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Is intranet news, old news?

Our 2012 prediction post sparked some healthy debate about the role of news on corporate intranets. A mainstay of intranets since day dot, news has no doubt occupied a significant proportion of your homepage real estate but the time has come to challenge that position. Is news dead-space, or does it justify its inclusion with ease. This week we invite Rachel Miller of AllThingsIC to guest blog with the Intranetizen team to discuss the role of intranet news.

Why Internal Comms is the most important function of an intranet – Rachel Miller

The amount of noise in organisations is rife, with everyone wanting to have their say and pitch their messages on the real estate homepage of the intranet. If ‘control’ of the homepage is given to more than one function, there is often a scattergun approach of firing messages at employees in the hope they will stick and land effectively. I think it goes without saying that this doesn’t work!

I was asked to write a post about why I think internal comms is the most important function of an intranet. Intranets traditionally are ‘owned’ by Comms teams, who are often the main stakeholders and use most of the homepage. However without a well-designed site and strong partnership with IT, who can help translate Comms requirements into reality, you’re fighting a losing battle.

One of the predictions on this blog for 2012 was that ‘news will no longer be the star of the intranet family and that intranets are fast becoming about much more than Comms as they will help people with the actual process of doing their job’. With that in mind, the prediction is that Comms will no longer be the main stakeholder for the intranet and their messaging may not have the majority of homepage real estate.

I believe Comms to be the champions and guardians of messaging, particularly when it comes to ‘policing’ the various messages mentioned previously, to ensure consistency of approach and to weed out the irrelevant noise. I think if an organisation loses that overview, be that from Comms or IT, it is in danger of simply firing conflicting messages at its employees.

I agree that intranets are becoming much more than Comms and I welcome that. It’s vital that organisations adapt, evolve and flex their approaches to deliver an effective intranet that employees want to visit as it has information that isn’t solely corporate key messages.

Equipping employees in ‘the actual process of doing their job’ is exactly what good internal communication is all about. Therefore it’s a crucial part of an intranet’s function. News often appears as the star of intranets, certainly if you’re measuring perceived value by the space used. I think if an intranet becomes purely a useful dashboard to enable employees to do their job, without including a news element, it will lose the jewel in its crown. I think that good, reliable, credible news sources that help employees feel connected to and part of an organisation will always have a role.

 

RachelMillerphoto

Rachel Miller started her career as a journalist and has worked agency side and in-house as part of the Corporate Communications teams for companies including BSkyB, L’Oréal, Visa, Tube Lines and London Overground. Named in PR Week’s Top 29 under 29 list, she’s a Kingston Internal Communications Management post-graduate, mentors comms professionals, blogs at www.allthingsic.com and Tweets @AllthingsIC

 

News has had its day on the intranet – Jonathan Phillips

The story of intranets is one of aggregation: like technology magpies, intranets have added functionality steadily over the course of the last 15 years. First they were simple communication spaces, then many added transactional elements and more recently, social functionality has become the norm. Intranets constantly evolve to mirror the changing organisation that they serve and yet, they’ve broadly evolved along these similar lines.

News — or other internal communication messaging — was likely central to the business case for creating your organisations initial intranet,  but its time as the lead feature has long since gone. News, is old.

We are reminded by the staggering growth in internet social media and by intranet trend reports, that employees are increasingly turning to social channels in their personal and professional lives. News is in decline; social media is in rude health and intranet news is slowly going the way of newspapers. The trouble is that news on an intranet has been through countless rewrites, undoubted legal review, executive sign-off and possibly translation which means it doesn’t hit the intranet with the anything like the immediacy, or potency of social sources. Social gives employees the real truth, quicker. News is not as trusted.

Intranets are no longer the sole preserve of internal communications. They’re distinctly richer for the aggregation of collaboration tools, knowledge stores and likely, HR transactions. Intranet news is rarely a destination for employees, but a welcome and valuable distraction from the real business of an intranet which, simply, is to help people do their jobs. However good your internal communications team, employees don’t care about news in the same way they care about viewing a payslip or connecting with colleagues. News doesn’t give the same tangible return as other intranet features for the employee or management. Ever heard an employee say “Hold on — I must read the internal news”? This author hasn’t.

