34 ideas for promoting your intranet
The promotion of an intranet is never-ending. From the day it’s launched, through to its eventual retirement, an intranet must be constantly advertised to staff.
Without this, many staff will remain unaware that the intranet even exists. Others won’t recognise the full value of the intranet, or use anything but a tiny corner of the site.
This article outlines 34 ideas for promoting an intranet, ranging from the obvious through to the very unusual. Somewhere in this list should be a few approaches that you can apply to your own intranet.
All of the ideas listed in this article have been synthesised out of the topics discussed during the Intranet Peers in Government forums, held in Sydney and Canberra.
As such, these are practical approaches that have been tried in organisations, and recommended as successful.
Some promotional ideas
The best time to raise the profile of the intranet is right at the outset. An intranet launch can take many forms, both large-scale or small.
Many of the ideas outlined in this document can be used in a coordinated fashion during the intranet launch. This ‘big bang’ approach works best when the intranet is able to deliver on the high level of expectation generated.
Even a small launch can be effective in making staff aware that a new method of finding answers is now available.
In stark comparison with the previous approach, many organisations have chosen to follow a ‘no launch’ or a ‘promotion by stealth’ approach.
In these organisations, staff have often become cynical of the promises made by IT projects, and the consistent failure to meet stated deadlines.
In these situations, a low-key rollout is often the most effective approach. Instead of a ‘big bang’ approach, more subtle techniques are used, often relying on word-of-mouth dissemination.
Do staff even know that the intranet exists?
Defining intranet goals
Defining a clear and meaningful set of intranet goals is an important foundation for any promotional activities.
Having goals allows you to articulate an answer to the question: “What is this intranet for?”.
Like the promotion of any product, it is vitally important to have a clear message. The intranet goals are the basis for defining the message that the intranet promotional activities are conveying.
Celebrating the anniversary of the initial intranet launch provides an ideal opportunity for a concerted promotional campaign.
There are many ways of holding birthday celebrations. Some organisations chose to hold a big meeting, in which an actual cake is cut, and all the key stakeholders are invited.
Others update their intranets to reflect a birthday theme, or send out promotional materials.
One organisation, for example, scattered 20 birthday cake icons throughout the intranet, and the first ten people to find them all won a t-shirt. While humorous, this did expose people to sections of the intranet they had not previously visited.
Whatever the approach, the intranet’s birthday provides a once-a-year story opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.
The visibility of the intranet must be maintained at every level of the organisation. For management and executive, presentations are typically the most effective way of communicating messages.
These may cover the intranet at a high level, explain specific initiatives, or new functionality.
Ensure these presentations are well-prepared and to the point.
Keep talking about the intranet, as often as you can, to as many people as possible
E-mail links to intranet
A very effective marketing method is to replace e-mail attachments in global e-mails with links to the relevant page on the intranet.
In this way, the e-mails act as ‘push’ marketing of intranet resources. It also reduces the load on the e-mail systems.
This works well, for example, with news items and other announcements. Some education is required to encourage e-mail senders to reduce their reliance on attachments.
Using the communications team
The staff of internal communications or internal marketing teams are professionals who specialise in conveying targeted messages to the organisation.
Use this group as a resource to promote the intranet, and to further increase usage.
Every intranet should be supported with a simple brochure outlining the key features and benefits, along with screenshots and URLs.
Beyond this, there are benefits to professionally producing a full-colour brochure. This presents a more compelling image, and is more likely to be noticed by staff.
Many organisations have an internal graphic arts department who can prepare such materials.
What’s new e-mails
While new material may be frequently added to the intranet, staff may not be aware of this if they don’t regularly visit the intranet homepage or ‘what’s new’ section.
Instead, consider sending out a regular e-mail listing new information on the intranet, with links directly to the relevant pages.
These e-mails can be sent out weekly, fortnightly, or even monthly. In some organisations, staff rely solely on these e-mails to keep up-to-date with current information.
Automatically loading homepage
Throughout the organisation, every browser should have its homepage set to the intranet. That way, when the browser is opened by the user, the intranet is immediately presented.
