10 things to know about the SharePoint News digest

After my massive list of things-to-be-aware-of when creating and managing SharePoint News, I though it would be good to share some lessons about the News digest (Newsletter) separately.

The News digest is a Newsletter created from News articles. It looks very nice in all browser and systems:

SPNewsDigest-Newsletteremail
The News digest as an email

This is what it looks like as a page:

SPNewsDigest-Newsletterpage
The News digest page or the “web version”.

So, here’s a few things that are not in the official support article but may be relevant.

1. You need 5 published News articles before you can send a News digest.

Frankly, this one drove me nuts. I knew I had seen Jasper Oosterveld and other people demo this functionality, so why did I not see the “See all” link on the homepage? Well, because I had only posted 4 items. Duh!

SPNEwsDigest-See all
The elusive “See all” link that allows you to send a News digest

2. The order is by selecting – the first article you select is on top.

This is independent of the creating or publishing order.¬† You can change the order of items after selecting them and clicking “Next”. Using the arrows you can then drag and drop the items into the desired order. The “x” will remove the item from the selection.

SPNewsDigest-moveitems
The yellow-marked icon shows “Move” and allows you to change the order.

3. You can only send this to an Office Group, Distribution List or individuals.

It looks like you can send this only to items which appear in the Global Address List.

I would have expected you could also use a SharePoint site user group (from this site) or a personal Group of Contact Persons from your Outlook, but no. In this case, it meant that our project manager had to add all people to a Distribution List. (We are not using Office Groups yet)

4. It is unclear (to me) what determines the logo.

  • If you do nothing the logo displayed will be the new SharePoint logo
  • If you replace the site icon by another image, the logo displayed will be the old SharePoint logo
  • Your organizational logo (the one in the Office365 top bar) does not show in the News digest
  • Both the support info and this blog by Juan Carlos Gonzalez Martin show that the site icon is displayed in the News digest.

I would like to know how this works, as I would prefer to distinguish the various News digests from one another by using a custom image. On suggestion of Juan Carlos I tested this with a modern team site (instead of a Communication site), but it did not work there either. That said, if there is one site template I would expect to allow more branding, it would be the Communication site!

There is already a number of User Voice requests out there for more options to manage the News digest look-and-feel.

At this moment Microsoft says in their support article that “It is not yet possible to make changes to the appearance of images, header area, or summary area of the email.” That gives hope for the future!

5. Your News digest will display the site’s name.

So make sure your site has a meaningful name.
This is of course another good way to tell the difference between this digest and another, but I still would like to have an image, too!

SPNewsdigest-logoandname
The logo (that I would like to be customizable), and the site name.

6. Access requests will be sent for the News article, not for the site.

If someone has been forwarded the News digest, clicks on the first item and then finds out they need access, they will send an access request to the News article.
You can click “Approve”, but

  • You will only give access to this specific article, so they will have to request access for the next article and the next, etc.
  • You will break the permission inheritance in the pages library, so every page will have its own permissions.
  • They will not see the header image because that lives in the Site Assets library, to which they do not have access.

I would suggest to treat the access requests as a general request for access to the complete SITE.
In our case, I have added a link to the Visitors group on the top of the site, so the project manager can quickly open the list and add new people.

SPNewsdigest-linkontop
Easy to reach for giving access.

He grumbled a bit but is IS a sign of success when people forward the News digest ūüôā

By the way, the access request email looks really nice these days. Sadly you can only Approve from the email if you are an Owner (not if you use a custom role, like we do) AND you can not give permissions for the complete site from this mail, only to the link requested.

SPNewsDigest-access
The new access request mail allows you to select role (but not Group) and Approve/Decline, for this specific News article.

7. Access requests will go to the original name of the article.

Have you changed the title of your News article after publishing? When you get an access request, the original name will be shown. If you have forgotten what it was, never mind – another reason to give access to the complete site! ūüôā

SPNewsDigest-accessrenamed
I renamed that article into “Share your best holiday pix” but the request goes to the old name ūüė¶

8. You can send this to external users.

The email and the articles will look just as nice for your external partners as for your internal colleagues, including all logos and pictures. Of course your external partners can only read the full articles when your site allows external sharing AND they have access.

