Diamond Awards are a girl’s best friend!

Diamond Award

To my immense delight and surprise I have won IntranetNow’s Diamond Award for 2017!

Delight, because it is a huge shiny diamond with an inscription. Oh, and I rather like winning ūüôā

Surprise, because compared to some of the nominees, my blogs are rather down-to-earth and practical, and my video collection is frankly just picking and posting and anyone could have done it. Don’t you dare, though ūüôā
Other nominees¬†publish posts with far more depth and thoughts than my “click here and check box”¬† posts. I would have voted for someone else, to be honest.

Not that I am complaining!

Apparently my blog has “explored SharePoint permissions, intranet features and the practice of intranet management for over six years, in an accessible and often fun manner.”

It has set me thinking: “why do I do this”?

  1. From an early age I have liked writing, but it took me a while to find my topic.
    I like shaping an idea into a post, to discover the different angles to a story, trying to find out what point I am actually trying to make, and trying to write as concisely as possible.
  2. Although everyone appears to be using SharePoint and Office365 these days, everyone has a different Office365 positioning, implementation and governance. In the admin console alone there are a ton of settings and boxes to check and make your setup just a little different from others.
    Through sharing my experiences I may be able to help others because there are so many things to know and find out.
    It is why I also like to read other people’s blogs – they help me understand things or solve user issues.
  3. It serves as my¬†personal notebook. Sometimes I have to re-read my own blogs to avoid having to do a lot of experiments again. It must be age ūüôā
  4. My video collection was supposed to be a one-time blog post, but it unexpectedly hit the sweet spot with a lot of people so I though it might be nice to expand. But seriously, it was not planned.

Thank you very much, Wedge Black, Brian Lamb and everyone who was involved in the judging!

Title inspired by…do I really have to explain that?¬†

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.

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

Tools for texts (on your intranet)

tools4textMany communicators complain that employees do not read corporate news. So they demand more space on the intranet homepage and newsletter functionality to make the news more visible.

I generally suggest them to measure the readability of their news articles first, using the Flesch Reading Ease test. Especially in multinational companies it is extremely important to write in a simple style. You want to reach all employees, including those who are not too fluent in English. And all too often, I find that corporate texts are simply too complicated!

I have recently written a guest blog on this topic on Wedge’s Kilobox Communiqué, suggesting various ways to make your corporate (and other) content easy to read for a diverse audience.

More tools!
The Flesch Reading Ease test is an¬†easy tool to measure readability. Since I discovered it, I have been fascinated by tools that apply¬†‚Äúhard‚ÄĚ mathematics to¬†“soft” language,¬† and come up with something useful!¬† I have found several tools that ‚Äúdo something‚ÄĚ with your text. Some give your text a numerical score,¬†others provide other insight in your use of language, or they convert your texts.¬†There is a small collection on Scoop.it, for your learning and amusement. A few highlights:

If you have any other suggestions for my collection, fun or serious, please let me know!

Image courtesy of hinnamsaisuy at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Title inspired by¬† 1979’s song “Cool for Cats” by Squeeze.

A cure for “Social Media” allergy.

It still happens…managers who do not want “Social Media” in their organization, since they think this means “wasting valuable working time”.¬†¬†Sometimes it is Communications who resist, because they think¬†Social Media¬†will remove the focus from their Corporate News items.¬†Or it could be¬†HR or Legal, because they are afraid that people will say inappropriate things.

Are you convinced that a social intranet is a good thing for your organization, but you feel that senior management blocks it because they do not like the word and therefore refuse to understand the concept and the benefits?  Why not use a better word for it? Here are some examples.

1. Give your complete Social Media suite a fancy name.

You could call it¬†“The Hub” or “the Water Cooler”. Or as Philips does, “Connect Us“.
The good news is that it is a nice way to refer to it, and it does not sound as competition for your other initiatives.
The bad news is that it sounds like something separate from your other tools, while you may be looking for integration.

Barb Sawyers gives some more suggestions here.

