How to win every intranet argument

Do you have the kind of terror inspiring presence that leaves your co-workers paralysed and silent when you speak?

No, neither do we. What’s more likely is that you’ve got home after a hard day and ranted to your spouse / loved one / cat / reflection / wine glass that “If only people would stop questioning what I say I could get on with real work and stop wasting my day arguing my point”.

The guy from sales who builds websites at weekends and wants to build his teams intranet site on

The marketing director who says she doesn’t like how your standardised page layouts and design look and wants to use something “a bit more creative”.

The CEO who says the company intranet looks a bit stale and wants to bring his son’s art school friend in for a weekend to redesign it.

How do you respond to challenges like these and make sure you and your team aren’t forced into accepting or implementing a stupid, pointless, dangerous or just plain unnecessary idea.

Starting position: Be the expert

Saying something with confidence is sometimes all you need. If looking after “this stuff” – whatever it might be – is the role you are paid to do, then people should listen to your opinion. Make your statement clear and concise but unemotional and non-personal. If you have standards or governance you can bring out at this point then that’s great too – this is your professional view and therefore the view of the organisation.

The argument: Use knowledge and reason

Maybe this is an idea that they feel strongly about. Maybe they don’t yet realise that you really do know what you’re talking about. But, they are not going to accept your option as fact – you’re going to have to back it up with something.

Stories of where a similar approach has tried and failed might be the best way to illustrate your point, but some people need more tangible proof. There’s a world of resources out there just a Google away. If you find that the evidence you need is only published in a paid for report or research paper then reach out to the author on twitter – you might be surprised how helpful they’ll be.

Sometimes the reason you are facing a verbal roadblock is because they just don’t understand the impact of their ideas or how it could ever be perceived as bad practice. If they truly believe their idea is a good one,  analogies can be a way for them to see the situation from a different angle. We would suggest you create a couple so you are prepared if the situation arises. Some of the ones we like to use:

  • We can’t keep on tying their shoelaces for them. At some point they will need to sit down and tie their shoes themselves (perfect for a navigation / IA / page name argument)
  • When you write a book, you don’t just sit down and have the structure, the content and the design created all in one go. It’s a process and a lengthy one at that. They start with the content, which goes through rigorous editing, then they focus on the design and layout of the book. (helpful when people just want to jump to designing their pages and complain how long the process takes)

The no hoper: Let it go

Sometimes logic, reason, pleading or even begging just isn’t enough. If you end up in a position where a bad idea is going to get pushed through because of politics and bullishness then you may have to consider just stepping aside and letting it take its course. As your compliance and risk team manage the organisation’s risk register, you too can create an intranet risk register and let them know that they are now on it and will be discussed at the next governance meeting.

While this may feel like a defeat, this is only a final step on the road to victory. Letting a bad idea past the safety net of reason opens the door to learning. Stay extra close to the bad idea and once the harebrained concept is implemented follow it closer still. Gather metrics and insight into its failure, use it as an example of bad practice and point out, with gleeful ridicule, the effects of ignoring your sage advice to anyone who dares question your authority.

And, on the slim chance that the idea does well; that it’s a resounding success, that’s probably the best outcome of all. You’ve learned something new, the whole argument was worthwhile and everyone has come out smiling.

* All of the approaches listed can be applied to all enterprise social network (ESN), digital workplace, internal comms and digital comms arguments.