How to transcribe a meeting with Teams or Word

I am quite happy with the speech-to-text options that the Microsoft365 suite provides, such as Dictation and Transcription. And while the Dutch language is apparently not fully out of beta yet, I am impressed with the accuracy of Dictation. It has saved me a lot of time, for instance when writing instructions or reports.

Transcription is a recent addition to the stack, and it comes in handy when you want to report an interview, create subtitles for a video or when you need a word-for-word report of a meeting, one with legal implications, for instance.

There are 3 ways to create a transcript:

  • Transcribe an existing recording in Word online
  • Transcribe directly in Word online
  • Transcribe directly during a Teams meeting

1. Transcribe an existing (meeting) recording in Word online

This is useful if you have an older meeting recording, if your organization does not have automatic transcription enabled, or if it is a non-Teams recording. You can transcribe up to 300 minutes per calendar month. This is calculated from the length of the video, regardless of the amount of spoken content.

  • You need to have a recording of your meeting, or other recording in .wav, .mp4, .mp3 or .m4a format
  • In your location of choice (OneDrive, SharePoint, Teams) open a new Word online document and give it a meaningful title
  • Click on the microphone on the Home tab, and select “Transcribe”
  • Make sure you select your desired language
  • Click “Upload audio”
  • Upload your recording and the transcription will begin
  • When the recording has been transcribed, click “Add to document” and you will be asked to add time and speaker name, if that makes sense
Clicking “Add to document” will create a popup with the options.

The document will then look like this. You can edit the text where necessary.

Your transcript from a recording.

Please note that the recording you upload will be copied to your OneDrive in a new folder, “Transcribed documents”, even if it is already in the “Recordings” folder! As recordings are generally large files, this can cause storage space issues. Remember, colleagues with an F3 license only have 2 GB of storage space.
Remove at least one copy of your video.

I have this video also in my OneDrive but a copy gets added to a newly created folder: “Transcribed Files”

This was only a small upload to transcribe so it only took 2 minutes of my monthly allowance!

Language and minutes left.

Tips:

  1. If you find 300 minutes is limiting, check if you can win time by cropping your video as much as possible (you can do that in Stream if you have no other software).
  2. Alternatively, you can use the free Word online that comes with your Outlook.com email address! (If the topic of your meeting and your company policies allows to store data there)
  3. If your recording is >200 MB and resides in your OneDrive, you may want to download it to your Downloads folder or Desktop before uploading. We have found that this reduces error messages on file size.

2. Transcribe directly in Word online

Check out the first of these two videos.
This will be useful for an interview, as shown in the video, but it can also be used for a meeting. Please make sure to warn the meeting participants that you are going to do this, as they will not get a system warning when you do!
Open a fresh Word online document and click Start > Dictate > Transcribe.
Click “Start recording” and your online meeting will be recorded and transcribed.
Next to the Word file with the text, you will get an audio file in the “Transcribed documents” folder in your OneDrive. There appears to be no limit in the amount of transcriptions you can execute this way.

3. Transcribe directly during a teams meeting

If you want to use this option, your Microsoft365 admin must have transcription enabled in the Teams admin portal, under Teams > Meetings > Meeting Policies.

Where to enable Meeting transcription

You can check whether it is available by clicking the … in your meeting control bar and then looking for “Start transcription”. This is available in the Teams desktop app only! If it greyed out, it has not been enabled.

Where you start to transcribe

When you click Start Transcription all participants will get a notification, just as when you start a recording.

All participants will get a warning that they are being transcribed.

During the meeting, you can watch the transcript by clicking … in the meeting control bar and selecting “Show transcript”. This will be shown in a panel on the right side of the meeting screen.

Open the transcript
The transcription pane opens on the right-hand side. With the … top right you can select the language.

After the meeting, you will find the transcript on the Chat tab.

All info is condensed on the Chat tab.

You can also see the transcript in the meeting itself in the Teams agenda, on the Recording and Transcriptions tab. The text is written on the tab, and you can download it as .docx or .vtt

The transcript is also visible on a separate tab in the meeting in the Teams agenda.

