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SharePoint 2013: Communication and Internal Public Relations Plan

Ever roll out a SharePoint implementation to be hit with a bombardment of requests for features and configurations? It's important to nip this in the bud with a communication and internal public relations strategy to steer the conversation and SharePoint roadmap in the right direction.

SharePoint is an extremely unique platform that can be rolled out in an organization with minimal “mass communication” to the user base that will still quickly proliferate (e.g. new site requests, custom configuration requests, etc.). I have had many conversations regarding a company’s current and future SharePoint roadmap where they never really advertised SharePoint or “feature xyz” but are still receiving a large number of requests asking “how do I get one?”

SharePoint has a little something for everyone and that is why it is able to catch on and grow so quickly. How many “Test” or “QA” environments quickly have turned into a near Production environment with loosely managed or secured content? Quite a few…

It is a much better practice for IT or the business owners of the SharePoint initiative to develop a communications and internal public relations plan for the organization so that you can steer the conversation and ultimate SharePoint roadmap in the right direction.

Communication and a Continuous PR Campaign

The overall SharePoint roadmap’s communication messages are critical to SharePoint’s success in terms of not only the content of the communication but also its timing. Sending out planned communications that will help you ensure SharePoint’s “care and feeding” should be continuous throughout its life cycle and even into the future in SharePoint’s next release, years down the road.

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It is key to always try and connect the business and IT leaderships messages into one cohesive “core end-user” message.

SharePoint’s Public Relations Objectives by Phase (Example)

As a SharePoint 2013 public relations campaign is planned and executed, it is key to have specific messages that you are wanting to communicate to the user community within each project phase. This will help the organization understand that SharePoint is a long-term platform meant to meet the organization’s business as well as functional requirements.

Providing a public relations (PR) campaign and very specific goals to achieve will allow you to measure specific SharePoint metrics throughout the different phases to gauge success as well as possible areas of improvement or even re-training.
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Note: Each of these messages within the different phases below are meant to be high-level core messages but I would strongly recommend the organization SharePoint Governance message be tied in and communicated at every opportunity. SharePoint Governance plays a part in nearly every item I have identified here within this methodology.

In Phase 1 it is important for:

The business and IT audience:

  • To understand SharePoint and its information management component
  • Understand the need to identify and\or develop your mobile and BYOD strategy and related message
  • To understand the problem with information overload and under load
  • To provide a clear “Social Communication” message
  • To understand the value of Information Management
  • To gain a positive predisposition towards SharePoint
  • To identify power users and know you will need to champion them throughout SharePoint’s lifecycle

The end-user audience:

  • Feel they have been provided with accessible training and information about the new tool and provide a message to help them embrace SharePoint within the organization

In Phase 2, it is important for the business and IT audiences as well as end-users to:

The business and IT audience:

  • Understand the extent of Information Management
  • Persuade them to champion the cause

The end-user audience:

  • Understand that messaging begins with education, but quickly turns into a risk adjusted persuasion campaign
  • Set expectations about potential negatives (data cleanup and migration

In Phase 3, for the end-users to:

  • To support the use of new tools and bolster confidence in the new environment
  • To promote cultural shift

In Phase 4, for the end-users to:

  • To maintain the cultural shift in the organization
  • Collect feedback on the campaign’s utility for future iterations of SharePoint

Key Objectives of a SharePoint Awareness Campaign

  • The SharePoint Awareness campaign for business and IT users is only part of the overall PR campaign which spans the entire project’s lifecycle.
  • Awareness and Understanding lay the foundation for persuasion that must take place for SharePoint can be adopted quickly and consistently which helps the various audiences reach their goals more efficiently.
  • For the enterprise it means realizing protection from Information Management risk sooner and leveraging financial gain from the resulting productivity.

SharePoint Awareness Campaign Communication Channels

There are multiple ways in which to present a SharePoint awareness campaign to the various types of users: from end-users to power users and from site collection owners to corporate communications. Here is an example of providing one “core message” seven different ways:

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