With news not as immediate or as valued as the social serendipitous sources for employees, there is serious risk that news will not remain on intranet homepages for much longer. The death knell might be technology itself. Whilst screen resolutions and average monitor sizes in companies have increased, intranet real estate remains limited. Mathematically, if your intranet is to continue to add new features, something’s going to have to give way and with ROI difficult to prove, news would be the likely candidate. Move it down the homepage, maybe move it off the homepage — it’s place of prominence is likely over.

Let us know, vote and share your thoughts in the comments section.

 

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There are 10 comments

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  1. James Dellow

    Intranets *have never been* the sole preserve of internal communications (even if they thought this was the case). This doesn’t detract from the value they can add to an intranet, but from this helicopter view the landscape is looking very different for any group in an organisation that think its owns the internal Web. Better start learning how to work together.

  2. Martin Risgaard

    I’m mostly with you, Jonathan, although I do believe that news has an important role to play. The main problem is the relevancy of corporate news. The corporate comms people are first and foremost put on this planet to spread the strategic messages from upper management. Timeliness is the least of the problems. As I see it the news quickly become too polished and leave little room for less ‘strategic’ stories. The result is that employees find it hard to relate to the internal news.

    This has not changed for years and years. The problem for internal comms is that news now have competition from a barrage of tools, services, and functionalities that didn’t exist just 5 years ago. Employees MUST use these and this creates a totally different kind of relevancy to people’s daily tasks. Something that internal news will never be able to accomplish.

  3. Patrick Callaghan

    I’m mostly with Martin being mostly with Jonathan. Internal comms doesn’t have to be sanitised, reviewed to within an inch of its life or teased in every direction except straight in front of its intended readership.

    I run the intranet from within knowledge and information, and my comms colleagues are the ones helping me push for a more social intranet. They recognise that some comms can happen quickly and effectively from within the social space.

  4. James Mullan

    I think News still has its place on an intranet, but it has to be appropriate for the space to which it’s being published. In my mind there is nothing worse then having a news story that is a zillion paragraphs long. To encourage people to read the news, we need to make it newsworthy.

    Also I think it’s important not to send mixed messages about where people can find out what is happening. Yes have a news story on the intranet, but don’t at the same time do a desk-drop with exactly the same information. That information is likely to get filed somewhere very special.

  5. Simon Thompson

    If, right now, the thinly-disguised-press-release-as-internal-news was declared dead, I would be rushing out to buy a shovel to make sure it was well and truly buried.

    As a former journalist, and currently based within a communications team, I’m probably always going to defend real news. To me, it’s about bringing the organisation to the employee, conveying the culture and keeping them informed and engaged.

    The introduction of social media certainly changes the way news needs to work, but it doesn’t render it obsolete. Look at all those links to news articles, to campaigns, to features and whatever else.

    Statistics show the majority of “social interaction” is reading or ignoring. Not everyone has the time or the skills (or the inclination) to put what’s important to them onto some form of post. News values are still important.

    Internal Communications needs to lose the air of unapproachability, and to be seen to be more responsive and enabling. Changing technologies are increasing the need for news to be made more relevant, and that’s very different from rendering it obsolete.

  6. Tony Stewart

    On the news delivery, our Intranet now seems to play catch-up with our Yammer (social network) community – we find that more frequently these days, worthwhile news is broken through a Yam before it hits our Intranet as a fully fledged article.

    What I’m finding is that there is still very much an appetite for news and the appetite to find out ‘what’s going on in my business’, but the ‘what *is* news?’ question is more relevant. Now that colleague have a platform to share the news they think is important (awards their team have won, events in their space, project breakthroughs and articles they’ve read outside the organisation), we as a comms team can see how this doesn’t always match up to what we’re used to broadcasting via the Intranet; the loop is being closed. Of course things central to the core business is still developed, signed-off and delivered via the Comms team… but everything else… well, colleagues have their own voice now.

  7. It’s back: 10 more signs you’re losing the intranet plot | Intranetizen

    […] A local news section for local people, one for global news (for the uber-connected ambitious types), an HR news section maybe for those employees who want to catch up on the crazy going-ons. Content structure based on organisational hierarchies is very last century. Stop making your employees guess which news bit the article they want might appear in. News is news, batch it up into one section. Thanks muchly. More on intranet news here. […]


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