How we discouraged a client to develop a new intranet and achieved results in working with a content

Elena Bogdanova
7 min readSep 3, 2020

Nowadays intranet is the key internal communication channel of global news and updates in many large organizations. But some companies often have issues with employee awareness and communications within departments. A new tool for creating such communications within the department is not always the right solution. Organizations need to rethink the way they look at internal communications on lower organizational levels.

Client

The internal communications team of the Financial Division of one of the biggest Russian banks. The Division employs about 3,700 people. The intranet was launched a long time ago; the visual part of the intranet was updated two years ago.

Problem

The Head of the Division came to Rivelty with a request to choose a platform for creating corporate “Facebook” for his employees. He wanted to improve horizontal and vertical communications. Even though there were a lot of internal communications channels in the Bank like newsletters, corporate TV, internal messenger, information boards, mobile apps, employees were getting most of the relevant work information on personal meetings with a manager.

Result

We helped the client to find a solution but in a different way. After the audit, it became clear that there are enough internal communication tools, corporate “Facebook” would just worsen the problem. It is better to invest money and effort into content development. That is what we did.

Rivelty team and internal communications team of the Division worked together on the project for 9 weeks. Now the Division’s communications team has completely restructured content generating and publishing processes. HQ publishers make content plans and templates, content is published regularly. The Division’s newsletter was created to help distribute news, updates, and announce them in the group chat on corporate messenger. Publishers in regional branches post not only news but also a business content that is valuable for readers.

As a result intranet traffic has grown twice. Employees are now able to find all relevant information through the intranet. They get Financial Division’s newsletter with certain updates, news, manager’s address as well as user-generated informal content. Local co-workers now feel that they are part of the same information space.

The budget savings from not building a new IC channel but organizing content creating processes came to a 3 million RUB (or US$40 000).

Process. What did we do?

Audience research

To develop a new internal communication channel and make sure it will solve the client’s problem, first, we requested HR-data. We needed information on:

  • how many employees work in HQ and regional branches, it turned out to be 75% and 25%;
  • how many have access to the intranet;
  • the ratio of managers and specialists;
  • categories and age of employees.
Persona

After analyzing dry numbers, we conducted 31 in-depth employee interviews. This was necessary to define the target audience of the intranet and create personas. We spoke with 11 employees from Moscow, 17 employees in the local offices, and 3 stakeholders. This information helped us to create 4 personas with their pains and needs.

Audience research and interviews showed that employees are overloaded by many IC channels, but don’t get the proper information in any of it.

Since there were enough internal communication channels we assumed there was no need to introduce another one, we should work with content. To test this assumption, we conducted an audit of digital communication channels.

Audit of digital communication channels

To audit online channels, we looked at statistics, examples, content publication frequency, feedback for each internal communication channel. Then we divided all channels into three categories:

1. Offline, the main channel: work meetings, strategic sessions, training, leadership meetings, briefings. We have included Skype and telephone calls in the same category.

2. Online internal: Bank’s general newsletter, regional branch newsletters, corporate messenger, intranet.

3. Online external: official and unofficial groups on Facebook and Vkontakte (Russian analog of Facebook), groups on WhatsApp, and Viber.

As part of the interview, we asked what channels people receive information through. It turned out all the most important information employees were getting from managers or discussing at work meetings. The existing Bank’s newsletter covered only general information. It did not disclose news or business updates that were relevant to the Financial Division.

Bottom line: there are enough IC channels, need to work on proper content creation, distribution, and content governance

The research of the target audience and the audit of digital IC channels completely changed our view of the client’s problem.

  • We realized that there is no need to create a new IC tool either Facebook or anything else, there are already enough of them.
  • There is no digitalization inside the Division: employees get the most important information in personal communication. Information is transmitted top-down from managers to employees. With this scheme, some information is lost, and regional branches are the last to get the news. The content is out of order. Employees do not know where and what to read.
  • To solve the problem using this data, we created a system of working with content within the Division.

Development of digital internal communications channels

We decided not to regulate offline communication and focused on online channels. Instead of figuring out what to write, we conducted an online survey of 160 employees. It showed what content is missing, how much time employees are willing to spend on reading, what style of presentation is preferable.

Preferable content formats

As a result, we developed a concept of channel development. The main source of information should be the intranet. Newsletters and the corporate messenger will help with content distribution.

List of Themes

We have created a List of Themes in a matrix format — this way publishers can come up with an infinite number of ideas for content that fall into the “pains” of the target audiences. In addition to solving the problem: “What to write about?” the List of Themes provides structure and tips for all topics and helps with the content governance for regional branch publishers.

Fragment of the List of Themes

Content Plan

Content Plan is a document that regulates what content needs to be produced and published in different channels. Of course, to create the content plan, we considered the performance of the team.

Fragment of Content Plan

The developed content plan is flexible. It helps to quickly replace publications if a specific text is not ready at the right time. So publishers can fill the intranet with quality content, despite the overlays in production.

Templates for typical types of content

For the team to cope with the new volume of content, we have developed templates for different types of updates and posts. Editorial templates consist of a recommended structure, an example of implementation, and typical errors. It simplifies and speeds up the text writing. Also, we made training videos on how to style the text, how to select pictures, how to evaluate the effectiveness of content, etc.

Example of template for announcements

HQ publishers of the Bank’s Financial Division were invited to a 6-hour workshop “Content in Intranet”. It is conducted regularly by Rivelty.Intranet for intranet community in Russia.

Conclusion

Clients with a poorly performing intranet assume they need new service or transfer existing intranet to a new platform. When we search for a solution we should not forget that an intranet is not only a platform but primarily content. Good content means quick wins and great results. This is something that can be influenced by the internal communications team without large investments and improvements in IT. The company’s business experts might not be strong enough in publishing. But a systematic approach of work with content and special tools (themes, content plan, templates) help to involve them in the production of content.

Head of the Bank’s Financial Division comment: “New content management approach and quick development solutions on existing IC channels let us keep internal communications of Financial Division up to date and available for all employees despite the place in the organizational structure. Also, it became easier to communicate with regional branches, we’re all in the same information space now. The development of a new channel would take us around 2 years.”

To know more about how we develop intranets in Russia, follow me on Linkedin. Rivelty.Intranet page is here.

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Elena Bogdanova

Intranet consultant and managing director of Rivelty.Intranet. Leader of Russian Intranet community and keynote speaker at Russian and world conferences.