as well as the after statistics.

Knowing the right mix of metrics and anecdotal information to give an accurate picture of your success is tricky, according to the experts. But it’s not one you can afford to ignore. Future investment in Project Intranet and/or the inevitable improvements depend on accurate feedback. So a strong and very complete plan for what works and what doesn’t work is essential. As well as built-in strategies for how to act on new information. In that way, measuring gives real value, not just useless statistics.

 

In Conclusion

Building an intranet for your company is an undeniable challenge, but the rewards loom large. Done right, your intranet can demonstrate some of today’s best ways to communicate. Mr. Gates said it all:

“I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they’re interested in.   Bill Gates

A Delta Case Study

Content Migration Doesn’t Have to be a Nightmare: Best Practices for a Smoother Transition

For most people, the thought of migrating thousands of pages to a new website is overwhelming.

Even if the project involves only a website redesign, it can feel like an impossible task.

While content migration could never be labeled as “easy,” it is entirely doable if you start with a defined goal and think of it as a series of strategic steps instead of looking at it as a whole. Tweet this

The task is made more difficult for large organizations that have multiple departments, each having ownership in the content. For example, a large university or corporation may have 20 departments that have uploaded content to the website over the years, and all 20 of them need to be involved in the process.

Unless you create a communication and implementation plan before beginning, the process can quickly spin out of control.

If you’ve been tasked with this daunting project, read on as we discuss the best practices for conducting large content migrations.

Image by Andrzej Rembowski from Pixabay

But First, Some Useful Definitions

Before we begin talking about the steps involved in a successful content migration, let’s define some terms that will help you better understand the process.

  • Content Inventory

    This is the first step in a content migration and it involves taking a comprehensive inventory of all the content listed on the website. Content can include articles, blogs, videos, audio, offline presentations, and more. Depending on your goal, you will need to determine which types of content to inventory.
  • Content Audit

    Once your content inventory is complete, you should conduct a content audit. In this part of the process, you will import or transfer the data you collected onto a spreadsheet and categorize it. This data includes things like the URL, bounce rate, usability, word count, number of social shares, conversion data, and page visits. The type of data you collect will depend on your goal.
  • Content Analysis

    Now that you’ve taken a complete inventory of your content and organized the data on a spreadsheet, you’ll use that data to conduct an analysis of the current content and determine which content needs to be updated or removed. In addition, you’ll uncover content gaps that will help you determine what new content needs to be added.

The Project Manager's Role

As the project manager (PM), you play an essential role in the success of the migration.

And in order to ensure that success, you have to take the lead and implement certain policies and procedures to be followed by all stakeholders in the process.

Your first step in organizing your team is to identify all content owners

Over the years, various departments have added content to the website, and each of these “owners” will need to play a role in determining whether the existing content is deleted, updated, or moved exactly as is.

Once you pinpoint the participating business units, you’ll need to identify key team members from each department who will take the lead role in the process.

Next, you'll need to set up a communication system to ensure that everyone involved stays in the loop

No key member can be isolated in this process because success comes from working as a coordinated team.

Implement a communications system that works best for your company. Depending on your organization, you could use Skype, in-person meetings, team lunches, an internal newsletter, memos, email, video simulcasts, or any other number of methods.

Use this free communication plan template from BrightHub.

As the project manager, you’ll need to establish a set of rules and standards across all departments

For example, if you assign a rating system for old content to determine whether or not it will be migrated to the new website or CMS, all team members will need to work from that system.

By creating these standards, it will make it easy for team members to understand their role—and for you to track their progress.

Next, set up the team members for success

Content migration is a difficult process, and team members may feel overwhelmed if they’re simply assigned the task as a whole.

Set them up for success by assigning each team member roles, individual tasks, milestones, and a timeline for all the work. This will give them a roadmap and help them understand your expectations.

But remember, assigning them unrealistic timelines will only hurt the process.

Be meticulous in your assumptions, even if you have to go through the process yourself to understand how long a process takes. For instance, if you assign team members the job of updating old content, do it yourself or assign it to someone else and log the amount of time it takes and then use that as the basis for your timelines.

Finally, track the progress of all team members and address any issues that arise

Staying on task is important to the overall success of the project, and the best way to do that is to track the progress of each team member.

This will allow you add more members if one is lagging behind, or identify areas where you may need to pivot.

It’s important to remember that you need more than IT people to conduct a successful content migration. Don’t forget to involve members of the content team because, more than anyone, they know what content exists, what content is duplicated, which articles are similar but necessary, and what type of content needs to be added.

For example, the authors who write content for a specific department or the editors who create the content plan for it have a deeper understanding of the existing content and why it’s there. Involving them in the content audit would help ensure that the right content gets migrated and nothing important is left behind.