9. Your News digest may end up in the Spam box.

I have had to dig my beautiful News digest out of several spam boxes, for different email addresses ūüė¶
So if your first News digests do not get the attention they deserve, you may want to ask around if people have received the emails. (and help them mark it as Not Spam)

10. Place-holder for something that I do not know yet.

I am quite positive that something will turn up. If you have found something, please let me know!

Next steps?

Overall, our audience was positive about the News digest and we have already received inquiries from another team. 

My next post will be about experiencing SharePoint News as a reader. Stay tuned!

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My personal gems from IntranetNow

GemsOn October 5 I participated in IntranetNow, and a wonderful conference it was!

There were plenty of interesting and enjoyable presentations but below are the ones that resonated most with me:

1. An excellent Yammer use case

Baxter Willis of WM Reply shared a great Yammer use case from one of his clients, drinks business Diageo.
Apparently they have an archive of all bottle types, advertising materials, recipes etc. Nobody was really aware of that department, until recently. They are digitizing their content and the archivist posts something interesting on Yammer every day, e.g.
“Did you know that Pimm’s has been associated with Wimbledon from the 1930’s?”¬†accompanying a picture of¬†a nice old newspaper ad proving her point.
This lady is now the toast of the company and her Yammer group is very popular.

I like this because it is another easy way to share knowledge, which would otherwise be hidden in the archive. Posting it on Yammer costs nothing more than 5 or 10 mins a day. It helps the Marketing and Social Media people in their current work by giving them new insights to the company and its history.

The new Smirnoff label is now based on earlier labels throughout time, and this is also caused by this work!

2. How to get feedback from your employees

Emma Morrison and Usman Hasan of Hyde discussed the their intranet redesign, based on feedback sessions with their employees.

What I liked about this is that they used a simple but effective approach of lunch sessions, and shared their learnings.

The “let them rant” or “whine and dine” idea resonated with me, as I have also found that sometimes people just want to vent, sometimes not about the intranet itself, but about related things.
In my¬†situation I have heard from several annoyed people who had been handed over a team site due to reorganizations – either because they had a new role and the team site came with it, or because the previous owner had moved on. Someone else’s team site can be quite hard to handle as the setup and especially the permissions are not always documented or intuitive.
I have learned that the best way to¬†help them¬†is to go¬†through their site together,¬†trying to make sense of it (looking at site contents, checking permissions), rather than trying to defend something or taking it personally. ūüôā

3. Improving an intranet with no budget

Janet White shared her approach to improve an intranet with very simple means and no budget. Anyone who can get good results with creativity and elbow grease, rather than money, is my hero!

Using simple tools like card sorting, tree testing and talking to users helped her to improve the navigation of the intranet (better labels and better structure) and some of the content.

Note

I have linked to the Slideshare versions of the presentations as I expect the information on the IntranetNow website will be replaced next year.

Image courtesy of Aasimshaz

400 Intranet promotion videos!

400VideosIt has been some time since I reached this milestone but I am only mentioning it now as I wanted a new place to store them before I started celebrating. The platform I used (Scoop.it) changed their plans and let me choose between a maximum of 50 items for free, or pay 15-18 dollars a month for an unlimited number of items, which I think is rather steep for a hobby.

New location!

So, after some searching and testing, and a lot of copy work from my husband I now present you with my new video collection:

https://list.ly/list/27Yb

Or:

http://ellenvanaken.video

What’s different?

  • List.ly is much faster to load ūüôā
  • List.ly numbers the¬†videos from the top.¬†Numbers per video will change as I add new items
  • List.ly appears to allow a limited number of tags
  • Tags on List.ly are not sorted alphabetically, but on frequency of use
Video-ListlyHome
You will see the Filter options just on top of the list. 

