By Manya Chylinski published February 16, 2012

How to Develop an Internal Content Marketing Plan by Leveraging Intranets

Intranets are the lesser-known cousins of the public internet that we all know and love. Because the content on intranets is proprietary, they remain shrouded in mystery for those outside the organization. But sometimes, they are mysterious for those inside the organization, too — especially for employees who may not understand how powerfully intranets work to give them the tools and resources they need to do their jobs.

Built for internal communication, intranets don’t serve the traditional content marketing goals of educating customers and prospects. But they do function as portals to valuable tools and information that employees need to be productive. So in a very real way, intranets are designed to share useful, informative content just like the best B2C and B2B content marketing sites do.

 

Thinking about intranet content

Intranets are unique providers of content. Although the audience is captive, the content still needs to engage the readers so the site becomes a useful and vibrant center of a company’s internal community.

To create content that engages employees and helps them feel like vital and valued members of your team, here are a few guidelines to consider:

  • Focus on providing useful documents and tools. Intranets serve as repositories for a lot of internal data, and no one wants to spend time searching for the right form or template they need to do their job. Organize documents and tools into useful, intuitive categories that will make searches easier by job function, geographic location, most frequently used, etc.
  • Format the content like you will be using it to sell to your customers. Employees will want to spend more time on your intranet if the content there is interesting or fun to use. Consider incorporating some of the same design ideas that your public-facing internet page or popular consumer products websites use, such as graphics, widgets, or blogs.
  • Provide easy ways for employees to respond to and interact with each other. As consumers of social media in their personal lives, employees will likely be familiar with activities like commenting on blog or news posts, liking or voting on content, and emailing or sharing interesting articles. Adding these types of functionality to your intranet will give your employees more ways to become engaged in your corporate community.
  • Don’t forget the fun. Intranets are usually created for serious business purposes. But remember that the employees using it are the very same people who play video games, interact with social media sites, and watch videos or listen to podcasts in their free time. Adding an element of fun on an intranet doesn’t necessarily mean posting a game that might distract from work, but it could certainly include some not-so-serious content like a poll on non-business topics, a quote of the day, employees’ favorite recipes, or even a buy-sell page to help employees trade their season tickets more easily.
  • Mobile is the new black. Employees are not always in the office, so creating a mobile version of your intranet site can help ensure that they always have access to the tools and information they need no matter where they are doing their work — at an off-site meeting, a home office, or even another branch of your company.

Is your intranet doing it right?

As a rule, internal communications are proprietary. So it isn’t easy to find examples of how other companies are creating and managing their intranet communications. But next time you are looking to improve your company’s current intranet — or to build a new internal site — try using these questions to help guide your efforts:

Content:

Authorship

  • Who creates the content? The human resources or communications department? An internal team? External consultants? Are authors identified for individual pieces of content?
  • Is content marked with date or time stamps, so users can tell how current it is?
  • Does the site include links to source materials or other helpful resources?
  • Is content curated effectively, with the best and most recent information made available most easily?

Organization

  • How is content organized — by job function, geography, etc.?
  • Is your organization scheme intuitive, based on how users are most likely to search according to their specific job needs?
  • What will be the balance between content designed for anyone in the company (such as HR forms or staff directories) and content designed for specific groups (such as a form for a single business unit or a template for senior managers)?

Content types

  • Does the content include the basic tools employees need — such as HR forms, templates, or reference materials like articles or white papers?
  • Is necessary information on employees posted — like rosters or organization charts, staff news, or updates on your management team?
  • Is information about your customers available — such as customer feedback, links to recorded customer service calls, or feeds from your social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter?
  • Do you have a news feed? Is it about your company, specifically, or your industry as a whole? Is the source internal or external?
  • Are there different types of information available, such as videos and podcasts or interactive content, as well as text-based content like articles, blog posts, and reports?

User experience:

  • Does your intranet site have its own search engine? How does it present results? Is the navigation intuitive and consistent from page to page?
  • Is the site architecture consistent (i.e., does clicking a link on the navigation bar take you to the same level page? Does the text make it clear if you are linking outside the site or about to download a file)?
  • Are there broken links or files that do not download properly?
  • Is it easy to get help or provide feedback about the site itself?

Format/Layout:

  • How closely does the design of your intranet site align with your company’s external brand presence?
  • Is the layout of the site and all its content easy to read and navigate?
  • Does the design use a mix of text, graphics, video, and audio content?

Social media:

  • Are you using internal blogs? Who writes them, and can users comment or submit posts?
  • If your company has external presence on social media sites like YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook, have you set up feeds to pull this information onto your intranet site?

Conclusion

Intranets shouldn’t be thought of as just the poor second cousin of your company’s public-facing websites. As valuable tools that educate and inform your employees, the ultimate goal of an intranet site is to help them be as productive as possible. What do you think makes the best content for an intranet? What are your thoughts about how companies can improve employee engagement through the content they offer?

Image Credit

Author: Manya Chylinski

Manya Chylinski is a marketing consultant and writer helping B2B companies create compelling content and share thought leadership and success stories. Founder of Alley424 Communications, Manya has experience in a variety of industries including technology, higher education, financial services, government, and consulting.

Other posts by Manya Chylinski

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  • http://blogging.compendiumblog.com/blog/blogging-best-practices chrisbaggott

    Great Post!  We use Yammer and I know a lot of other companies that do as well.  This closed community is a huge resource for untapped content that is worthy of your business blog, email and social sites.

    I was recently visiting with a large insurance company.  In their intranet they had all these kudos where one employee was giving a shout out to another employee and telling stories about how they went above and beyond in helping a customer…and these ‘posts’ usually included the specifics of the case in great detail! 

    “I want to shout out to Mary in claims processing.  Yesterday I overheard her talking to a customer that had (insert the problem and how Mary helped here….)

    This was a company that thought they had a Content problem 🙂 They were struggling with their blogging and never thinking that they had a box (intranet) that contained hundreds  of great blog posts.

    Chris Baggott
    Co-founder
    Compendium Software
    http://www.compendium.com

  • Manya

    Chris,

    Thanks for weighing in. I like your point that companies can leverage intranet content for other purposes.

    I wonder what other untapped resources there are throughout a business with loads of content just waiting to be discovered…

    Manya

  • Andrew Gilleran

    Good article Manya. We use SharePoint and as part of that we have social forums which allows employees to discuss pretty much anything (there are definitive guidelines for this of course). By and large it works well as people can make critical comments about the company, products, stories in the media, etc. Usually there would be a response from the department concerned explaining what has happened so people can see that yes, someone is listening and responding.

    But ultimately it is the culture of the company which makes the difference and how senior management treat the intranet.

    • Manya

      Thanks Andrew. It sounds like your company has a good system to encourage participation.

      It is so true that the company culture makes a difference. Most of us probably have stories about companies that try to fit an intranet and social forums into a culture that isn’t really set up for sharing.