Helpful Tip:



When asked about a tip for working with multiple business units, Andrew Dean, Senior Solution Architect at Open Professional Group had this to say;

“Interestingly, the tip I would offer is not technical.  If a PM is working with multiple business units, the organization and communication about the needs and requirements of each business unit are critical early in the process.  For example, if a PM is working with many units, the most important question to know, as early as it can be known, is what data MUST be moved and what data is nice to have.  It never hurts to also define what data we are leaving behind.”

He says knowing this information helps the project manager organize and coordinate across the units. He also says it’s important for the tech team to focus on developing a migration solution that is based on the answers to these questions instead of trying to determine the business logic as they code.

All of the business logic details that need to be “coded” should be considered and planned before this is handed off to the developers for action,” he says.  “What you don’t want is a developer trying to figure out what a given set of business requirements may be in the middle of the coding process.  That leads to mistakes, refactoring and blown budgets and timelines.”
“Above all,” he says, “the migration should ensure that no critical data is left behind.  This is where the organization and communication is so critical.  A PM can then look across the business units to find overlaps, deltas or alignment to ultimately produce a business level migration plan to be handed to the tech team for implementation.”


Define Your Goal

No two content migrations are the same, and in order to determine how to proceed, you’ll first need to determine your goal for the process. Remember, every step you take from here on out should be based on your goals, so put some thought into this.

Some of the goals that are common in content migration are:

  • Improve your site's SEO or site traffic

    In order to improve the SEO on your site, you’ll need to first determine its current effectiveness.
  • Get the big picture

    You may need to understand the scope of your content across all content types to plan for future projects.
  • Eliminate ROT

    ROT stands for redundant, outdated, or trivial content, and it should have no place on your website.
  • Evaluate content for consistency and message

    In order to maintain a uniform branding experience for site visitors, all your content should be consistent in its message.
  • Identify content gaps

    If one target audience has an abundance of content while another has little to no content, you’ll need to identify those gaps and fill them.
  • Analyze the metadata

    Look at the metadata across all content to determine whether it’s been used properly and consistently. For example, if you don’t utilize a metadata model consistently across all content, such as a standardized vocabulary for descriptive items, the search and distribution aspects of the site will be affected.

Metadata is used to categorize and organize your content so end users can easily find it. For example, in the above Excel worksheet, the metadata collected for the content is date, short title, publisher, and type.
  • Organize for findability

    If visitors or employees have a difficult time finding the content, it will need to be organized more strategically.

Identify Content Parameters

Once your team is organized and you have a solid goal in mind, you’ll need to identify which types of content to include in your inventory. Content is more than just blog posts and articles. Some of the other content types are videos, audio files, infographics, photos, tables and charts. In short, you’ll need to determine whether to conduct a partial content inventory or a full content inventory. A full inventory is just like it sounds: an inventory of every piece of content on the site.

If you’re doing an inventory for a large corporation or organization, this is probably what you need to do. It will give you a glimpse into how the pages on the site relate to one another and expose any hidden data, which could result in duplicate content or broken links.

On the other hand, a partial inventory gives you information about subsets of the content. For example, you may need to know what content has been added to the site in the past 3 months, or need to analyze only the top levels of the hierarchical structure.

How to Conduct a Content Inventory

In times past, it was necessary to conduct content inventories manually, which could take months to accomplish. Now, automation allows you to do it in seconds. And in addition to the time savings, it helps eliminate human errors and the necessity for coding skills.

But according to expert opinions, whether you should do a manual or automated migration varies depending on whom you ask. For example, Doug Plant, a partner at Mugo Web says, “Very large migrations have to be mechanical, just on the basis of scale. It is too expensive to do it manually, even with something like Mechanical Turk, the migration would cost too much.” (Mechanical Turk is an online marketplace that allows project managers to access global workers at affordable rates.)

Dean’s answer was slightly different. “The overall answer with anything related to content migrations is “it depends.”  In the 21 years working in this space, I have never found two migrations that are alike.  They all have similarities, but they all have key differences as well.” He explains that the source and target systems are always variable, and more often than not, most content migration is done by machines and automation with manual actions on only selected or necessary elements. He goes on to say that with proper scripting during the automation, the migration is “much easier, faster, and more accurate.”

And Plant agrees. “Even though code is going to be one-time-use, it has to be written with full best practices.” He says this includes complete testing cycles, debugging hooks, good logging, and it has to be properly written and documented.”

