The theme for the month is cross-channel marketing, which presents me with an interesting challenge coming from the intranets space. However, it does give me an opportunity to suggest some ways in which you can market your intranet, which go beyond the items in the title of this month’s column.

1. Develop a Marketing and Communications Plan

The aims of the plan should be to encourage use, deflate unrealistic expectations, not allow any significant disillusionment to go unaddressed, and bring about a significant amount of enlightenment about the value and impact of the intranet. Other enterprise applications do not need such a strategy as the people using these applications have no alternative, as the application is embedded in their daily work (such as Accounts or HR) for compliance and audit reasons, but that is rarely the case with the intranet.

2. Create an Intranet Brand Identity

The first step is to decide on a brand identity for the intranet. A good starting point for a discussion on brand identity is the product attributes from the Microsoft Product Reaction Cards. The brand identity for the intranet in a major law firm could well be substantially different to those for a charity that supports people working with single parents.

One of the most difficult challenges in developing an intranet brand is the extent to which the intranet should be a “fun” application. The evidence is that some element of “fun” can be useful in an application that will be on everyone’s desktops every day. Whether the fun element is some form of employee survey or a video of the organization’s last charity fun-run has to be decided on a case-by-case basis. What is a mistake is to make a priority decision that the intranet is a business application and that there should be no “fun” element. So long as the organization also bans humor from business meetings, then that could be a justifiable approach!

There is a brilliant case study of the City of Casey (Australia) intranet.

3. Give the Intranet a Name

Almost any name is preferable to calling the organization’s intranet “The Intranet.” Organizations invest significant amounts of money in developing a name for the monthly staff newsletter, but fail to see the importance of giving the intranet the same treatment. However, the only certainty about giving an intranet a name is that changing the name just to revitalize an intranet that otherwise has fallen into disuse is not going to make any position difference to the situation, and may in fact accelerate the decline.

4. Make the Intranet Team Visible

All too often the most invisible element of an intranet is the identity of the team working on the intranet. There is a feedback form through which messages can be sent to “The Intranet Manager” or similar, but there is no easy way of finding out anything about the intranet team, or about the work that they do in supporting the intranet. The “team” here is not just the intranet management team, but also the content contributors and IT support.

5. Cups and Mats and Fancy Hats

Imagination can run riot when it comes to cups and mugs, with the name of the intranet proudly displayed. At the very early stages of a major launch or re-launch these incentive, if not inventive, products have a role to play, but probably only for a very limited time. The challenge lies not in getting users to be aware of the new name, but getting them to use the intranet in a way that will benefit them and the organization.

6. Nothing Succeeds Like Success

It is one thing to promote a new staff directory, and another to get people to use it in the best possible way. Intranet processes can be complicated, and it is important to get beyond the functionality and show how someone in the organization has made themselves into a hero through the use of the intranet. No matter how committed people are to the organization, giving employees personal visibility and praise is very important. If John has won a major contract because of the way he could track down company experts using the staff directory and looking through blogs, then a story about his success should be on the intranet, and also in the staff magazine.

Finding these stories takes time, and a lot of walking around, but it is made much easier if the intranet team are not only visible but also signal that this is the type of story that they are looking for. Every member of the governance team should be on the look-out for such stories, perhaps identifying them through regular staff meetings.

Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading: