There is a wonderful future ahead for internal communicators who focus on content as a productive asset.
Giving control of an intranet to a traditional communicator is a bit like giving a pub to an alcoholic. It's happy days. There's so much to publish. All the stuff they never read offline can go on the intranet. The homepage can be covered with news because the communicator with a hammer will see nails everywhere that need to be hammered home. And of course the intranet can reach everybody (in theory, at least), not like those magazines, brochures and flyers.
The future of internal communications is about helping employees do things, rather than getting employees to do things. It's about the word in action. The intranet is not a place to change hearts and minds. It's a functional utility space where employees come to complete basic day-to-day tasks, like finding people, checking procedures, searching for job vacancies and training opportunities.
News is important to employees but it's not the be-all and end-all. News is vastly more important to the communicator than it is to the typical employee member. So, what is the traditional communicator to do? Force news down employee throats, whether they want it or not? That approach won't work. At best they'll just ignore the news and at worst they'll think the intranet is a waste of space.
I remember one intranet manager telling me the reason that news stories dominated the homepage, and that employees had to scroll down to get to tasks that were really important to them was that they "would read the news on the way down." I have heard variants of these statements made by many internal communicators over the years. They are the inebriated thoughts of people drunk on power. They control the intranet, at least at the homepage level, and they're going to turn it into a newspaper front page whether employees like it or not.
Intranet internal communications is radically different from print internal communications. The intranet internal communicator facilitates rather than dictates. They help people find. They guide rather than lead. They support the completion of a task such as checking up a procedure or a job vacancy. They focus on creating clear menus and links.
In a world of social media where people make their own news or get the news from their peers, where even the traditional news media is being rocked to its foundations, how relevant is the traditional internal communicator anymore? Just because you can publish on the intranet doesn't mean anyone cares.
In a world where the first step in so much activity on the Web is to search, if employees are not actively searching for your content, how is it going to get found? In a world where the homepage is becoming less and less important, is covering it with news going to work? Did it ever really work?
This is a call to arms. You young ambitious communicators, get involved in making search work better, focus relentlessly on the quality of menus and links, simplify the steps and words used in software applications, make policies easier to understand and forms easier to complete. There is so much to do, so many areas where you can make your organization more productive, efficient and effective.