As you can imagine, there are a lot of automated programs to choose from.  Some of the most popular are:

Content Analysis Tool (CAT). This tool will crawl your website and bring back a full inventory of your content, as well as provide the key data you need

  • Screaming Frog. This tool will crawl your entire website and give you instant results. While it’s mainly used for SEO analysis, it is also a website audit tool that gives insight into 30 parameters.
  • This migration tool is right for large corporations and other websites with extremely large amounts of data. Many Fortune 500 companies as well as governmental organizations use it to migrate data.
  • DeepCrawl. This tool not only does content inventory, but also allows you to see a live comparison of both the old and new site.

The automated tools not only provide you a list of the content on your site, but will also allow you to capture specific data for each piece of content. For example, it will provide you with the URL or path, file type, links, keywords, date of creation, times viewed, last date accessed and more. You will use this data in the next step in the process.

Use the Data to Conduct a Content Audit

Now that you have a list of every piece of content on the website, it’s time to move on the next step in the process: conducting a content audit. You will work from a spreadsheet in this step of the process. The tools listed above will automatically export the data into one with the exception of DeepCrawl. This system will provide you with an extraction report that you will use to create your own spreadsheet. You should organize the spreadsheet in a way that makes it possible to analyze the data in order to determine what to do with it.

But before you begin that, you should first clean up the spreadsheet to make the process easier. You can either use tools like OpenRefine or DataCleaner, or if you’re using Excel, do it yourself with this handy guide.

Once the data is cleaned, it’s time to organize it in order to move on to the next step of analyzing it.

Depending on your goal, you can organize the content into content types, themes, content owner, author, departments, audience, or any other way that makes sense to you. For example, if you organize the content by audience, you should start by creating a column for each type of audience you strive to reach and then place the content into those categories.

Once you complete the audit, you will be able to determine whether the content distribution for each audience is equally divided or if you need to add more content to some categories. You can continue the process and add subcategories to each column. For instance, if you’re categorizing by audience, you can add subcategories like existing and potential customers to gain even more insight. For each piece of content, you should create columns and add, at the minimum, the following data to them:

  • Headline
  • URL or path
  • Content summary
  • Intended audience
  • Supplements such as audio or visual files

This is a long and tedious process, especially if you have thousands of pages of content to audit, and you should employ your key team members in the various business units to help.

Just be sure to give them clear guidelines and timelines to keep the project on track.

Important Tip:



Some people try to migrate content without first conducting a content inventory and audit, but that can lead to disaster.

Matthew Hesser, CEO of finduslocal.com, an online local business directory that is currently adding millions of pages to the site, weighs in. “Doing a content migration without first doing an inventory and audit is not a wise choice unless your goal is to begin the process from scratch again after it fails.”

It's Time to Analyze the Data

You’ve created a list of the content, organized it into whatever structure is suitable for your goal, and now it’s time to analyze the data.

To rank all that content, you will need a scale to help team members determine the fate of the content. Every piece of content should fall into 1 of these 3 categories:

  • Content needs to updated or revised
  • Content can be ported over as-is
  • Content needs to be deleted

Ideally, the team members for each department will conduct the analysis for their content, but in order to make it successful, you should provide them with example content pieces for each of the 3 categories of existing content.

In addition, supply them with parameters so they’ll understand how to determine where new content is needed.

Because this is a time-consuming process, it’s important to give team members milestones and timelines to keep the process flowing. And when someone fails to meet a deadline, you can step in to determine if they don’t understand the process or if there is another issue that needs to be addressed.

Helpful Tip:


Because not all pages have a URL, or have more than one piece of content, you should assign an index number to every piece of content. And to make things easier, group those index numbers into categories. For example, assign an index number beginning with the number 1 for all documents, number 2 for all videos, and so on. This will make the auditing process easier in 2 ways.

First, if 2 pieces of content from different departments reside on the same page, you can assign each department the index number of their content rather than the URL, which includes another department’s content.

In addition, if some team members are auditing certain types of content such as video, you will know exactly which index numbers to assign them. This will help streamline the process and make the analytics easier.


Migrate Your Content

Now that each department has audited, updated, and added new content to fill in the gaps, it’s time to migrate the content to your new site. This is the scariest part of the process for many people because if it’s done wrong, it can cause big problems. For example, a bad content migration can cause an organization to lose the SEO rankings they’ve worked so hard to achieve, result in a loss of workflow, or the new site could be filled with broken links.

But again, automated software has made the process easier—and safer. Programs like the ones we mentioned above automatically transfer the files from your old website to the new one. In addition, you can migrate your content from an existing CMS to a new one with CMS2CMS, or use Migration Center, an out-of-the-box software program that guarantees large scale migrations with no interruption to workflow.

Helpful Tip:

If new content was added to the site, or old content was revised and updated before the migration, it will automatically migrate along with everything else. But if the content owners didn’t complete the updates or new copy before the migration occurred, you will have to add it to the new site manually. Just be sure to keep all new or updated documents together in a folder so you don’t leave out any important content.


A Word About Testing

According to both Plant and Dean, ongoing testing early is key.

Dean says that his group believes that “strong requirements early on, backed with aggressive multi-round testing ahead of the production release leads to a far less risky production release.” He goes on to say “To that end, we would suggest that the more that can be done to confirm the quality and accuracy of the migration data in the test migrations, before the production release, the better.” He says it’s important to include all stakeholders in the testing because doing so will increase the likelihood of issues being spotted in the staging environment.

Plant also talks about the importance of testing before the migration is complete. “Post migration testing takes a lot of time and effort. Content owners have to sift through a lot of instances of the migrated content looking for problems. This process invariably requires answering questions like “How many pieces of content have this problem?” “What did the original piece of content look like? Was it originally broken or did the migration break it? Do we try to fix it automatically?” This is especially true where there are complex discussions between all the stake holders.”

Dean sums up the process nicely:


There is a lot of application of the old saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” when it comes to data migration. The short version is test early, test often and be sure that all stakeholders have a role in the process including the go/no go decision for production release.  If this process is utilized, the post migration testing should be more topical and more of a “confirmation” that the data that was seen in the testing phases has successfully reached production. Of course, each migration plan has its own unique nuances, but if proper testing ahead of production release is performed, post-production release testing should be considerably smaller in terms of effort.

-Andrew Dean


The 1,000+ Page Website Overhaul…How to Undertake a Massive Website Rewrite

Much has been written about crumbling infrastructure throughout the United States.

If it’s not roads and bridges, then it’s internet networks and dated telecommunications infrastructure.

But not so much has been written on the effects of aging on internet content.

The internet has been around long enough that many sites have compiled years of content and supplemental pages.

How do companies and universities manage updating and creating content for huge, often unwieldy sites?

A large content production or migration project can appear daunting at first.

Anyone who’s worked on one of these projects for the first time inevitably has come out the other side with a laundry list of learnings.

From architecting new structures to staffing a writing team large enough to complete the project in a timely fashion to hand-holding subject matter experts and ensuring an efficient workflow, large content project managers will have had to work through the bottlenecks common to such large-scale projects.

Preparation

A proverbial analogy for today’s large-scale content production projects might be different takes on “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

If we consider the content as the “baby” and the platform as the “bathwater,” you can see how the various iterations of these projects might look:

  • If you chuck the baby, then the scope of the project involves producing all new content to populate your current platform.
  • If you chuck the bathwater, then you’re looking at a content migration project where the biggest challenges become identifying content you want migrated to a new platform and new content you want produced (an example being your company’s desire to migrate your content and data to the cloud).
  • If you’ve chucked it all, or perhaps have no baby or bathwater to begin with, then your challenges multiply.

Obviously, there are subtle variations to each of these scenarios.

And while there are plenty of marketing firms that can handle large-scale content management, when it comes to actually producing the living, breathing content that your users will consume, the task of creating compelling and cohesive content on a large scale can prove challenging without a well-honed writing team in place.

Assembling Your Team

Even if your company employs a third-party marketing firm to handle content production and management, many marketing firms don’t staff a large enough writing team for such large-scale projects.

So, the first issue that needs tackling is ensuring coverage of the sheer manhours required to produce large amounts of high-quality content while maintaining an attentive focus on cohesion.

It’s not enough to simply hire 10 or 15 writers and divide up the work.

Those writers need to form a fluid team that works well together, understands the broad scope of the project, and can converge to meet a common goal.

Project managers will be the critical hub for these types of large-scale projects.

Not only will they be involved with staffing a cohesive writing team, but they will also be instrumental in attaining consensus for the style guides that need to be produced, in drafting training materials and process documentation, and in assisting through the decision on what to repurpose and what to scrap.

Project managers are also key to keeping a project on budget and on schedule.

Wintress Odom, Owner of Houston-based The Writers for Hire, says “To ensure the project stays within scope, each individual writer needs to understand how much time they have allotted per writing task, else ‘small’ overages on individual tasks can add up to hundreds of extra work hours.”

Extra works hours can equate to budget overruns and missed deadlines.

Oh. And, of course, you need an editor.

At the risk of going over the top with the proverbs, when it comes to editors, you might consider that too many cooks spoil the soup.

Odom says, “For large projects with multiple writers on a team, it’s important to have a single editor.”

She qualifies this by explaining that a single editor will have the entire vision of the project within their scope, and by introducing multiple editors, there’s a good chance the rate of inconsistencies in tone, content, and style grows exponentially.

