Intranet Content Strategy Pt1: Effective Internal Comms Copy

Image shows a typewriter to illustrate that this intranet content strategy article covers effective writing
April 7, 2015
Robin Dominik Havre
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So, you’ve got to create an intranet content strategy.

I know. It seems harder than it should be.

The American screenwriter, playwright and journalist, Gene Fowler, once famously said:

“Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

It’s possible (and just like so many professional writers) you’re procrastinating and putting off content creation with increasingly elaborate excuses.

But HR managers and others in charge of internal communications have got legitimate reasons. After all, you’ve got a lot of other things to do.

But the inevitable fact remains. That content must be written.

That means there are two possible outcomes:

1. You write something effective that produces the kinds of results that’ll impress your staff and/or your superiors.

2. You spend approximately the same amount of time writing something that falls flat on its face.

Failure means wasted time, hindered return on investment from your intranet, and maybe even a little embarrassment. No wonder you’re putting it off!

But, you’re in luck.

Because we have a 4-part special that’s created to help you build your intranet content strategy on the kind of solid foundation principles that produce results.

It begins here. Sign up to the weekly email to get the new parts as they’re published.

 

Can you really learn to write effectively?

This first part is all about the writing. And here’s why you should read it.

Sure, it takes years of study and diligent practice to become a copywriting superstar like David Ogilvy. And, although I did consult with a successful journalist and content marketer for this article, I’m not claiming to be Steven King. 

But, learning a few fundamentals can dramatically improve your writing relatively quickly. A pocketful of simple rules can put you ahead of the curve.

On his excellent blog, public speaker and author, James Clear, calls this a “logarithmic growth curve”. Here’s a diagram:

logarithmic-growth-curve

Image credit: James Clear

It means you improve enormously in the beginning. Yes, writing takes years to study and you’ll soon see diminishing returns if you do.

The important thing to note is that studying just a little yields results.

So yes, reading the guide will be worth your time.

 

1. Plan your content, plan your calendar

You must plan both your content and your content calendar.

Even if you don’t stick to the plan, drafting communication ideas out before you begin writing is a great way to get the creative juices flowing and avoid so-called “writer’s block”.

As Harvard University professor and author, Tal Ben-Shahar, puts it: “Prepare, prepare, prepare and then be spontaneous.”

This is good advice for university lectures and for writing content. Plus, planning a little ahead like this limits procrastination later. Because you already know what to do.

When it comes to your overall intranet content strategy, create a calendar with content ideas planned well ahead of time. There is absolutely no point in chasing a deadline every time there’s a piece of content due.

Great free tools for the job include Asana, Trello or even Google Calendar. You can collaborate with team members, and your strategies are stored in the cloud for mobile access.

Consider assigning different colours to each type of content so you can see at a glance what direction your content strategy is taking. 

 

2. Find your voice

You often hear writing advice that says words to the effect of “find your voice”. However, it’s less common to find actionable advice on how to do it. Here’s one of the best tips on how to find yours.

Sub-vocalise (speak your words in your head) while you’re writing. Use commas where you’d naturally pause and full stops where you’d natural ends a sentence. Speak like you were talking to your best friend in a conversation. Experiment with different conversational or speaking scenarios in your mind’s eye while you write.

Practice hearing this voice in your head and then translating that mental “audio” into words. Your writing will transform overnight and you’ll eventually evolve that voice into one that really works for you.

 

3. Set aside time to create

Good writing takes time. It’s an inconvenient truth and an inevitable fact.

If you don’t make time to write, your writing won’t be as good as it should be. You don’t have the time to make, reconsider how you’re distributing responsibilities among your team. If your HR manager’s overloaded, think who else might be up for the challenge and who has a slightly less busy schedule.

By allotting writing time this way, you’ll be surprised by your output.

Be sure to allow at least an hour per session in which you will write and only write. Give yourself short breaks regularly.

Never write more than 1,000 words per day.

So, if you have a content strategy that involves one 500-word articles per week, you should never try to put a whole day aside to burn through a month’s worth of content.

By the time you’ve finished, you’ll be exhausted and completely sick of the words in front of your face. 

And by the time next month rolls round, you’ll procrastinate harder than ever.

 

4. Write with economy

“Writing with economy” is another way of saying use as few words as possible. That means you’re going to have to be careful about your choice of words.

Let’s see an example with that previous sentence:

“That means, you’re going to have to be careful about your choice of words.”

It seems like a legit sentence. After all, if you were in a conversation with a colleague about how to write intranet content, they may say to you:

“Well, make sure you write with economy! That means, you’re going to have to be careful about your word choice.”

In writing though, it’s completely unnecessary. Because you can just write:

“You must choose words carefully”

That’s five words instead of 13. It may only be 7 words difference, but it’s over a 50% reduction on the word count. Imagine that over an entire article…

Every word in a sentence should have a distinct purpose; if it’s expendable, it needs to go. You’ll never get them all. But you should at least try.

 

5. Edit a lot (and then edit some more)

This above point boils down to editing.

The process of stripping out unnecessary words has almost no end. You can literally sit there for 16 hours and you’d still find unnecessary words.

But if you practice, the amount of information you deliver with fewer words will increase. Your staff will pay more attention to what you’re writing. They’ll feel like they’re getting something from the content and they’ll come back for more.

So yes, it’s a skill worth practising.

If you write regularly, you’ll notice an improvement in the quality of your writing, your confidence will grow and your content strategies will generate greater results, compounding the effect.

Practice these tips regularly and watch your intranet content flourish.

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Robin Dominik Havre

Robin is the CEO of New Intranet. He's helped many companies deploy successful mobile intranets that are easy to use and specially designed for employees not working in front of a computer. The goal of this blog is to provide research-backed intranet and internal communications advice for more successful HR strategies.

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