Tips:

4. You can download the transcript in .docx or .vtt format. The latter can be uploaded to the recording in Stream to provide subtitles.
5. Make it easy for yourself and your colleagues to identify you in captions and transcriptions. Toggle the button to automatically identify you. Anything you say will then be attributed to you.

If you have this setting enabled, your name will be added to everything you say. Otherwise you will be “Speaker x”.

My experiences

We have enabled option 3 as a test, but we have disabled this after a few weeks, as it was very confusing for our users:

  • Transcription in Dutch works well, but you will need to change the default language for every meeting you want to transcribe. Not everyone knows or remembers this, so chances are that you will end up with a Dutch meeting transcribed into English – and trust me, that is very very weird! ūüôā
  • We found that F3-licensed users do NOT see the “Show transcript” in their menu, but it may be that our experiment was too short to fully roll out to my test account. According to Microsoft, they should be able to. They can use the Word options, though.
  • You can start a Transcription without recording but…
  • You can NOT start a recording without starting transciption. This can be confusing.
When starting a recording, all participants will get a message that they are not also recorded, but also transcribed. You may have some explanation to do!

We may try again when we can enable Dutch as the default language, either by following the language settings of transcription starter (see this Feedback item – please vote!) or by following the tenant language.

Conclusion

If you need a word-by-word report of your meeting, Transcription can be a great help.

The Teams options is the easiest way to create a transcipt, but currently it works best if your organization speaks English and you have instructed your colleages about the use of transcription.

If your organization does not have English as their preferred language, and/or you do not have it enabled in Teams, you can still record the meeting and use Word online, or transcribe it directly in Word (but this is a bit sneaky). It is a bit more work, as you will have to adjust the speakers names, and you will get a additional audio file in your OneDrive, but it still works well.

Have you been using it and do you have any experiences and tips to share?

Show some character! (in your #SharePoint site navigation)

Char-headerThe other day I was helping someone design their SharePoint site. It struck me that the labels she wanted to use in the navigation were very long, and although they could technically be added, they displayed badly. They used more than one line and it was not clear which text belonged to which navigation item.

I could not tell her how many characters she could use, and I could also not find it described anywhere, so I had to check it out myself.
So, here’s a few numbers for navigation items on a site’s Homepage (and I wish WordPress had a nice table for this):

Current navigation / Quick Launch (vertical)

  1. In Classic sites you can add 256 characters and they will all be displayed – breaking off at 24 characters, without indent.
    With indent, 22 characters are shown per line.

    Char-Classic-QuickLaunch
    Left: Classic Quick Launch with 24 chars per line; Right: Classic Quick Launch with indent and 22 chars per line.
  2. In Modern sites you can add 256 characters but only 19 will be displayed – when you hover over the item 50 characters will be shown. When making this a sub-link, 16 chars are shown.

    Char-Modern-QuickLaunch
    Modern Quick Launch with the displayed link in yellow, and the extended link when you hover over it, in blue.

    char-ModernQuickLaunchsublink
    A sublink will display 16 characters.

Global navigation (horizontal)

  1. In Classic sites you can add 256 characters and they will all be displayed on top of the site – looking absolutely horrible and causing a horizontal scroll bar.

    Chars-ClassicHorizontal
    All 256 characters displayed in this link – wish they weren’t!
  2. ¬†In Modern sites (Communication sites only) you can also add 256 characters but none of them will be displayed, instead you can click on the … and you will see the link title.
    When you have a shorter link (In this case Site Contents) to the left of the long one, the shorter one will be displayed, but if you position the shorter one to the right of the long one, it will be hidden and I could not find a way to make it appear.

    Char-ModernHorizontalsitecontents
    The link can only be shown when you click the …

    Char-ModernHorizontal
    In this case I have moved the Site Contents to the right of the long link. It does not show up, and even when I click the … I do not see Site Contents, although the height of the hover-over indicates there should be another menu item on the left.

    It turns out that 118 characters can be added until the link disappears.

    Char-ModernHorizontaldisplayed
    When you enter no more than 118 characters, the title will be displayed.

But…it depends…

The display of the Quick Launch (vertical) navigation is not depending on browser or computer settings.

