Content marketing and brand storytelling—buzzy terms for the online journalism companies publish for customers, investors and other external audiences—have earned their fair share of headlines and kudos in recent years.
And that’s with good reason. Organizations around the world have stepped up their communications game in a big way, using multimedia storytelling to boost not only brand loyalty and corporate trust, but also the bottom line.
As corporate sites become more humanized, allowing them to enjoy a dot-com renaissance, their sister platforms—intranets—continue to fly under the radar, quietly powering employees and enterprises with a curated suite of tools, resources and content designed to fuel productivity, collaboration and engagement. Equal parts news channel, internal communications hub, HR portal and collaboration platform, a modern intranet is the cornerstone of the high-performing digital workplace.
Companies who pour the same passion and intentional creativity into their intranets as they do their public-facing sites create a solid foundation for inspired, connected and empowered teams. This is now more important than ever, as organizations increasingly face challenges of geographically dispersed and matrixed workforces.
The same best practices that external websites use to embrace brand storytelling should apply to intranets. In fact, truly effective intranets are extensions of their public-facing peers—not siloed domains. Therefore, employers should communicate with their employees using tools such as personalization, syndication and distribution that they already know work well on non-intranet sites.
At Brightspot, we’ve worked with digital teams at some of the world's leading corporate brands, transferring lessons learned from building storytelling sites to the intranet design and deployment process. These learnings have informed the evolution of Brightspot in ways that allow companies to tailor intranets to the needs of employees in harmony with their corporate site counterparts.
Here are few steps to consider when building your next-generation intranet:
Start with—and stay focused on—the big picture
The most effective intranets are grounded in thoughtful, deliberate strategy. A company or organization’s mission and values should collectively serve as a guiding north star during the planning and execution phase. The “what” (content and messaging) and “how” (formatting, design, tone and presentation) should always ladder up to your company’s overarching vision and serve as a true reflection of your principles and priorities. This cultivates a shared sense of purpose and connection among employees, and it keeps everyone focused on the work that matters most.
Write like a human, about humans
A common pitfall of countless internal communications teams is an over-reliance on jargon, acronyms and other forms of lifeless corporate lingo. The most effective intranet stories hero the people behind the brands who are living the organization’s values and making a difference both on and off the job. Equally important is preserving a conversational, authentic voice and use of layman’s language—especially for multilingual employee audiences—and using the visual power of photography to bring the content to life.
Inform, enable and engage
Intranets should be both transactional and inspirational. They should give employees quick-and-easy access to the critical data and resources they need—company directories, policies, payroll and benefits info, digital assets, etc.—and keep everyone up-to-date on the latest headlines, mission work and other happenings around the company. Your intranet should inspire employees, create a sense of community, foster company pride and empower everyone in the organization to think about the bigger picture to which their daily work contributes, so aim to strike the right balance between utility and company news.
Savvy organizations are using intranets to promote collaboration and knowledge sharing by integrating messaging/chat tools, moderated forums and social media-inspired functions like hashtags, liking, commenting and sharing. To effectively engage all of your stakeholders and empower them to contribute content back to the experience, executive leaders should feel comfortable easily updating the intranet with information and perspectives in a timely fashion; similarly, colleagues should have access to a variety of storytelling types, including articles, live blogs, live streams, galleries, videos, press releases and more.
Share with thy neighbor
Ideally, your content management system (CMS) should power both your external website and your intranet. By sharing a common publishing platform, internal and external comms teams can seamlessly cross-pollinate content and experiences.
Keep it clean (and fresh)
As outlined in this article, the overall content experience of your intranet matters, so it’s essential to be timely, remain authentic, publish efficiently and distribute effectively across devices. When it comes to the intranet user experience itself, less is most certainly more. Employees want to find and download information as quickly as possible and then return to their workday, so it’s important to keep the navigation and design simple, with minimal visual clutter or memory-draining applications. This is especially true for the homepage, which doubles as your intranet’s front doorstep and digital living room. All critical sections should be accessible with one click from—and all paths should clearly lead back to—the starting destination (i.e., employ a “no dead ends” approach to page design). Avoid user fatigue by frequently updating the homepage.
Know your audience
A successful intranet centers around its users. Before rolling up your sleeves on a site plan, poll a cross-section of employees spanning areas of expertise, functions and levels of seniority to learn what they want and need from their intranet. Remember an intranet isn’t a one-size-fits-all experience. Instead, it should allow you to build in personalization features to serve up relevant content based on an employee’s department, location or job function.
Establish and enforce rules of the road
Governance is primarily about creating a framework to enable smooth decision-making, planning and maintenance of your intranet. This includes establishing publishing guidelines, author permissions, editorial and visual style guides, and other considerations to keep everyone on the same page (literally and figuratively).
How Brightspot can revolutionize your corporate intranet
Brightspot has spent more than a decade partnering with hundreds of customers—many of whom have been underwhelmed by the stagnant, outdated intranets they had in place. After learning about pain points associated with these portals and discussing ways to transform them into essential and engaging platforms that are used by employees each day, we developed Brightspot GO Intranet.
Brightspot’s powerful out-of-the-box intranet platform integrates with your other software and services, requires minimal involvement from your IT department, and comes with all the preconfigured templates and components needed to engage your workforce and increase productivity. The following features help set Brightspot’s intranet solution apart:
- Seamless authentication with your existing systems and single sign-on
- Employee profile templates, in which both public and private user profiles are supported
- Powerful and flexible personalization and permissions
- A variety of content types, such as articles, galleries, videos (including live streaming with AWS Elemental), press releases and images
- Powerful federated search, allowing busy editors to find exactly what they’re looking for, without having to ever leave the CMS
- Flexible storytelling templates, including article, listicle, gallery and live blog
When you’re ready to engage your workforce and accelerate productivity with a new or reimagined intranet, consider a flexible, cost-effective, out-of-the-box platform like Brightspot GO Intranet.
Modern Intranet Playbook
With companies battling to retain employees like never before, there is one tool that is helping in this effort: A modern internal communications platform. Intranets have been quietly powering employee experiences with a curated suite of tools, resources, and content, helping companies foster a more fulfilled, productive, and collaborative workforce.
In this guide, we explore:
- A roadmap for securing internal buy-in for upgrading your intranet
- The 5 must-have features employees demand of a modern intranet
- Four editorial principles for creating engaging content for your intranet