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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Identifying the Awareness Campaign Audience Focus

Within most any organization there are varying types of users that cross multiple departments, business units (BU), as well as governing bodies that are responsible for the actual content stored to ensure compliance. By using the example I described above around identifying the various communication channels, it is then key to match those communication “vehicles” to the core audiences you are trying to promote your message to and the available times or availability of those audiences.

For example, most everyone will be able to access a recorded webcast or receive targeted emails around specific SharePoint communication topics but not everyone will be able to attend specific brown bag sessions over the lunch hour or view business unit specific presentations. By using the strategy of developing a multifaceted “SharePoint communications machine” that touches everyone, your message will be much better received as detailed below:

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Example: 5 Month SharePoint Awareness Campaign Activities

Within a SharePoint awareness campaign there are the messages as well as the actual dates those messages go out along with the type of campaign activity that is best suited for that message. I have created an example below of a five month SharePoint awareness campaign and several sample activities that you can modify to best meet your organization and your goals.

Note: Do you really want to call SharePoint SharePoint, or give your project a specific name? This helps with any false starts a project may have had or previous versions of SharePoint that may have been implemented that may not have followed a best practices deployment strategy.

This can help resolve any negative comments that users or team members within your organization may have heard about “someone else’s SharePoint deployment” that failed.

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Each SharePoint awareness campaign will be tailored to a specific organization and it is also key to identify any existing communication vehicles that you can “piggyback” onto.

Formulating Your SharePoint Marketing and Public Relations Messages

To help provide a bit of a head start on examples of SharePoint communication and PR messages that I have seen work well in the past, I have developed the graphic below to show how a message can correspond to a business need as well as a specific audience.

 

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Some other simple core messages may also be:

  • I Now Have the Power | We are Addressing “BYOD”
  • Social and Professional Networking “all in one”
  • The companies secure internal “Facebook” (Think of an angle around security, audience driven, community support, etc. for My Sites and SharePoint’s Social Capabilities)
  • Promoting and enforcing the organization’s retention schedule
  • Implementing Real and User Friendly Content Management
  • Set yourself free of multiple systems
  • Newly Remodeled/New and Improved “SharePoint 2013”
  • Not Your Father’s SharePoint
  • Work Smarter
  • Your Professional Organizer/ Get Organized
  • Get there before your competition
  • Productivity
  • Safety and Security
  • Let’s Finally Automate that Paper-based Process

Understanding SharePoint’s Competency Model

It is key to understand that SharePoint will continue to evolve as it grows, matures and as additional features are deployed. As SharePoint matures, Business Intelligence (BI), expanded mobile use and enterprise content management (ECM) will be ever glaring issues and opportunities that must be addressed in your communication strategy.

By keeping the pulse of the competency of your organization’s SharePoint user base you will have a more educated metric on how well certain new initiatives might fare for a designated department or set of users.

The graphic below is an example of how a phase one SharePoint’s competency model is going to be much greater in future phases. You will need to improve your training, compliance and keep pushing the SharePoint communication’s snowball up the hill.

Don’t stop communicating to the users after a year when users are entrenched in SharePoint! You must continue to get your SharePoint power users communicating internal wins as well as identifying new opportunities where SharePoint can be used to continue to empower your users. This all must be done, in a perfect world of course, while keeping pace with governance, security and compliance in your message.

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Editor's Note: This is the first of Errin's articles for CMSWire. Until his next, check out this oldie but goodie by Joe Shepley SharePoint Implementation the Right Way