I am leaving my old collection where it is but it will no longer be updated.

Ghosts

Of course we have weeded out all videos that were deleted from their original location. However, some deleted videos can still be played on Scoop.it. Spooky! I have added the entries to the new location and I am working on a way to make them playable in the new location.

What else?

  • I am still working on a nice hyperbolic title and description as that apparently increases the rank of my list ūüôā
  • I also need a better banner.

Now Go!

I have added a number of new videos and will continue to do so over the next days – if you see this one below you will have seen the new ones.

Go check out the new location!

Last item on Scoopit
This video¬†is where “the old collection” starts.¬†

 

350 intranet promotion videos!

350 videosRecently I passed the 350 mark in my collection of intranet and Yammer promotion videos. Time for another modest celebration!

New trends

More and more intranets are promoting a section for video content, so I guess this is a new trend.
Otherwise,¬†“simplification” and “user feedback”¬†still¬†play an important role in every¬†relaunch, and so they should ūüôā .
Also, more and more intranets (but not all!) are social, and “usable on all devices” is starting to be¬†the norm, rather than the exception.

Of course my collection is meant for your information and amusement, but I occasionally hear that people are using it as a serious starting point for their own video. In general, I can suggest the following steps:

1. Check what related organizations have done

Use the filter and see what¬†your industry peers are doing, and what their intranets look like, if the video shows that. Most selections¬†contains a variety of styles (talking heads, animations, demo’s, stories, serious, funny, etc. ) that may give you ideas about the sort of video you would like to create.

2. Determine your boundaries

Watch my list of rather extreme videos. Do you also want to create a full movie, a very silly video, have a hysterical voice-over, or would you rather stay on safer ground?

3. Watch metaphors for solving common business issues

If you are looking for metaphors of solving common business problems such as too many emails, or not knowing where the expertise is in your company, this selection may help you on your way.

4. When in doubt, create a demo

A well-made demo is always worth the investment, so if you have no other needs or wishes, a demo may be the best way moving forward.

  • you can show employees how to work with the intranet, reducing the need for extensive classroom or webinar training
  • you can show employees how they are supposed to work, if a new way of working is¬†among your goals for the new intranet. In a demo video it can be done subtly and matter-of-fact.
  • it can be used for onboarding new employees for a long time after the launch
  • if you share it, we can see your intranet! ūüôā

This is my selection of good demos.

I hope you can use these tips to create your own video. And please remember to put it online for others to enjoy!

It never ceases to amaze and delight me that so many people enjoy my videos. I even got sort of suggested for the Diamond Award of IntranetsNow 2017!

Treat!

And finally, to celebrate,¬†I have a very special video:¬†the one that was made to celebrate the launch of the new intranet of my former employer Sara Lee, in 2005. It has not been added to my collection yet – you saw it here first! It is “vintage”, so please ignore the bad quality ūüôā

And then to think this all started as a whimsical blog post!

Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net (“350” added by me)

300! (intranet promotion videos)

300-videosAfter some additions and, sadly, some weeding of videos that were deleted or put behind a password, I have finally crossed the 300-line!!!

Some things that have happened since my last video update:

  • You can now easily reach my video collection via http://ellenvanaken.video
  • Some time ago I created a¬†selection of videos for a company, as inspiration for their own video.
    If I can help you with something similar, please get in touch!
  • Martin White (@intranetfocus) has just mentioned me & my collection¬†in his post about “some of the people who in various ways and for many years have transformed our understanding of intranets, team working and digital workplaces through publishing reports and promulgating good practice and who have to make a living whilst doing so.” I’m ever so chuffed!
  • Singapore’s public sector will start using Workplace by Facebook as their digital workplace. This will replace The Cube, which sported¬†two promotion videos that I rather liked. So, before these are withdrawn, please have a look:

 

 

 

 

 

And remember, if you know a nice intranet or Yammer promotion video, or if you notice that one of my collected items is no longer publicly available, please let me know!

Image created by myself, typeface Snap ITC.