Together, the project manager and editor will oversee the writing team and ensure stuff gets done on time.

Ramp Up

At project inception, one essential key Odom identifies is in ensuring the initial architecture takes into account not only the form the project is to take, but also in preemptively constructing a chain of command that will streamline the decision-making process and save time and headaches down the road.

For such a large-scale project, everyone involved has to be on the same page.

This is done by documenting workflow and review processes before a single word gets written.

Process documentation can range from the bare minimum to quite extensive.

On a large project, you might find the need for some or all of the following:

  • Project workflow guides
  • Content guide
  • Chain of review roadmap
  • Stakeholder responsibility definitions
  • Writer and stakeholder training on project-specific software

Odom stresses the need to have most of this in place before starting a project. “You are bound to tweak processes as you go along, but starting a major website overhaul without key procedural documents is a costly mistake.”

The one exception?  Surprisingly, the style guide.

“If a company doesn’t already have one,” says Odom, “trying to create one before the project is somewhat ridiculous.  You can’t possibly anticipate all of the nuances you’ll run into, from capitalization preferences on company trademarks to oxford commas.”

Odom suggests recording preferences – building a living style guide – as the project progresses.  Then, completing a front-to-back edit just to implement style guide decisions right before launch.

One last invaluable tool for allowing the writing process to flow much smoother is the key messaging platform.

Most larger companies have this valuable marketing tool already.

It’s a master marketing message document, covering the company’s branding as a whole as well as each individual product and service the company offers.

The key messaging platform provides cohesion across all marketing mediums and ensures not only consistency in branding and style, but also a roadmap to avoid multiple content producers from having to reinvent the wheel.

Thankfully, the internet makes available a wealth of prompts and tools for creating effective key messaging.

Workflow

Throughout her career, Erin Hanson, Content Marketing Manager at Autodesk in Northern California, has had to learn many lessons through trial and error.

Earlier in her career, Hanson was charged with the daunting task of overhauling content for the entire University of California at Berkeley extension course catalog, a project which ended up taking over two years.

To give you a sense of what one of these large-scale projects looks like, consider just a handful of the tasks Hanson had to manage for the university’s site overhaul:

  • Drafting and distributing requests for proposal for third-parties
  • Gap analysis for requirement gathering from student information and records
  • Gathering information on each field of study’s course descriptions and certificate programs
  • Creating and managing content hubs for each of those fields of study
  • Conducting student interviews—one in each field

“The bottlenecks,” Hanson describes, “were everywhere. To begin with, there was a lot of data, old systems that needed to be shut down, migration to plan out and the need to get sign off from academic stakeholders.”

For Hanson, now at Autodesk, the reliance upon technology to manage large scale content cannot be understated.

She uses a wealth of technological trappings such as digital asset management software and other browser-based search tools to manage an immense workflow.

Odom agrees on the use of technology in workflow management and recommends using a task-based workflow process to track the current status of each website page.

This type of system means that a stakeholder can see any page’s progress at-a-glance.

The system also makes it easy to see where pages might be held up – scheduled for a subject matter expert interview, waiting on technical content review, or stalled due to an unanswered question.

A proper workflow management system will also allow for per-task conversations, feedback, and communication.

The alternative is corresponding and trading files through email or a less sophisticated file-sharing system which Odom dismisses as “a total mess.”

Working With Subject Matter Experts

Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels

High-level subject matter experts aren’t always in great supply.

Realistically, the ones in your company likely have some of the best and most relevant insight into the content you’re producing.

However, relying on in-house subject matter experts to produce content may represent a general misalignment of goals.

Consider:

  • SMEs don’t have time. A subject matter expert is likely fully immersed in their job responsibilities and may not prioritize their assigned content production duty.
  • SMEs are not always good writers. These folks may be the best at what they do, but when it comes to articulating that for the rest of us, they may not be good enough writers.
  • SMEs have different goals. Marketing department and corporate bonuses are often built on key performance indicators, many of which are deadline driven. SMEs, on the other hand, may have an entirely different set of KPIs, in which case they’re not incentivized to work within the timeframes your content production project demands.

As an alternative to relying upon in-house subject matter experts to produce well-written content, try using those SMEs as mini-editors.

It takes far less time for an SME to make themselves available for a brief interview, and to review and comment on content created by someone else than it would take for them to sit down and craft new content from scratch.

When interviewing SMEs, Odom recommends modifying communication styles and setting clear expectations.

The discourse style of an enterprise developer is bound to be markedly different than a financial advisor, for example.

