This article below was written by our guest author, Wedge, and is reproduced from his blog with his permission.
Perhaps not everyone has the right / permission to publish articles on your intranet. It’s likely that a percentage of your workforce are able to contribute directly, but a larger percentage can only contribute indirectly (perhaps through comments or updates).
Yet news, views, direction and updates should come from the content experts, not always via the Comms Team’s interpretation. The content expert may need some guidance as to how to write a great article for the intranet. All content authors should have some good practices to guide them, but people who’ve never written for the intranet might benefit from some structured and specific guidance.
You could choose to provide a template in Word to download from the intranet for people to use. Alternatively, a simple checklist might help people draft their article in an email to their manager and the Comms Team.
Intranet article template / checklist:
Craft a template or checklist using the following ideas as you deem appropriate. I offer these ideas after years of experience editing and publishing, working with content experts who did not consider themselves to be writers or communicators.
Start by laying down some memorable guidance about short sentences (twenty words, never ever more than thirty), lots of paragraph breaks, and the need for sub-headings. Explain how the conclusion must be at the top of the article, with background, reasoning and context at the end.
Writer’s name (the person drafting the words):
- Owner’s name (the person responsible for the message):
- Required publishing date (do not say as soon as possible as that will mean ‘never’ to a busy intranet manager):
- End date (is there a date when this content *must* no longer appear online?):
- Suggested location (perhaps it’s front page news, perhaps it’s a blog):
- Title (active, obvious, says what it is in five or six words):
- Summary [if required] (not to be confused with the ‘opening paragraph’) The summary might be shown on the home page or landing pages, and it’s absolutely vital in helping people choose to read the article. Suggest a word count of thirty or sixty, depending on the layout of your intranet.
- Now, repeat the idea about the need to top-load the article with the conclusion / required tasks / call to action.
- Suggest a total word count of 450 for news pieces and 750 / 900 for reference articles. Short articles can link to longer reference pages for context.
- Remind the writer of the need for a sub-heading, it will almost certainly get read.
- Keywords (now that the article is written, what are the key concepts and topics? Keywords / tags help contextualise the article, aid the search engine and help people find it in the future):
- Image – if a graph or chart (a ‘functional image’) is supplied, it can be presented on the left-side of the article; if a ‘nice’ photo is supplied it can be shown on the right-side of the article. If no image is supplied the intranet manager might look through the image library for something suitable. Non-functional images go on the right-side of text to enhance the readability of the article.
- Links (the writer may not know how to insert hyperlinks within the text, but nearly every article is enhanced by providing links to further contextual information. Encourage linking to info rather than uploading Word documents):
- Documents (if absolutely necessary, publish Office documents / PDFs alongside the article):
- You can suggest that bold and italics should be used, but sparingly, avoiding emboldening entire sentences. You can suggest that the call to action is repeated in the last sentence.
Let me say that some of these ideas seem so obvious that you might be tempted to dismiss them. Stray at your peril!
Imagine if Penny doesn’t put her name at the bottom of her article, because in her mind ‘you know it’s from her’. But what if you send it on to the intranet manager / publisher for further editing and publishing? The identity of the author could get lost or confused along the way. Missing meta-data just provokes back-n-forth emails.
Authors, like me, believe their article will get read (because it’s ‘important’), but the truth is that only parts of it will be noted. So, top-loading the article with the conclusion (inverted pyramid, anyone?) and front-loading paragraphs with active keywords, together with sub-headings, will all help the important content of the message to be read.
A template or checklist like this isn’t going to teach anyone how to be a good writer, that takes more than a pro forma. But hopefully the author will appreciate how drafts get edited for clarity and flow before publishing.
Aside from good writing practices, what would you add to these template / checklist suggestions?