As the above title might have let you guess, I will be doing a bit of sidetracking in this post. Instead of focusing on internal newsletters, I will be putting the spotlight on SharePoint. The reason for this is a simple one. For great internal newsletters to blossom, you will need a fruitful intranet environment.
Plan for Internal Newsletters in SharePoint
1. Why You Should be Sending Newsletters to Your Employees
2. How to Write an Internal Newsletter Your Employees Will Want to Read
3. 10 Topic Ideas to Help You Jumpstart your Internal Newsletter Campaign
4. Why Your Internal Newsletter Communications Should Be About Security, Too
5. How You Can Use Insights Into Your Internal Newsletter Campaign to Boost Results
6. How to Turn Your SharePoint into the Ultimate Engagement Platform
7. How Information Architecture Will Help You Automate Content Delivery
8. Responsive Email Templates, Why Do We Use Them?
9. Newsletter Metrics, Link Clicks and Opens, How They Work
Most people who have worked with SharePoint will agree that it forms a perfect base for a good functioning intranet. But wait, did you detect the problem I alluded to in the previous sentence? It is in the word base. However much potential SharePoint may have, it has to be tweaked for it to work at its best.
So, how do you keep your employees engaged using SharePoint? By addressing 5 key points, I will explain how – with a bit of work and a lot of drive – your SharePoint intranet can be the ultimate engagement platform.
1. Create a plan of action
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your new and sharpened SharePoint intranet won’t be either. As change always starts with a plan, we will kick off from there. For a practical analysis of how change is achieved, I adapted and optimized Dr. John Kotter’s 8 steps of change for creating and sustaining an engaging intranet:
• Step 1: KNOW where the problem arises because this is where you seize opportunities
• Step 2: BUILD support throughout your organization
• Step 3: ENVISION your results and map out strategic initiatives to reach it
• Step 4: RECRUIT volunteers from within your organization
• Step 5: Free the way by REMOVING obstacles and barriers
• Step 6: Set short-term GOALS
• Step 7: Keep acceleration towards CHANGE going
• Step 8: MEASURE change inside of your organization to make it a part of it
To get the most out of your own 8 step plan, it is essential to understand which tools are at your disposal. Let’s talk about those tools and how they can help you.
2. Master the tools at your disposal
SharePoint has several tools to offer – all highly customizable. If you use them well, they are guaranteed to boost your engagement. The fundamental tools to use when accelerating engagement are: News, Calendars, Blogs, Wiki pages, Discussion Boards, Surveys, Newsletters, and Alerts. Now, let’s take a closer look at each one of them.
This is the preeminent way to share company achievements. The publishing of a steady, relevant flow of news in SharePoint will play a major role in the vitality of your intranet. And it is easy to do using your Publishing pages library. This feature is excellent because it is so easily modifiable: you can make news appear in most parts of your intranet by using search and query web parts. When you’ve posted a news item, and then the news itself changes – let’s be honest, it always does – SharePoint’s check in/check out function makes it easy to quickly and effortlessly update your publication. For you shorter news items you should use your Announcements list; place it on the homepage to reach people instantly.
Social Networking Tools
Similar to your News section, but more focused on conversation than informing; within your SharePoint, you can create your own social media. Yammer and SharePoint’s Newsfeed function in a similar way existing social media networks do. It is an easy and accessible way for users to share short bits of information with one another. This can be about lighter topics too, as this will give everyone a nicer space to work in! Both are well integrated into SharePoint and will work well to help for a more engaging platform.
Calendars do exactly what you expect them to do: keep people up to date, remind them of approaching deadlines and give a clear cut overview of all important events happening in the foreseeable future. Elements you should consider adding to your calendar are: events, department or company vacation plans, meetings and birthdays. You could spice things up by adding a themed office day once every few months; Speak Like a Pirate Day has always been popular in our experience.
This is where you establish a solid knowledge base for your organization. To start: create a foundation of easy to read, simple to execute, tutorials. Encourage staff to add their comments and discuss their best practices. In this way, you can be sure improvements are being driven on a collaborative mid-organization level, instead of being imposed from the top down. To get the most out of your Wiki Pages, you should use pre-configured Site Search Services and integrate them with your metadata columns.
This will be the most opinionated place on your SharePoint intranet. Share ideas, know how’s, process tips and discuss all of these from within your blog. Ask those users who are more active on the discussion boards, to start contributing to the blog as well. Get users from several departments to contribute to forming a cross-functional community. Using your blog you will not only engage people but will collectively grow knowledge and competence.