When working with SMEs, Odom has found that “Some people just don’t do well with pre-call preparation. They need to react to your questions off-the-cuff.  Others want prep questions and campaign briefs to feel comfortable.”

Finally, one of the most important elements of creating large amounts of content quickly lies in being able to shepherd those SMEs through the writing and editing process.

Relationship building becomes paramount as there will inevitably be the occasions when a SME is dragging his feet in getting back to you.

Conclusion

Whether you’re migrating and repurposing large amounts of content or you’re charged with scaling a new project which might feature tens of thousands of pages, you’ll want a clearly defined plan of attack and a staff of qualified writers. Tweet this

But perhaps the greatest dividend to having completed a large-scale project is that you now have a team in place that’s fluent in your culture, your subject matter, and your goals.

Odom agrees.

After working on a large project, “We now know how all those departments work, we know all their key messaging. We just happen to be offsite.”

How to Put Together a Winning Investor Presentation

One of the trickiest obstacles businesses face is crafting an effective presentation that will appeal to investors.

Both new and established companies at some point face having to raise capital to operate and grow their business.

The most popular way to introduce and solicit investment in a project is via the investor pitch presentation, which typically takes the form of deck of slides created with a program like PowerPoint or Prezi. The pitch deck has a lot of uses, for example:

  • A new company looking for institutional investors.
  • A private equity fund soliciting companies to manage through merger and acquisition, partnerships, or capital market listing.
  • An established company looking to take on additional debt obligation with a bank.
  • A financial advisor looking to present an alternative investment to an accredited investor.

At its core, though, the investor presentation’s primary goal is to raise money for your company.

It could be initial funding for a new business or it could be follow-on investment for an existing business. Or, perhaps it could be to explore taking on additional debt.

So, how do you create a presentation that’s compelling enough to entice investors and get results? You’ll need a well-constructed pitch that transcends the skeletal framework and ignites interest.

Before you dig into individual pieces, you need to consider architecture. Which slides will you use and how will you order them? How densely populated with information will each slide be?

By the end of this article, you should have a good idea of what you may or may not want to include in your presentation, and we’ll address some tips on how to get started crafting your own winning presentation.

Your investor presentation will only be limited by your imagination, the idea you’re pitching, and how well you know your audience. That said, most presentations share a few “standard” slides that form the foundation of nearly every successful investor presentation.

 

“Wait, Can’t I Just Download a Template?”

You can find a wealth of (often) free resources, templates or examples that you can adapt for your specific business goal. But keep in mind–as your business is likely to have unique characteristics,

the most important pieces of an investor presentation can’t be found in a canned formTweet this

And it’s unlikely that you’ll find a single template deck that addresses all the audiences to whom you may be pitching.


Who are you? What do you do?

The first thing you’ll want to present is a brief introduction to your company. At its longest, think “elevator pitch”: you’ll want something that immediately and concisely tells your audience who you are and what you do.

Be specific and focus on the things that make your company, idea, or product unique. Try to avoid describing your company in relation to other established companies, products, or services (for example, “Think of us as the Apple of underwater basket weaving” or “We’re the LinkedIn for anti-social people”).

Sequoia Capital, one of the most successful Silicon Valley investment firms recommends that you “define the company/business in a single declarative sentence,” just as Mapme did in their deck.

 

What Problem Do You Solve?

What need does your product or service fulfill? What problem do you solve? Why is your company qualified to provide the solution?

This slide is your chance to lay the groundwork for what you do, what you offer, a bit about your company’s philosophy, and, most importantly, to begin building out the narrative for your audience.

What makes you more qualified than anyone else to deliver on results? How is your product or service unique? Has your marketing team devised a clear, cohesive description of your unique selling proposition? Why should investors commit their capital to your project?

Airbnb perfectly articulates the problems it addresses in an example of one of the most successful startup pitches in history:

 

Market Size

Like all the components of your presentation, you should approach defining your market size thoughtfully before committing this to description.

Think about not only the markets currently covered but also take into consideration the way your market has shifted historically, the potential “unseens” you either anticipate or that have customarily affected your market, be they cyclical or otherwise.

Illustrate that you’ve put some thought into both vertical and horizontal pieces of the market size question.

You want your audience to have both a concrete foundation from which to realistically draw conclusions and stars in their eyes as far as potential. Dwolla’s payment solution pitch is unrivalled in the way it piques the investor’s imagination:

The Solution

Here’s where you get to show how your product or service addresses the problem you’ve outlined earlier – and, more importantly, where you get to explain why your product or service warrants a capital investment.

The below example from YouTube, concisely articulates its key benefits to end users and, ultimately, to investors.

 

The Competition

You claim that you’ve managed to revolutionize the underwater basket weaving process — but there are other players in your market saying the same thing.