In Modern sites horizontal navigation however, the display is depending on settings:

  • When I change the text and app settings (Scaling) to 100 instead of the recommended and used 125, hidden items becomes visible.
  • When I change to a lower resolution than my current 1920 * 1080, less is displayed and my long title hides behind the ellipses.
  • When I lower my browser zoom to 75% (Edge) hidden items becomes visible again and when I increase it to 125%,¬† the long title is hidden again.

This will make it fun to support Communication sites. “Look, there is an item in the horizontal navigation but my colleague does not see it”.
SharePoint Holmes is rubbing his hands already ūüôā

The exact number of characters displayed may also vary when you use a non-default font, of course.

Tips for navigation item titles

With this in mind, I have to mention a few things about the navigation titles you use.

  • Keep titles short, try to keep below 16 characters if you want to have one line per navigation item (which keeps navigation short and readable).
  • Make sure that the most important words are in the beginning of your title.
  • Do not use your company name if your labeling is for internal content only.
    If you are storing competitive information, or contracts, or customer information, using company names is essential, but in general, your intranet will only be hosting content for your company.
  • Do not use your department name if your site is for/from that department only.¬† Do not use “HR request forms”, “HR policies” if your site has HR written all over it. Just use¬† “Request forms” and “Policies”.
  • Do not write your titles in ALL-CAPS. It makes words harder to read as capitals are more square and uniform. They miss the ascenders and descenders that give extra information about the letter.

Well, this was fun. I may do this for other elements as well!

Photo by Mike Bird from Pexels.

Lingerie and Labeling on the intranet.

LaceOnce upon a time (it must have been around 2002) we¬†reserved some space on our intranet home page for new products. Being in an international consumer goods company, we thought it would be¬†good if local marketeers could share their new products or promotions with the rest of the world. At that time, the company was very decentralized, and¬†many wheels¬†were being reinvented. We hoped the little “box” (the words “widget” or “web part” still had to be invented¬†¬†ūüôā ) ¬†would make it easier to share ideas.

We called the box “New Products”.

Once¬†someone had¬†requested and received contribute rights, they could upload pictures and enter text. These¬†were visible to all employees, and all new products were being shown in¬†rotation. (the¬†concept of “carousel” had not yet been invented ūüôā )

It was quite popular because people were proud of their innovations. Employees in other countries would sometimes ask if and how they could buy the product, or if they could use the promotion mechanism for their own purpose. So we considered this functionality a moderate success.

That does not mean all went smoothly.

Lingerie
The company¬†also had a textiles¬†division, and a brand specializing in pantyhose and ladies’ lingerie. The products were great ‚Äď beautiful designs,¬†innovative materials and latest technologies.¬†The brand marketeers were¬†very proud of their products and¬†showed every new product in the New Products ‚Äúbox‚ÄĚ. They displayed their products¬†on beautiful¬†models who wore¬†not much else…
Not everyone appreciated that amount of exposed skin, and we (as the owners of the functionality) received many complaints.
We therefore asked the brands to dress the models in a long-sleeved blouse, unbuttoned, to cover some of the skin. The brands agreed, but did not understand that some people were uncomfortable with their pictures, just as the other party did not understand why you would want to post that kind of pictures on the homepage of the intranet.

Pads vs Pods
Another interesting discussion was the one following the display of our latest varieties of coffee and tea pads on the New Products box. ¬†The European marketing teams were proud of their very successful new products, but other countries objected to the use of the word ‚ÄúPads‚ÄĚ on the product pack, because that was associated with feminine hygiene products. In those countries, the common word was ‚ÄúPods‚Äô.
Of course the European brands did not change the name of their succesful range, but it was an interesting reminder of the different meanings of a brand name in different cultures.
Some time later,¬†a computer company launched a tablet computer that used the ‚Äúwrong‚ÄĚ word and nobody complained about that. ūüôā

A strategic decision
But then company management had a¬†session about the future direction of the company. As¬†a result, we were asked to change the name from “New Products” into¬†“Growth Drivers”.
While we understood the concept, we were not happy with this, because we were afraid that many employees would not understand the purpose of this box anymore. After all, we were a multinational manufacturing company, and a large part of our employee base, including local marketing, was not exactly fluent in English.

We tried to discourage management but alas,¬†“Growth Drivers” it had to be.

