Intranet Best Practices

Regardless of which intranet you use, there are some simple things you can do in order to help ensure not just more frequent usage, but a more rewarding experience for everyone.

Some tools might make these best practices easier, but none of them are exclusive. So let's start building a more delightful digital employee experience! 

Put people first

People are the beating heart of an intranet. Without people, an intranet is just an empty, lonely room full of links, policy docs, and admin posts. This is why it’s absolutely essential to focus on optimizing the experience for end users.

Focus on onboarding experience.

An intranet should be intuitive enough for anyone to learn to use, but don’t count on everyone picking it up immediately. Focus on a comprehensive onboarding experience so each member of the team knows how to get the most from this essential tool.

Optimize for deskless teams.

Depending on the organization, deskless teams can often outnumber those in the office; however, they’re often left with substandard communication tools.

This is a significant issue, because teams outside the office are frequently working closest to customers and products. Their insights are priceless, and the better communication channels they have available, the more effectively they can share those insights.

The mobile experience of any intranet you use should be at parity with anything someone can access from a desktop. Explore ways to enhance that experience, whether through third-party apps, or a more mobile-friendly intranet.

Make it easier for internal communicators to get their job done.

Intranets are a home base for your entire team, but they’re an especially important place for internal communications professionals. For many organizations, this is the most effective place to share and facilitate crucial communication.

With that in mind, it’s vital for internal communicators to have a tool that fits their needs. Tools like scheduled sending, secure delivery, and confirmed receipt can help ensure internal communications make it to their intended recipients, but not beyond them.

Embrace multi-channel communication.

Last, but not least, take advantage of the multi-channel communication opportunities an intranet can provide. Don’t just send an important message to a single platform that might not reach its entire intended audience.

Send it across a diverse range of channels and mediums so that people aren’t burdened with hunting for communication—it finds them.

Migrate key processes

One of the best ways to encourage active participation in an intranet is to bring everyday processes into the fold. There are numerous processes you can bring into an intranet, and even more resources. We’ll outline a few below, but there are many more.

Share company-wide emails as intranet posts.

This doesn’t mean you can’t (or shouldn’t) share these important communications through email, Slack, or Microsoft Teams. In fact, if you’ve integrated these tools into your intranet, the entire process can be automated.

Let the intranet become your source of truth and historical record.

The intranet is perfectly suited as the main source of truth that other communications refer back to. It’s the historical record that anyone can reference instantly with a quick search or a scroll down the feed.

Make the intranet your key company culture tool.

Showcase the best parts of your organizational culture on your intranet. Celebrate company wins, recognize great contributions from individuals and teams.

An intranet can be an exceptional tool for highlighting company core values in action, and helping everyone to connect daily behaviors with organizational culture.

Integrate everything you can.

Many modern intranets focus heavily on third-party integrations in order to expand functionality instantly. Whether you’re adding new communication channels, collaborative tools, automated user management, or even external social media content to the feed, integrations can give more life to an intranet without much extra work from administrators.

Designate and empower champions

Intranet content doesn’t make itself—at least not until you’ve established a practice of engaging with it as an organization. Until then, a digital workspace needs champions.

Who should be your champions?

In the past, these champions often sat predominantly on the IT side of the organization. Having members of the IT team invested in your intranet is great, but it's important to remember that most modern intranets have less need for direct involvement with IT.

Ask yourself: who is using and contributing to the intranet? Who would you expect to contribute regularly, and who would find those contributions valuable? Identify those personas and tailor the content to meet their needs and interests.

Ideally, everyone in your organization will be using an contributing to the intranet, so it's helpful to include not just administrators, internal communicators, HR, and IT.

Focus on collecting a diverse range of champions from different functional areas of the business, different tenures, and different seniority levels. Each will have their own valuable insights to share on the intranet experience.

Publish captivating content

Without lackluster content, intranets can become lonely, boring, information storehouses hardly anyone contributes to, or even visits voluntarily. That's why it's crucial to bring your best, most compelling content to the intranet.

When it comes to engaging intranet content, Crescenzo Communications' Steve Crescenzo is a renowned expert. Through his work as a consultant, workshop leader, speaker, and writer, he has helped tens of thousands of communicators improve their communication tactics, channels, and content.

His advice for intranet champions is simple:

"An intranet is only as good as what you put on it. Create great content and they will come... and contribute."

So, what separates good from great content, and how do you create it? 

To help get you started, Crescenzo shared five easy and actionable tips for publishing the type of content that actually gets seen and drives real engagement.

Tip #1: Write for the end user/employee, not the approver or internal client. 

For example, let’s say that you are writing an article for the intranet about a new wellness facility. A good news lead might be: 

 “The wellness facility is has the equipment and resources you need to get back on (or stay on) the road to wellness. Included in the new space is:”

And then a bulleted list of benefits. That is written for the user. Fast, to the point, sells the benefits up front.

BUT . . . the person in charge of that new facility has the final say in the article, right? And they want to dress it up—you know, get some bigger, more “important” corporate words in there! So she mangles the lead, and turns back in this:

“In an ongoing effort to optimize a best-in-class, engaged workforce where employees are the company’s most important asset, Human Resources is very proud to announce the grand opening of the New Wellness Facility, a best-in-class facility that leverages cutting-edge solutions and equipment to facilitate a healthier, more optimal workforce.”

Approvers and internal clients aren’t writers. You are. Never forget that! And never write a paragraph like that second one, just because you know it will sail through approvals. One way to remember this is...

Tip #2: Use the “What... So What... Now What” formula. 

What do you want employees to know? Why should they care? And what do you want them to do after they read watch, or listen to your content?

And get to the point! Ditch the long corporate lead-ins. Lose the droning executive quotes. Forget about jamming peoples’ titles and names of departments into the first paragraph. Write a fast first sentence, so people can get a running start into the rest of the content. 

Tip #3: Keep those videos short! Real short!

Video is all the rage these days, especially with executives. Which is great. Except when it’s not. And it’s not great when executives insist on doing nine-minute video messages to employees. Nine minutes? You might as well ask employees to watch Gone With the Wind.

Communicators need to speak truth to power. They need to say: “Boss, I know you have so much to say to employees. But, all the research in the world says videos need to be 90 seconds, at the most. 

Tip #4: White space is your friend.

When writing for the screen, and especially a mobile device, you want to use very short paragraphs. One or two sentences. Three at the most. Then hit that wonderful return key to get some air in there. Your readers will thank you for it. 

Tip #5: Be conversational, not corporate. 

I teach a lot of writing seminars, and I always tell participants: Great writing is talking, edited. Ditch your "corporate words" and use your “weekend words.” If you wouldn’t say it to your spouse or children or friends, don’t write it in an article, or say it on a video.

Here is a tip I often use when helping executives communicate to employees: I ask them to read the communication out loud.

Does it sound like something they would say? Or is it robotic, stiff and formal? Employees today want their “corporate” communications to be real, transparent, and conversational. 

Measure success

Think about what success looks like for your intranet. Is it weekly engagement, a threshold of content consumption, increased employee engagement, or—most likely—a collection of things?

Once you’ve defined success, it’s critical to be able to measure progress towards (or away from) it. Post analytics can help you understand how well individual messages perform, as well as how well communications are performing overall.

Engagement signals like emoji reactions on posts can provide some instant insight into the audience’s reception.

Use this data to guide future decisions about features to integrate, content in the intranet, communication cadences, and even the content of your communications.