What are they doing?

What threats do they pose to your market share?

How have they fared in the past and what are their plans for the future?

Potential investors will look for candor in your presentation of the competition, and it’s very possible that they will know the competitive landscape of your industry as well as you do.

This is your chance to let your audience know that you understand your market inside and out. One of the best ways to build your own credibility is actually by talking about what other people are doing.

This is perhaps the trickiest and, usually, the most glossed-over piece of an investor presentation. But as illustrated by Castle’s pitch below, your analysis of the competition doesn’t have to be complicated or over-massaged.

A single, simple slide can go a long way.

 

Your Team

You’ll want to introduce the most important members of your team, such as key executives. But don’t get carried away with their bios. Limit this component of your presentation to a few key items that are directly relevant to your pitch. This makes it easier for your investor to identify the common thread and connects the relevance of your team to the project being pitched.

Anne-Marie Maman, executive director for the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council at Princeton University, stresses the importance of presenting the right team face to potential investors.

“One of the most important things is for investors to know the team and to show that the members of the team are people that can lever their experience,” “And it’s extremely important to show how those team members have delivered in the past.”-Anne-Marie Maman

Investors, then, will want to see how well the key team members know their market, know their challenges, and display a good track record of success.

Wealthsimple, a Canadian investment management service, took a page out of LinkedIn’s pitch to provide just the right amount of relevance and firepower to lend legitimacy to its team slide, and found the right balance between individuality and cohesiveness.

Financials

This is a critical component of your pitch deck: Before they part with their money, potential investors will want to will want to know how you plan to use the proceeds from investment capital and debt, as well as your projected returns on investment, and your terms for repayment or investment exit.

Again, the audience, the context, and your unique pitch will all play a part in determining what financial information will be relevant to your presentation, but it will likely include some or all of the following:
EBITDA

  • Balance sheets
  • Earnings
  • Expenditures
  • Production
  • Growth markers
  • Sales figures
  • Stock performance

In presenting numbers, be aware of your audience. While net EBITDA or projected EPS may figure prominently in your pitch, always remember that the best way to talk about and present financials is to show, don’t tell.

Charts and spreadsheets might seem the easiest, most efficient ways to present financials, but strive toward simplicity for the sake of not obscuring the simple questions and trends that you want highlighted.

SEO company MOZ did a great job of keeping their finances simple, concise, and clear.

 

Milestones

You’ve presented a problem and solution by now, introduced the key members of the team, and laid out essential financial data.

Now it’s time to get investors excited about what you’ve accomplished to date and to walk them through your plan for what’s to come.

You might want to talk about new products launched or in the pipeline, year-to-date progress compared to stated goals, what next year’s plan looks like, and where you see the opportunities for driving growth. And while not all trajectories are as stellar as the example below from pay-per-click optimization company SteadyBudget, the slide below offers an example of a clear, concise infographic:

 

Everything Else: Appendices

If you’ve agonized about incorporating just the right amount of data and explanation into your presentation, appendices should take some of the pressure off constructing a streamlined deck.

Appendices serve as a catch-all for much of the meat you may have left out of your presentation for the sake of simplicity, such as:

  • Detailed financial statements or forecasts
  • A more complete breakdown of your competitive analysis, specific technologies or services
  • Key marketing data

Appendices serve two main purposes.

They allow you to focus on the fundamentals for clarity in your presentation and they provide you credibility in demonstrating to potential investors that you’ve done your homework and that it’s available for those who may want to dig deeper.

Putting it All Together

As you’ve probably already determined from looking at the standard guts of an investor presentation, there’s an art to presenting your information, whether it’s the key messaging in your company’s marketing platform or specific financial data critical to communicating what investors should expect, paramount is finding the secret sauce that speaks to your particular audience.

The most effective part of a successful investor presentation is the story.

Some businesses, most often startups, have been known to focus heavily on telling a story.

Many pitches owe their success to the crafting of a compelling narrative that speaks both to the mind and to the gut.

At its simplest, narrative form consists of delineating a lack and the liquidation of that lack.

As we’ve witnessed through time, folktales and legends illustrate how everyone can connect with a story that speaks to them.

Keeping in mind this basic paradigm can serve as your formal guide to crafting your message.

At the same time, though, it’s important not to lose sight of your goal.

Maman offers this insight: “Business plans for many startups seem to have gone by the wayside.” She says that, while a good story and an effective introduction to the key members of the team are critical, it’s still important to show that the business has put the work into really understanding its key metrics and plans.

Maman also recommends that “if you’re going to present a business plan, make it visual—use a short video, for example, but make sure it’s something that won’t put your audience to sleep.”

