How to make your intranet a destination

It doesn’t have to just be a place with holiday announcements and workplace policies.

A company’s intranet doesn’t need to be an afterthought. Sure, it’s a place where HR can put announcements about upcoming days off and post documents that outline company policies. But your intranet doesn’t need to be a snoozefest of paperwork — with the right amount of influence from communicators, it can also serve as a place where employees can go to learn and connect on a deeper personal level.

There’s a balance of factors that you should consider to make your intranet really sing. When those right notes are hit, it can become a useful and frequented resource that’s also a culture builder.

Content considerations

It might sound simple, but figuring out your intranet’s content equation is the biggest key to making your platform a desirable place to go. The hard part is ensuring that people actually go there.

Alison Patch, communications director at Article Group, agreed that the easy part is figuring out the content, but said that the difficult bit is nailing down the right cadence and channel selection of intranet content.

“How to extract information from leaders who are busy leading is the least sexy and the most out of your control as the communicator,” Patch said.

“I’ve seen it time and time again. After months or sometimes years of planning, your beautiful new intranet starts with a full content calendar and much hurrah but quickly becomes outdated and unreliable, which leads to trust breakdown amongst targeted users and it all devolves from there.”

She added that you need to get your mechanisms for sharing information right from the beginning and put accountability measures in place to make sure others are bought into keeping it up to date.

It’s also important to consider the channels you choose for intranet content and remember that not every message is right for every channel. For instance, lighter content about fun activities in the office might be better served by video or picture content, whereas more serious announcements might work better in written form.

Knowing an organization and its people will help you build your content framework and distribution strategy.

“Determining the framework for how you decide what is relevant or urgent will be individual to each organization,” Patch said, “but it also isn’t rocket science to consider that people need a heads up with enough time to process and then act.”

“ In terms of regular cadence on nonurgent items, again, people are the same: At the start and end of your week, you want to know you have the information you need to crush it at work and not have it bleed into your personal time. With the myriad tools we have available these days, even the smallest and least resourced team can find the right tool.”

Intranet as a cultural unifier

For some companies, particularly geographically dispersed ones, a good intranet platform can also serve as a source of cultural unity.

Kara Seward, second vice president of corporate communications and community engagement at Allied Solutions, said that you need to consider the copy, text and video content to ensure it’s aligned with your organization’s mission and values.

“Ideally, it should serve as the virtual water cooler for your company, especially with a workforce that has more hybrid and remote employees,” Seward said.

She added that the intranet should serve as a method of two-way communication, not just a board where announcements go.

“When you’re thinking through intranet content, it should be rooted in both culture and what you’re seeking or have learned about engagement in your company.”

What lies ahead

Creating your intranet as a destination is great, but to some, it’s not the only way forward in connecting with employees. Tristyn Hassani, head of internal communications at Axios HQ, cited an Axios study that reported 14% of surveyed employees preferred intranet as a preferred method of communication.

Hassani said that intranet shouldn’t be the sole focus of a communicator’s strategy going forward, particularly with innovations in comm tech and how AI is allowing people to connect more easily than ever before.

“Intranets definitely play a role in your internal comms strategy,” she said. “But you don’t want to design everything around the intranet — you need to have a more holistic strategy.”

Partnerships with other departments should form the center of any intranet strategy.

“HR and people teams are great partners for communicators and shouldn’t be minimized at every stage of the process,” added Patch.

“They often have the information you need in certain categories and are trained to understand clearly the sensitivities around posting different content.”

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports and hosting trivia.

COMMENT Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from directly in your inbox.