What do YOU call Home(page)?

HomepagesweethomepageThe first page I see when I open a browser on my work laptop is the intranet. That was the case in my previous job and in my current one. When I see peers open a browser window, I rarely see another page, like a search engine page; it is generally an intranet homepage that opens first.

When discussing our new digital workplace the other day, we wondered which page should open when you open your browser. With Office 365 you have a number of options.

  • One person wanted the intranet homepage to be the first¬†page shown, like it is today.
  • Another¬†suggested¬†the Delve page, although he realized that¬†will not be the best page for launch¬†since it needs to fill up with relevant content before people will see the benefits. I personally like the Delve-page, but not as a browser home page. To me it feels too much like a “filter bubble”.
  • A third colleague thought that the SharePoint homepage would be the best option, since it would have all your sites in one place.
  • I preferred the Office 365¬†landing page¬†since I think that is the best representation of the Digital Workplace. It has¬†all the tools I need on a regular basis: Email, Yammer, Office, SharePoint. With the recent improvements, however small, I think there is a great potential to turn that page into a very useful dashboard to start your working day.

We clearly did not agree so I decided to ask the question in the Office 365 network on Yammer.

The results surprised me!

  • Most organizations have “a specific SharePoint page” as their browser homepage. I assume that is the “intranet homepage”, because the people who voted “Other”, mentioned their intranet homepage as well, but those were not (yet) on Office 365.
  • A surprisingly high number of organizations (19%!) leave the decision to the user. This is totally unthinkable in my corporate world so perhaps these answers were given by smaller consultancies.
  • A disappointing¬†14% had the Office 365 landing page as their browser opening :-(.

Poll

I have given my feedback about the new Office 365¬†landing page¬†to Microsoft.¬†I hope they will develop this quickly so¬†I will get my way one day after all ūüôā

BTW, since then we decided that the new intranet homepage will be the chosen page.

If you are on, or planning to move to Office 365, what have you selected as your browser homepage?

Image courtesy of atibodyphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Executive blogging? Hmm…

NoBloggingBlogging by senior management appears to be an ongoing struggle. I wrote about it earlier and remarked that it is not for everyone.
In my opinion, key success factors are:

  • You need to like doing it. It will cost¬†a lot¬†of¬†time and effort, and if you do not like to spend that on writing, you‚Äôd better use your time in another way.
  • You need to add something¬†new to the mix, something your employees have not already heard several times¬†through your official¬†channels.

Last week, I came across two other articles about executive blogging.

Do not blog if you do not know where you are going

Erika Parker posted¬†“Executive Blogs: 7 Signs You Should Just Say No¬†“

She also mentions that executives have to feel a need to blog. There should be something driving them, whether that is their personal opinions, a need to interact with employees or a need to change behaviours. If they feel they do it because they have to, they better find another channel or another way altogether.
And while it is not necessarily wrong to hire a ghostwriter, an executive has to feed that person with the direction, the tone-of-voice,  personality and topics. They can not leave it all to the writer. But remember: they should always post their blog themselves!

Do not blog about knowledge management

And if this all does not show enough that blogging by executives is not necessarily a simple thing that you “just do”,¬†Nick Milton posted: “Why you should not ask your senior managers to blog“.

That sounds more forbidding than it really is. Nick warns that senior management should not blog about knowledge management, at least not about anything other than stating its importance.
In general, a senior manager’s blog will be too formal (an official communication), too hierarchical and too conceptual to be of practical use. It¬†is not a good example to start informal¬†company-wide¬†knowledge sharing between peers.

Nick gives a few better options for using blogging as a method of sharing knowledge among employees.
I strongly support that opinion, just like I support blogging instead of publishing monthly newsletters.

I am almost starting to feel sorry for all executives.
If they have the drive and enthusiasm (which appears not to happen too often), then they are forbidden to blog about a certain topic. If wonder if any executive still has any motivation left after all this. ūüôā

Perhaps you know of a good example?

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net