In summary, the best investor presentations feature a convergence of each of the important elements discussed in the right doses for the audience to whom you’re presenting.

Build a strong narrative, present it in as concise a fashion as possible, and know your business.

 

References:

Propp, Vladimir. Morphology of the Folktale, 1928 (translated to English 1958). The American Folklore Society and Indiana University.

 

Company Recruiting Minisite

Big, complex sites don’t scare us – in fact, we prefer them: Because we work in teams, we have no trouble making sure your project is covered and every moving part is under control. We also have a proprietary process and award-winning project management system that allows us to juggle massive amounts of content, while maintaining consistency in brand and style.

We’ll provide knock-out copy that reflects your company’s personality – polished and professional? friendly and casual? – including blogs, social media, and thought leadership content. We’ll help you shape the customer’s journey through your site with logical navigation.

What’s more, we’re ready to start today and deliver on time.

Talented, versatile, and experienced, our writers have created authoritative content that’s been shared, liked, and, best of all, gotten results for a variety of clients across a broad swath of industries.

And we’re qualified to do the same for you.

Corporate Websites

Our writers are trained journalists with agency and corporate experience. That means they understand the view from your side of the desk and use business intelligence as the lodestar for writing compelling copy.

In addition to website copywriting, The Writers For Hire develops:

  • Traffic generation campaigns that drive high volumes of traffic to your website and convert visitors into leads.
  • Thought leadership programs that help position you or your subject matter experts as authorities in your field, creating conversations that increase the number and quality of website visitors.
  • Value-rich blogs and social media campaigns that go viral, getting shared and spreading your influence.
  • Ebooks, whitepapers, case studies, downloadables, and gated content that keep visitors coming back to your site and provide an incentive for them to leave their information.

Corporate Website Services

Our website copy development process is comprehensive and designed to improve your ROI. It includes:

  • Learning your business and target audience.
  • Studying your existing site to understand what is and isn’t working.
  • Helping you develop or fine-tune content and navigation.
  • Reviewing all existing marketing materials and interviewing your subject matter experts to glean the best information to use.
  • Writing clear, tailored content that matches your message to viewer expectations.
  • Reviewing, revising, editing, and polishing.
  • Working with your designer to make sure every piece of content is in place.

Request A Quote
or
Call 713-465-6860


16 More Ways to Build Your Web Credibility

This week, I have to send a big thank-you to one of our awesome clients, Dan K.

After reading our earlier blog post about building web credibility, Dan did a little research on his own and sent us some really cool information about The Stanford Web Credibility Project. This project is studying the components of website credibility, and the site is a great resource for anyone with a website. One of my favorite parts of the site is the Stanford Guidelines for Web Credibility, which offers scientific proof that little things – like having a physical address or correcting typos on your site – can make a big difference.

So, with Stanford as a starting point, I combed the web and put together this list of 16 things you can do to boost your web credibility:

1. Make it easy to contact you – your contact information should include an email address, phone number, and a physical address.

2. Use a professional, industry-appropriate design.

3. Make your site easy to use, and make it easy for visitors to find what they need.

4. Update your site’s content. A blog is a great, quick way to add fresh content. If you don’t have one already, start one.

5. Make sure your site is free of typos, misspelled words, and factual errors. Proofread your content carefully. Even better, have a coworker or detail-oriented friend proof your site for you.

6. Include an “About” page.

7. Post your privacy policy, and make it easy to find.

8. Include a link to your contact information and physical address on every page. People don’t like to spend time searching for your email address or phone number.

9. Use photographs – and try to avoid clip art when possible. Use photos of your actual employees, facilities, etc.

10. Use trust seals.

11. Use customer testimonials and case studies. And, don’t be shy about asking. In most cases, clients who liked your work won’t mind putting in a good word for you.

12. Link to other sites, like trusted organizations, industry experts, anything relevant that you’d like to share with your visitors.

13. Include an FAQ page that answers some basic questions like how your service/product works, payments accepted, return policies (if applicable), anything that might be a point of confusion.

14. Include emblems and/or links if you’re a member of an industry-specific organization.

15. Rein in your creativity: Avoid unusual color combinations (like white text on a black background), and don’t use funky, hard-to-read fonts in your body copy.

16. Don’t write things like “according to research” or “based on recent studies” – unless you can link to a credible study that supports your statement.

Adding a few links or posting customer testimonials may not sound like much, but to the people who visit your site, these small details can be the difference between a new customer and a one-time visitor.

So, check out the Stanford research for yourself — it’s interesting reading. And, thanks again to Dan K. for the information!

If you want to read more for yourself, here are a few resources about web credibility:

Read about “Web Credibility Destroyers”