Remember that people, by nature, are learners. So they won’t mind you sharing interesting facts and developments about your industry. On top of that, 65% of the population exists of visual learners. Play on this, and share beautiful and informative infographics for a more visual learning experience.
A discussion board or forum is that perfect place where you can enter into conversation with staff members. Or, just as well, they can converse amongst themselves. A good tip: tweak your discussion board so that it looks visually striking – why don’t you copy here what social networks do so well? For the best results, place the discussion board on your homepage. In this way, people always see if something they are personally interested in is being discussed.
These don’t have to be used in the traditional sense. Use them to accelerate and liven up conversations, or for voting on lighter office matters such as should we get a vending machine that gives out free candy. (Of course, we should!)
Newsletters and alerts
Sustaining effective and engaging communication means delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to receive them. Your newsletters and alerts should be customizable for and by each individual. Recipients will then be able to opt in or out and select what messages they would like to receive, guaranteeing a higher open and click rate.
3. Cause crisscross-connectivity
What is next might pose the Gordian knot of creating an engaging intranet. However, it is also is your means to success. The advantage of SharePoint we value most is that all of the above-named tools in your intranet can work together to create one fluid user experience. Now it is up to you to cause a flow of what we’d like to call crisscross-connectivity.
Make sure all of the features you deem most important are easy to reach – preferably from your homepage. Nothing is as much of a pitfall as features hidden 5 clicks deep inside of your intranet. Next, you should create links between each of the features. News items can guide users back to already available tutorials or best practices discussions in your Wiki pages. Use your discussion board and surveys opposite one another to start dialogues.
You will have to accelerate the crisscross-connectivity, especially when just launching your improved intranet. In this way, you can start up consistent and steady dialogues and boost engagement. Moreover, you can be sure interaction on your SharePoint intranet moves away from something rarely done, to part of everyday office life.
4. Monitor and improve
Now you will have to monitor the effectivity of your improved and more engaging SharePoint intranet. The easiest way to do this is by setting a couple of short terms and long terms goals when you are just starting out. They could be:
• Reducing the response time for proposals by 5 days within 30 days
• Improving customer/staff satisfaction by 2 points in 90 days
• Increasing sales by 5% in the next 90 days
• Increasing the number of page views/visits by 20%
Reached your goals? You are on track – although that doesn’t mean you can leave the rest to faith. Didn’t reach your goals? No problem yet. Figure out why, and make alterations and improvements where you can.
You will probably have heard before that making mistakes is OK, as long as you only make them once – you might even be sick of hearing it, or seeing it on motivational posters! Nevertheless, it is an excellent maxim to keep in mind when building and maintaining your SharePoint intranet. The project to turn your SharePoint into the ultimate engagement platform doesn’t end when the service is online, nor does it 30 days later. So keep monitoring and improving your intranet. It is, after all, a growing system.
5. Newsletters and SharePoint
As the goal of this blog series is to help you optimize your internal newsletter campaigns, I want to return to this now.
Internal newsletters, mind the cliché, are the glue that holds your intranet together. Newsletters should lead people to your intranet, and vice versa. They should cover the same topics – as they are the ones that are being spoken about. When you see that a certain topic is broadly discussed on your discussion board; include it in your next internal newsletter. In a similar way, you can use your newsletters to start a new conversation, linking to a survey, blog post or a new topic on the discussion board.
SharePoint, as I mentioned before, is highly customizable. You could even build a solution that collects data from your SharePoint lists to automatically compose newsletters. No time to do this yourself? Fortunately, there are also third-party apps available to do this for you.
Here, again, we see that crisscross-connectivity is playing an active role in the creation and distributing of content. Keep this in mind as a starting point, create your own 8 step plan and soon you will be on your way to create and manage a more engaging SharePoint intranet.
SharePoint is, more so than people might think, a social platform. It can help build relationships that lead to more trust and more open communication and collaboration across your organization.
When SharePoint is functioning as your intranet, staff will continuously be active on the platform, working on and interacting with all of its features. By providing all of the relevant information at the right time through the use of efficient search tools, taxonomy, collaboration and all of SharePoint’s available features you can create a better and more engaging intranet.
Share your thoughts on SharePoint as the ultimate engagement platform in the comments and we’ll make sure to respond.
Coming up next in our Best Practices for Internal Newsletters series:
How Information Architecture Will Help You Automate Content Delivery
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