NPGD

From that moment, the use of the¬†web part ¬†(by then we had moved to SharePoint) declined.¬†Even while the only change was the¬†name,¬†employees did not recognize it anymore, especially our non-US population.¬†They asked where the New Products functionality¬†had gone and were annoyed when they discovered that a perfectly good name had been changed into something¬†“fuzzy” that needed “translation”.

What have we learned?
Keep your intranet labels simple and intuitive, especially when you are in a multinational company where not everyone may be fluent in English.

You may also like:

Mind your language. A guest post on Wedge’s Kilobox Communiqu√©.
How NOT to implement a Discussion Forum.
What does your content smell like?

Lace Image courtesy of andyk at Morguefile.com
The Banana-Caramel pie is my own creation. Recipe available on request!

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.

6 Mistakes to avoid when installing intranet kiosks

kiosk_256It was not my plan to write about this. With more and more computers on the production work floor, and more home and mobile access for intranets, I honestly thought that intranet kiosks were a thing of the past.
But recently I met several people who are planning to install kiosks in their companies, so I thought I’d share my experiences and help them avoid the mistakes we made.

More than 10 years ago we installed kiosks in some production locations in Europe. The idea was simple: give employees without their own PC a place to access news, policies and procedures, forms etc. It was much applauded by the works council, we thought they looked pretty cool and we expected people to swarm around the installations regularly.
However, not much happened. Whenever I visited a production location, I looked at the kiosk, gathering dust. Some were even broken, and had been so for months.
We decided to take them away and ask people why they did not use the kiosks.

1. Nobody was responsible
There was nobody who was responsible for communicating the availability and purpose of the kiosk, work with management to stimulate usage and adoption, or to call support when something was broken.

2. There was no technical support
IT thought we were supporting these and we thought IT did it. Both parties did not know how to maintain the machines. ÔĀä

3. There was no training or instructions
At that time, we thought our production personnel was not that internet savvy. Despite that, there were no proper training or clear instructions provided.

4. People had to use the kiosks in their own time
Since management did not know the benefits of using the intranet at that time, and¬†feared all employees would be ‚Äúsurfing on the intranet all day‚ÄĚ, personnel was only allowed to use the kiosks in their lunch break or after work.

5. It was not personalized and it was read-only
All our European kiosk-users saw the rather American-oriented homepage by default and they had to click several times to get to useful local content in local language. It also meant that people could not complete forms or make requests or share documents. The American news did not interest them, and the useful content was not fully accessible.

6. They were positioned in crowded locations
Although it was a good idea to bring the machines to places with many users, it meant that people had difficulty concentrating, because many people were talking and passing by. Remember, employees were only meant to use this during lunch!
And…you could only use it while standing.

One of my colleagues used these lessons to roll out an intranet café in a more comfortable setting and with better conditions. Still it did not bring what she had expected. I am therefore still doubtful of the use of intranet kiosks. I am not alone, see these earlier articles from Toby Ward , James Robertson and Steve Bynghall who all suggest home and/or mobile access as a better option.

But if you really want to do this, please do not repeat our mistakes! (And please share a blog post with your key success factors!)

Image courtesy of Visual Pharm via gettyicons.com

Your intranet design = your company website design?

MirrorSeveral years ago we embarked on a renewal of our intranet. The platform had already been chosen, we had a vision, a plan for the new information architecture and we knew which functionalities we wanted to implement and highlight. But the visual design caused us quite a headache, and not just because we were better in functionalities, collaboration and efficiency than in visuals.

We had been looking at our company’s website, ofcourse.¬†Following that visual design would give us¬†a uniform brand appearance inside and outside the company. However, we did not know if we should take that as an example. The colour scheme and style did not match¬†the corporate internal style guide and¬†the design¬†changed far more frequently than we¬†could afford. So what should we do?