Beyond this, some organisations have chosen to automatically launch the browser on login. This puts the intranet in front of users at the beginning of every day.
Many of these organisations have found this approach to be very successful, particularly when the intranet homepage changes frequently (such as presenting news, etc).
Auto-loading the intranet on login can be very effective
Displays in foyer
Posters or other displays in the main foyer of offices can attract the attention of staff arriving each morning.
These should feature high-impact designs that can be easily read from a distance. Large-format colour posters can be a practical way of achieving this.
In those cultures where sport is an important institution, competitions such as ‘footy tipping’ are commonplace.
Implementing such competitions on the intranet have been listed as ‘killer applications’ by some intranet teams.
Once staff access the intranet, they are more likely to browse to other areas.
Some of the most unusual ‘killer apps’ are the most effective
Letterhead and business cards
The intranet should be listed on all internal letterheads, business cards, newsletters, in fact any printed material that provides information.
In this way, the intranet is promoted as the primary source of information in the organisation. This ‘ever-present’ advertising can be quite effective over time.
Gimmicks and novelties
A wide range of promotional products have been used to increase awareness of the intranet. These include:
- lollies and other confectionary
- mouse mats
While these can be effective, make sure you understand the culture of the organisation. Not all staff may be keen to be bombarded with such gimmicks.
Migrating key applications
By migrating key applications, staff can be forced to access the intranet. Examples often include leave forms and other HR functions.
Always ensure that the replacement web-based application is at least as capable and usable as the system it replaces. Otherwise, considerable staff frustration will be generated.
Many successful intranets have a few key ‘killer applications’ that drive overall interest and usage.
What these are depends entirely on the organisation and its staff. While some possible killer apps have been listed in this article, many others are possible.
Keep a look out for opportunities to develop these killer apps. It may be possible to meet a widespread need in the organisation, with only a few hours of development.
(Killer apps don’t have to be large, in fact, many are small systems that target a very specific requirement.)
Promoting via the business
The business owners of specific sections can be co-opted to launch and promote their content. As the advertising comes from within the business, it can be more effective than that conducted by the central intranet team.
It also shares the burden of intranet marketing more widely.
Most organisations are now awash with acronyms and jargon, much of which is not understood by both new and seasoned staff alike.
Several organisations have had considerable success with implementing a simple ‘acronym finder’ on the intranet.
Typing in an acronym brings back a brief definition. These definitions are submitted by the staff themselves, allowing the database to grow over time.
Even if the intranet is web-based, staff still need training
While the intranet is built using standard web technology, and accessed via a web browser, this does not eliminate the need for training.
Depending on the nature of the organisation, many staff may be unfamiliar with the web, or with computers in general.
Providing end-user training has been demonstrated to increase the usage and effectiveness of the intranet.
Quote of the day
Any daily-changing information on the intranet, that is of broad interest, is a good way of promoting the intranet.
One organisation uses a humorous or controversial ‘quote of the day’ feature on the intranet to generate increased usage.
Each week, some intranet teams post a profile of a staff member, selected from across the organisation. This may be a senior executive, down to a junior staff person.
This increases the sense of community within the organisation, and is an interesting talking point.
As variation on this, one organisation provides a number of hints, and runs a competition to guess who the staff member is. With the unusual nature of many of the hints, this generates wide interest.
Ethically exploit all promotional opportunities
Online condolence site
On the passing away of a much-loved chief executive, one organisation organised an impromptu ‘condolence site’, where staff could enter messages. This saw an outpouring of sympathy and grief from across the organisation.
Similarly, when bushfires swept through one city, several intranets became the primary way that staff kept abreast of what was happening.
While care must be taken to use such methods sensitively, tragedies and disasters do provide promotional opportunities.
Bulletin boards, discussion groups
Increasing the interactive aspects of an intranet can considerably increase usage and visibility.
Discussion groups, bulletin boards and other collaboration tools provide staff with a new mechanism for keeping in touch.
While the majority of these online forums are likely to be devoted to serious work issues, less formal areas, such as a ‘buy and sell’ area often prove to be very popular.
