How to make content owners part of your intranet success

Content owners are an integral part of any successful intranet. We won’t deny it nor will any of us can say we could manage an intranet without their input and involvement. These colleagues see the value of the intranet and try to take an active role while doing their day job. Let’s focus on that one small word; try. Your content owners will try but do they always deliver?

Do a quick  search and you will find positive articles on how you can engage, motivate and support your content owners to contribute to the intranet. There are some great tips out there, but do they work? Are your content owners a friend or foe to your intranet?


  • This person actually delivers what they promise and meets all the deadlines. They aren’t just a content owner, they are your super user, your ambassador, the one person you go to when you are in a jam.
  • Like a coming home to puppy, your content owner jumps onto your lap and licks the face of intranet authority.  Working on the intranet might be a bit of a side project for them, but their enthusiasm is limitless. They love every task and will always make the time to help if they can.
  • A content owner that can inform and advocate influential stakeholders on the intranet is as critical as a ‘doer’.  The HR director may not be able to take thirty minutes out to attend your Intranet governance meeting, but the HR content owner will talk about it with them at every opportunity.


  • They nod, they agree, they say all the right things in public but once the witnesses are gone it’s another story. They ignore your calls and your emails and do whatever they want. Give up, this content owner is a lost cause.
  • Enthusiasm or time is not the problem but their ability and tech savvy skills are lacking. Sometimes it’s more effort than it’s worth and you find yourself saying, ‘Let me do that for you.’
  • Until it is in their PDR or job specification, you will not get the commitment you require. Be prepared for disappointment and days of chasing them as their promises will never come through.

Did we just describe your content owners? Do you have more foes than friends?

How do you really motivate your content owners?

Empower them: if they are involved and believe they have a say then they are interested.  Just listening isn’t enough. If they have responsibility and accountability they will take the lead and will encourage fellow colleagues to follow. Take the steps to empower one of your content owners by letting them lead a project. As the intranet manager you are never far away and can step in, but you may be pleasantly surprised to find you don’t need to.

Ask them: “what does motivate you?” It might be that they love being creative and are only able to do it on the intranet.  If so, maybe its worth ‘taking a hit’ on the brand consistency and visual standards. If being more creative gets them engaged then why would you want to stop them? Establish a friendly rapport with your content owners and find out what they love to do both at work and at home and see how it can be incorporated into the intranet. Giving your content owner the ability to do what they love will ensure they always complete the task.

Recognise them: Find out what kind of recognition works for them.  It might be cake or beer, it might be a simple thanks, or it might be a public display of appreciation.  Whatever it is remember the type of recognition can range with each content owner. Think about rewarding people when they agree to something, rather than after they deliver it.  If you reward first they’ll feel a bit of an obligation and are more likely to over-deliver.

Make them the expert by establish a mentoring programme. There will be a group of content owners who will want to take the lead and help others. Let them. If you are managing a global intranet it is important to set up regional contacts. These regional experts can support their colleagues better than you could by simply being in the right time zone and location.

Appeal to their practical side: This may be your most difficult content owner as this person won’t respond to any of our suggestions above. Sit them down and have an open and honest discussion about their frustrations. They could be annoyed that they have to answer the same questions day in and day out. By clearly stating that if they took the time upfront to put content on the intranet they wouldn’t be disturbed with silly questions and could get on with their ‘real’ work. Even the most negative content owner can’t argue with  logic.

Motivating your content owners takes patience, perseverance and bribes. There is no quick fix but by implementing some of our suggestions we are confident you will be able to have more friends then foes.




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  1. Christy Season Punch

    Great post and so important to highlight that this is a major step to intranet success (and sanity!). So many intranet managers I meet at conferences tell me they struggle with empowering content owners to take ownership of their sites.

    I would also add that in addition to empowering them, you must also hold them accountable. We do this through peer audits of the sites every six months. We also make sure their managers are knowledgeable about the roles of their employees who are content/site owners and are ‘on board’ with our processes and requirements.

    And finally, this is more so for the intranet managers, but you also have to learn to let go a little and realize that the sites will not be glowing representations of your intranet, nor look like the sites your web team manages. Having guidelines and style guides in place is important, but if a content owner does only the bare minimum and it serves the purpose…then let it be. Learning to not set high expectations for sites managed by our community of editors has been a challenge for me, but has made my life (and the content owners’ lives) much easier.

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