It seems logical…

…to style your intranet in the same way as your website, but¬†the two sites have more differences than similarities:

  • Your website visitor is an unknown person from outside your company. Your intranet visitor is an employee.
  • Your website/brand/company has competition from other brands and companies. If¬†your visitor does not find what he/she is looking for very quickly, he/she goes to the competitor.As an employee you can not escape your intranet, however.
  • Your website visitor is looking for entertainment, information or a purchase. Your employees are doing (part of)¬†their work on the intranet.
  • Website visitors will remain on your site for a short time only,¬†so you have to employ¬†all sorts of tricks to keep them on your site as long as possible and avoid they go to the competition.Your employees are forced¬†to spend a large part of their day on¬†their intranet, though.
  • The websites of your competitors are easy to find¬†and¬†study. But however sharing intranet folks are, it is less easy to find intranets, especially if they are your competitor’s.
  • Websites are generally redesigned regularly. Intranets are not always so lucky.

So, the¬†visitor, purpose, residence time, competition and design refresh rate of a website are all generally completely different than those of¬†an intranet site. The only¬†things they have in common are¬†the organization and “web technology”. Hmmm….

Should your intranet therefore look like your intranet?

¬†I would say: not necessarily. With those differences in mind, I would make sure that your intranet has an excellent usability rather than match your website’s design:

  • Ask your employees what they need from their intranet and take time to¬†test, and test again. Only your employees can tell and show you what works for them.
  • Make¬†your intranet¬†easy to look at and work with on an ongoing basis, without getting bored or provoking dizziness and headaches after looking¬†at it for several hours each and every day.¬†Increasingly, I see minimalist intranets with a plain white background, a limited number of colours and¬†one font.¬†Nowadays, if I see an intranet with a coloured background¬† and different¬†fonts I think it is outdated, even if it is recent.Avoid annoying, useless or inaccessible elements as described in these hilarious-but-true posts: 14 signs you’ve lost the intranet plot¬†and ¬†and 10 more signs you’re¬†losing the intranet plot. (Thank you @Intranetizen, I really enjoyed those posts!)
  • Opimize the design for¬†different devices (if applicable).
  • Invest in clear navigation and good search.
  • Spend time on finding¬†comprehensible¬†labels with a good information scent and learn/teach¬†how to write texts that are easy to¬†understand for all employees.

I am not a usability expert or a designer, but I would give the topics above more priority than having the same design as the website!

Now please let me know: does your intranet look like your website? And I would LOVE to see screenshots of the pair!

Image courtesy of podpad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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)

What does your content smell like?

ContentSmell“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Well, if William Shakespeare has said this, who am I to disagree? But I think that the name DOES make a difference when it comes to content!

Take a look at the screenshot below:

Local news functionality in two countries

Both countries use exactly the same functionality for the same purpose. But the language of country 2 is both more¬†informative and more inviting: You know you have a new colleague called Annette. If¬†you are curious about where she works, you can click on the article to find out more. But if¬†you have limited time, you know at least the essentials.¬† This title has a good “information scent”: it immediately gives you an idea¬†what the information is about.

This seems very logical. Yet sometimes we forget to think carefully about names and titles.¬†My communications colleagues have been known to¬†send a weekly newsletter from “”ic@company.com” (and not “Internal Communications” or other descriptive name)¬†with ¬†the subject line “Newsletter week 43, 2010”. That just does not smell nice!

Another example: in the Netherlands the first truly relevant documents on our intranet were about employee benefits. All Dutch employees had the link on their homepage for easy access. Yet we received complaints:
The content owner complained that people kept calling and emailing for information, even though “it was all on the intranet”.
Employees grumbled that they expected to find employee benefits information on the intranet, but they did not know where to look.
What was the case? The¬†link was the same as the acronym of the originating department, and that was, very intuitively, “CSPO”.
Fortunately the solution was exactly¬†as simple as you think! ūüôā

Tips:

  • Always spend¬†time thinking¬† of titles of documents, emails, navigation elements, links, “from” and “subject” lines in your e-mail, etc.
  • Look for¬†alternatives and test them with a few colleagues, especially if this is information which is important, has a¬†large and diverse audience, and/or will remain on your intranet (or website)¬†for a long time.
  • Keep in mind that what is obvious to you is not always as clear for¬†your audience. Your content may be a rose, but if you call it ” manure”¬† you will definitely have fewer visitors! ūüôā

Further reading:

Helping people find the content they want, from Step Two Designs, with explanation and examples

Boosting Information Scent, from WebSiteOptimization.com, with useful tips

Keep People on your site …. of VanSeoDesign with the theory

And your own examples are welcome, too!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net