These collaborative tools also have the benefit of reducing the over-reliance on e-mails.
New starters are unfamiliar with the way the organisation works, and where to go for answers.
By including a meaningful section on the intranet in staff induction materials and activities, new staff can be trained to see the intranet as the primary information source in the organisation.
Sending a welcome message
Related to the previous idea, one intranet team automatically sends a ‘welcome’ message to all new staff, introducing them to the intranet.
Fixing browser settings
Depending on the state of the IT infrastructure, some users may not be able to access the intranet, due to incorrect proxy or other network settings.
Without a bookmark to the intranet, or having it set as the homepage, users are also likely to have difficulty.
While this is strictly the domain of the IT support desk, some intranet groups have found it valuable to spend time fixing the settings on individual workstations.
Over time, this considerably increases the potential audience for the intranet.
Even if the intranet is web-based, staff still need training
IT help desk
The IT help desk (or support desk) is an important ally in increasing intranet usage. By building bridges with this team, they can be encouraged to promote and support the intranet.
Naming the intranet
Having a catchy and memorable intranet name is a great way of promoting the intranet. It gives the intranet a clear identity, and makes it easier to refer to in documents, and in conversation.
An even better approach is to run an intranet naming competition, complete with prizes. This generates involvement from the entire organisation, and builds a greater sense of ownership.
This has been very successfully used in many organisations.
Providing telephone support
Offering unlimited telephone support may seem a daunting prospect for any intranet team, but it goes a long way to removing many barriers to staff usage.
Even a small intranet team of two found that while the initial number of calls was quite high, this fairly rapidly dropped off as staff became more accustomed to the intranet.
Better yet, by offering this service, they generated considerable goodwill and respect that was not quickly forgotten.
‘E-mail this page’
Some intranets have provided an ‘e-mail this page to a colleague’ feature on every page, to considerable effect.
For one organisation, this was even listed as a ‘killer app’ that increased intranet usage more than any other initiative.
Senior management must see the intranet as a strategic asset, and promote it accordingly
Gaining management support
If senior management see the intranet as a strategic asset, they will naturally promote its use.
A number of studies have shown that lack of management support and sponsorship is one the largest causes of project failure.
Conversely, if the intranet does have the required support, this will have a huge impact upon levels of usage, and long-term viability.
Spend time ‘selling’ the intranet to management, and ensuring that they understand its role within the organisation.
Training managers’ PAs
Many senior staff rely entirely on their personal assistants (PAs) to look up information, and to use computing equipment.
For these key staff, training the PAs in how to make use of the intranet is the best way of having an impact.
Maximising the value of the homepage
The intranet homepage is the most valuable ‘real-estate’ on the entire site. Use this to present the most recent, and most useful, information on the intranet.
By maximising the value of the homepage, overall intranet usage can be increased.
Coordinated marketing plan
Finally, all of these activities should be integrated as part of a single marketing plan. This spells out what the message is, who it is being targeted at, and how it will be delivered.
Bring all your ideas together into a single coordinated marketing plan
The role of organisational culture
As a final note, it is important to recognise the role of your organisation’s culture in the success of any promotional initiative.
These two stories are instructive:
They sent round a box that had a little fun-sized kit-kat in it and there was a message in there saying take a break. Everybody got this and they were given authority by the Secretary to take half an hour just to familiarise themselves with the new site, and have their kit-kat. Apparently it was very successful.
Part of our launch was that we didn’t launch. We just rolled it out, and did not create any expectation that it was coming. That was actually part of its success, because we had so many things roll out that didn’t meet expectations, and didn’t meet the deadline that they were supposed to be rolled out on.
While they both come from Australian government departments, with very similar organisational structure, there are clearly big differences in the culture.
While in one organisation, novelty value was used very effectively, the level of cynicism generated by past IT projects in the other organisation demanded a more low-key approach.
As these stories show, it is vitally important to gain an understanding of the organisational culture, and to adjust the promotional activities to match.
What works in one organisation, may be a complete failure in another. It is therefore up to you to find your own path.
(For an overall methodology for developing or redeveloping an intranet, see the Intranet Roadmap.)