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3 Steps To Making Intranet News Useful

Everyone that has an intranet probably suffers from an ill used and badly conceived "news" section purporting to give you the latest happenings within your organisation but is generally ego-centric publishing's from upon high that have little if any impact on your day-to-day job. Of course this is unlikely to be 100% of the time for 100% of organisations but if it is, GET OUT!

But hey, it's my role in life to take these issues and, for your organisation, make it better and to that end I started writing this posting before discovering someone had beat me to it. Yep, James over at Step Two Designs (Sydney, Australia) wrote the post I was going to waaaay back in July 2006 - Intranets as a news channel

2006, so has much changed in 3 years ... no, not really, the issues are still the same:
... issues arise because the news section is implemented as a ‘default’ element of the intranet home page. Little consideration is given to the design or management of this news channel, beyond implementing a basic set of capabilities.

The list of improvements James outlines are still valid:
  1. Improving the design of news
  2. News in its place
  3. Pushing via email
  4. Broadening the scope of news
  5. Reaching all staff
  6. Competing news sources
  7. Ensuring the intranet is useful
Back in 2006 the use of RSS was in its infancy and so point 3, "Pushing via email" is probably the only one that I would challenge by suggesting we give the news readers the ability to choose their delivery mechanism.

So, the three steps starts with ...

Following James' improvement suggestions will leave you with a much happier news site.

Having said that, a lot of you may have done some of them already (this was posted 3 years ago so I'd hope at last some of you have :-) and the emergence of "social media" in the online consumer world has moved us on a great deal.

2: Stop Thinking Of A "One-Size Fits All" Intranet Homepage
News = Important, obvious right? And therefore it should be the first thing you see, the Intranet homepage. Hmmm, maybe ... maybe not. Perhaps by placing the news on the homepage you are elbowing more relevant and useful items out of the way. And how do you know what is "relevant" and "useful" ... go ask the people.

So maybe news is not THE most important thing.
Also, within the news articles there will be a wide range of relevancy and usefulness, especially if you suffer from a large amount of ego-based news publishing (you'll know it when you see it). A lot of intranet news has had an over prioritisation on proximity to the news producer, perceived prominence and impact. Also standard definitions of what constitutes "news" as used by internal journalists (or Internal Communication Advisers) places value upon the event being reported and the news producer doing the reporting over and above the value to the staff members - and in the past there wasn't a lot we could do about that.

Being able to filter as much of the news to fit the individual staff member should be your second part of cutting down the "one size fits all" - think about what the system should already knows about the reader and filter accordingly:
  • Where they are in the world
  • Where they are in the organisational hierarchy
  • What content they are already reading (match "tags" etc)
  • What products are they currently working on
  • ...
And because I'm about to suggest you increase the amount of news published your staff will need help managing it your "news system" should be actively filtering, searching and prioritising relevant and useful news. But your business is your business and you can ask your staff what would make the news more relevant and useful to them.

3: Allow News Of Any "Size" To Be Produced
And finally, the tough but valuable step is to democratise the news production.

News, be definition, is what the news publisher publishes. Out in the real world this is a simple but powerful point often missed - events happen and, depending upon their timeliness, proximity (to news consumer AND news producer), prominence, impact, suspense, human interest, novelty and progress they may become "news".

Proximity to the news producer is a key item focus when democratising internal news - news may happen in a remote store and not in the hallowed offices of the corporate mother ship. Giving the ability for "remote stores" to produce their own news allows the news to flow which, with point '2' in action means more news that is relevant and usable flows passed those at need to see it.

I hope this gives you food for thought when revisiting the design of your internal news on your Intranet. Other articles related to this: