Let’s face it, intranet content usually isn’t a fun beach read. It can be drab, boring, and difficult to plow through. Sometimes it’s even confusing what employees should do for basic tasks.
But …it doesn’t have to be.
Intranet content can be pertinent, easy to understand, and help people perform their jobs. Content can even reflect your brand — compassionate, lively, quirky, or fun. In fact, it’s better when it’s clear and provide zest.
First, let’s tackle a question that may seem basic, but it essential to understanding how to improve intranet content.
What is content?
Merriam-Webster gives the definition as: the principal substance (such as written matter, illustrations, or music) offered by a website. But a lot of different types of resources can be “content.” We like to think that content is anything that conveys information — text (such as words on a page), videos, music, graphics, podcasts, infographics, images, books, eBooks, blogs, news, policies, procedures, processes, etc.
In other words, content can be just about anything.
For your intranet, you’ll want to use just about everything above to help people get to the right information.If you’re looking for more bang for your buck, something guaranteed to get more eyeballs on your content, use video.
- Our brain is hard-wired to pay attention to faces.
- Voice conveys rich information.
- Emotions are contagious.
- Movement grabs attention.
It’s not just the movement, people are auditory and visual learners. (They’re also learners as they do things.) Videos appeal to both of them — going beyond just reading, looking at a solitary image, or listening to a podcast.
1. Make your content easier to read
You can employ a variety of methods to make text easier to read online, which online usually means skim.
- Bold important words
- Use bullets
- Use active voice
- Write at an 8th grade audience
- Be concise
- Be clear and consistent
- Be accurate
- Use your organization’s style guides and showcase your brand
- Group or “chunk” information
- Keep it updated
These ideas may all seem fundamental to internal communications professionals, but they’re typically advanced ideas to general content authors. Spend time helping them understand these principles or jump in to assist. Read more ideas in making content easier to read.
2. Ensure content is easy to access
Go beyond ensuring your content can be accessed using search and navigation — although those are also critical to content’s success. (You can’t read what you can’t find!) It also means providing information in formats people can access.
Two offenders to simple to get information are typically PDFs and making people launch their MP3 player.
Let’s be clear, there are some excellent uses for PDFs, such as documents that need to be protected. Policies and longer procedures are perfect PDFs. But some simple procedures — such as how to fax a document or get a badge renewed — don’t need to be PDFs.
Why are PDFs a problem? Employees have to use Adobe Reader, including sometimes install it. Installing new software may require IT resources to assist, which means a ticket needs to be created and completed. In addition, PDFs aren’t as user-friendly as the web. It’s also one more click people have to do. All of these are impediments to them viewing necessary information. So instead, try — when possible — to include information directly on your webpage.
MP3 players, like Adobe Acrobat, are most likely added to computers. But again, a few things can go wrong when using it. Instead, embed the video into the page. Some intranets, such as ElevatePoint, makes that simple to do. We recommend including the video’s duration and a brief summary of what it’s about.
3. Make calls to action clear
Every page should have a purpose. That purpose may include asking other employees to perform a task, such as calling or emailing. When there’s an action to take, make that action clear, including use a button to make that task faster.
For example, if you’re asking employees to email you, use your email as the link. Consider adding it at the end with whatever conditional information in the beginning so people know whether they should continue to read. Also, it may seem polite to ask people please, it add words that may not be necessary. Of course, also don’t forget to bold anything important, remembering people skim information online.
Which one do you think is easier to follow?
- Please email [email protected] for the details on how you can get Denver Nuggets tickets for you and your family.
- Get Denver Nuggets ticket details; email [email protected].
4. Avoid jargon
Jargon could also be called Jarring Acronyms Getting On Nerves. Even if it’s well-known jargon and you need to use it, call it out once or twice before using it on a page. Invariably someone always claims it’s a well-known and well-understood acronym. For people who work at NASA or some other government agency, that may be true. But for everyone else, it makes sense to include a callout. Even in the medical field, some of the same acronyms may mean different things. There’s the AMA, for example — the American Medical Association, American Medical Advice, etc.
By calling it out (American Medical Association — AMA), you help people understand and get context.
Jargon can also be programs or initiatives you have at your organization. Don’t assume, no matter how much it’s been communicated, people know that initiative on-sight. Give a brief description and include a link anytime you refer to it. For example, the 10-4 Good Buddy could be a logistics company’s initiative to increase communication among drivers and the core dispatch unit. By giving that brief description, workers are likely to remember and understand the information that comes after.
Although cliches aren’t jargon, we’ll lump it in here. Some people hate cliches and prefer not to use it. What are cliches? They’re those catch phrases that seem to drive organizations and prompt employees to play cliche bingo at meetings.”Let’s take that offline.” “Sure, we’ll touch base after the meeting.” “Good, just ping me when you’re ready.” Bingo! They can seem tired and worn — such as first-class or world-class service — but it’s probably subjective.
5. Provide only important information
Information overload is real and happening to workers across the country. That overload includes having to wade through information that’s not useful. Intranets are typically wastelands of superfluous details. Consider information from a user’s point of view. What do they need to be successful? What would help them complete tasks better and faster?
Superfluous information may include:
- What you or your team does when employees give info to you. Although peers want to know next steps, they don’t need to know your process. Do however provide criteria that would be helpful to employees in giving you information.
- Mission, vision, objectives, and team-related documents. Yes, these statements are helpful to your team, but they do little good for all other employees. This doesn’t include service level agreements (SLAs); they’re helpful in understanding when to expect information.
- An archive of newsletters. Many departments like to circulate news with ideas and tips. That’s great! But not even bored employees will look through two-year old archives of your newsletters to get additional tips, unless they can win something.
- An endless list of resources. Like with archived newsletters, employees won’t be bored deciding to pursue additional resources you have in your webpage, unless there’s a specific action for them to take. Include only the resources you think will help people get information they desperately need. Save the rest of your resources for your team — the experts.
- Give context to information. If you’re getting 20 questions a day about information on your website because it’s unclear, make it clearer by adding context using words others use or calling more attention to it.
Why improve content
Improving content takes time, editing skills, patience, and vigilance. But it makes intranets more readable and usable. Improving content makes intranets more valuable. It ensures employees can get the right information at the right time, quickly and easily.
Internal communications professionals are poised to help their teams by providing these expertise — through training and editing.