2. Focus on the aspect that is most relevant for your organization.

Another option is to zoom in on the actual way this will help you in your organization. Social tools are pretty versatile and can be used for a variety of business purposes. The best name is depending on your specific purpose and your specific organization, but what about these:

  • Networking or Knowledge Sharing. In modern Knowledge Management circles, the people in the network¬†are now considered to be more important than the actual¬†knowledge of the network itself. And¬†indeed, I have been able to find colleagues to connect with when I started a project. I searched for skills¬†and experience¬†in the company’s employee profiles.
  • Company Address/Phone Book. If this is created from your employee’s profiles, why not call it that? Nobody will object to the¬†necessity of having that!
  • Two-way Communication or Open Communication. If you currently have formal,¬†top-down communication on your intranet only, “two-way” or “open” communication¬†could be the next logical step. It may come from comments to news articles, but also from microblogging and status updates.
  • Dialogue. Once again, this sounds like the next logical step for your internal¬†communication.
  • Discussion Board/Forum.¬†If you are used to discussing topics and opinions throughout your organization, why not keep the name when you change¬†the tool from the traditional Discussion Board functionality into something more contemporary such as microblogging?
  • Democratic communication. I personally do not like this word too much, but it may be useful in some instances where you want to stress that all¬†employees can have their say.
  • Crowdsourcing.¬†You can use this if collecting ideas, getting feedback and opinions is the most important reason to introduce social media. My own experiences are very good – I have already received lots of good feedback to my questions through Yammer. I have¬†also¬†crowdsourced a “general terms of usage” for the Dutch Government intranet platform Pleio with help from the Pleio¬†tools and Twitter.

3. Do not talk about it.

“We do not give it a special name, it is just part of our¬†set of Collaboration¬†tools”, an intranet manager told me once.¬† I really like this approach. If this does not sound like “work” then I do not know what does! What I like most about it is the¬†natural and seamless¬†assimilation of this new work¬†tool¬†into your existing established tool set.¬†With all the hype around social media, giving it no emphasis is a refreshing idea.

What is the name that you use to describe your¬†organization’s social tools?

A good executive Blog these days is hard to find

ExecutiveBlog“An old-fashioned manager sends a newsletter, a modern manager blogs”, I recently heard someone say.

Perhaps that goes for middle management, but to be honest I have not seen many successful internal executive blogs yet. Of course I have seen many enthusiastic attempts to start one, but I have also seen that they often died after a few months.

One executive that I¬†have known¬†started off fine, with very interesting subjects that nobody knew about and those posts received many responses, even if some were just ‚ÄúHow interesting, thank you for sharing!‚ÄĚ But the more standard posts about the quarterly earnings, or a ‚Äúvery inspiring visit to our R&D lab‚ÄĚ generated less interest.¬†The lack¬†of response¬†reduced his enthusiasm. So, when the publisher‚Äôs name changed into someone from internal communications, everybody knew the end was near.

I have also seen a couple of very nice blogs:

A project blog.
When we were optimizing our assortment, we did this in close cooperation with a large customer. Every week many documents with figures were produced and shared, and many presentations uploaded. It was quite hard to see the status or progress without crunching the numbers :-).
Until the project manager started a blog and shared her experiences from the meetings with the customer. How their eyes lit up when they saw the new packaging. How they kept bringing in new employees to the meetings to learn about a constructive collaboration project. How they did not like one of our proposals, and why not, but kept being positive about it. Suddenly the other team members realized that they were not only optimizing the assortment but also innovating our relationship with this customer, which made the project so much more than just a set of dry numbers.

A VP’s blog.
Every Sunday (!) he wrote a long post, starting with the things he had done in the past week. It could have been a meeting with analysts or with external peers, or the introduction of a new company initiative. He always added background and reasons, which helped every reader to understand why the company did this. Very often, he provided extra information that was not given in regular communication messages. |
He always ended with some information about his family and about sports. And when he skipped a Sunday, he apologized beforehand or afterwards. His blog was a hit with many employees and as far as I know, he has been writing for several years now.

From both examples it was also clear that they liked writing, and were quite willing to spend the time to share their experiences and write a nice story.

This leads me to some possible reasons why your executives are not exactly standing in line to get their own blog:

  • Too busy. Those of you who blog will know it takes time to come up with a nice blog, to rewrite, find a catchy title, a suitable picture, and rewrite again. Your executives are busy people, and may have no time to sit down and write. Didn‚Äôt¬† they¬†hire a communications team to do their writing for them?
  • No writer. Your executive may not be a person of written text.¬†He or she ¬†may not like having to think carefully about their words,¬†creating a good structure,¬†or¬†checking typos.¬†¬†They may not want to run the risk of being exposed as a not-so-good writer,¬†even if they know their employees¬†would forgive any mistakes, as long as it shows that¬†our executives are human.
  • No¬†priority.¬†¬†My former manager could write very well for¬†purposes¬†important to him or our team, but he could not be bothered to¬†write a regular blog for all employees. (And that was a great¬†opportunity for me! :-))
  • Can not write.¬† I do not mean that your executive can not read or write, but she or he ¬†might be dyslexic. It often happens that people start a company because it allows them to¬†focus on the things they are best at: networking, negotiating, selling etc. while it allows them to leave the reading and writing to others.¬†I do not think this will be the case in large organizations, but I know of smaller companies where this is true.

For those executives, an audio blog may be a good solution. I have known an executive who recorded a message with his Blackberry¬†every week¬†and had it posted to the intranet.¬† They called it¬† “John’s weekly podcast” which made them all feel very modern. It was quick, easy¬†and his employees liked it.
Video blogging is another option that I have seen used, although this will take more effort.

With my limited experience of succesful internal executive bloggers, I would conclude these are two success factors:

  • You have to add something new to the mix
  • You must enjoy writing and sharing your thoughts

But even if you are not an executive, you can start blogging and improve your career chances!

If you have any successful examples from your own experience or interesting articles, please share!

(Title inspired by the song “A good heart these days is hard to find” by Feargal Sharkey)

Stop Newsletters, Start Blogging!

BlogSo your team has decided to publish a quarterly online or email Newsletter for all your target audience? Great idea!

But…unless someone has “Create, Publish and Communicate Quarterly Newsletter” in their Objectives¬†for the next x years, you may want to rethink your decision. Too many Newsletters die after 2 or 3 issues, because the availability of news and writers does not match with the Newsletter’s design.
Some examples which may happen near the Publishing date:

  • Mismatch of content and format: You have 3 Hot Topics, but no “in-depth” story, while your format needs 1 Hot Topic and 1 In-depth story.
  • Time mismatch: Your “Hot News” dates from two months ago, has already been emailed,¬†Yammered and discussed¬†in various ways¬†and is now¬†“Lukewarm” at best.
  • Time restrictions: You are too busy to write the content into a good article, or your editors are too busy to send you content.
  • Space restrictions: You have to fit an article in the space your Newsletter format allows, causing you endless re-writes to make it fit.
  • No content: There is nothing worth communicating about at the time your Newsletter should be completed.

Does this sound familiar? Here is one example of where we made a successful turnaround:
Our¬†Intranet Team used to produce a monthly newsletter. The production process always created a lot of stress, so we replaced its fixed-format Newsletter with a¬†free-style Blog. Since then we have written¬†something whenever we had something to say, and used¬†as little or as many words as we needed. This has reduced stress-levels considerably ūüėČ

Instead of a Blog, you could also use a standard Announcements list in Sharepoint, which is available in every Team Site.

What are the advantages of a free-format news publication tool?

  • Your news¬†is always fresh
  • You create fewer expectations about issue frequency
  • Older content is stored automatically and if you use Tags you can group your content into meaningful batches. This allows re-reading later, by topic and by date. People do not have to open every issue to find that interesting article you published some time ago.
  • Most Blogs have a default notification functionality – they are opt-in
  • Blogs are interactive, and not “top-down broadcasting”
  • Blog have a flexible format in length, subject and time:
    1. You can add a new item when there is something to say
    2. You can make the message as short or long as is necessary
    3. You can write about any subject that is currently actual
  • No need to spend time and money on design. For visual impact, you can use a logo and a good header for the page itself, and you can add one or more pictures with every article.

What are your considerations for using an online or email Newsletter? Please share!

You may also like:

A good executive blog these days is hard to find. 

A cure¬†for¬†“Social Media” allergy.

How NOT to implement a Discussion Forum.