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Comprehensive Guide: Digital Workplace Content Strategy for Internal Communications

Diana May

December 19, 2019 · 10 min read
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A successful digital workplace focuses on the quality of content, not the quantity. If your content is mediocre, even the best digital workplace won’t engage employees. This is especially true for organizations that operate either fully remotely or partially. Before 2020, more and more employees were already beginning to work remotely. But with COVID-19, most companies found themselves needing to support and engage fully remote employees in a record amount of time.

Even though vaccinations are increasing and more people are going back to the office, there’s a large portion of the workforce that has embraced remote work over the past year. This brings organizations to a pivotal moment: learning to engage employees in an efficient and effective manner, regardless of whether they’re in the office or working from home, to create a cohesive digital workplace. Providing and sharing content plays a major role in achieving a successful internal communications strategy.

So how do you ensure that your content is fresh, valuable, and engaging to all employees? It all begins with a digital workplace content strategy that addresses every type of content, from major policy documents to blogs, comments, and likes.

In this post, we’re breaking down:

Internal comms content strategy: What is it and why is it important?

Whether you’re launching a new digital workplace or revamping an old one, it’s never too late to take a strategic approach to content. Let’s get started by going back to basics.

First, what exactly are we talking about when we talk about “content”? Essentially, it includes all the files, text, images, and video across your entire digital workplace.

The range of content depends on your organization, but usually it spans formal, top-down documents to informal, bottom-up stories and conversations, including:

  • Business-critical policies and documents
  • Knowledge bases
  • Department and team resources
  • Onboarding information
  • Leadership blogs
  • Brand guidelines
  • Employee blogs
  • Forums
  • Social spaces

It’s important to think about the types of content you have to work with when creating a content strategy. The purpose of the information you’re creating will dictate the content type you should use.

Content is a key driver in the success of your digital workplace. Consistently useful, up-to-date, interesting content drives adoption and engagement, while inferior content does the opposite. To ensure your content is helping and not hurting your organization’s digital transformation, you need a documented content strategy.

There’s a common misperception that more is better when it comes to content. But what really happens is that users get overwhelmed and frustrated by too much content. They either cannot find what they need, or they discover inaccurate content and lose trust. Then they stop using the digital workplace, and all that investment is wasted.

What’s the difference between a content strategy and content plans?

A content strategy

  • Determines how internal and external content can be leveraged to help your organization reach its business objectives
  • Provides the overall content goals you’d like to achieve using your digital workplace
  • Helps you deliver valuable, purposeful content that enables your employees to work more efficiently and effectively

Content plans, on the other hand, focus on the operational and tactical details needed to execute your strategy. Your content plans can include details about who owns specific channels, how often you want to publish on those channels, and whether that channel needs to be moderated.

The key elements of a content strategy for internal communications

A digital workplace content strategy usually includes the following elements:

Goals: Align your content strategy goals with your larger digital workplace strategy and your organization’s overall business objectives. Content-focused goals determine how content is published, organized, and maintained in the digital workplace.

Here are a few goals for inspiration:

  • Create modular content with multiple elements that can be used in multiple places and for multiple purposes.
  • Ensure content is relevant, helpful, and useful.
  • Deliver a positive content experience with content that’s easy to find, use, share, and save for all types of users (including mobile and remote).

Key messages: Integrate your organization’s key messages throughout all content, based on what your audience/users need.

Audience: Identify your key audience/users and their unique content needs. Support every user group – from leaders and frontline employees to external partners – by tailoring the type of content and delivery method to their specific requirements and contexts.

Guidelines on language, tone, and style: Take a user-centric approach in your content strategy. Choose a tone and style that appeals to your audience/users and establish clear guidelines. This voice should also align with and reflect your brand.

Resources: Outline all the available resources to support the execution of your content strategy (e.g. documented development and publishing process).

Information architecture: Determine the location of content.

Nomenclature: Define taxonomies and naming conventions to ensure findability.

Accessibility: Finally, don’t forget to make the organization’s content strategy easily accessible to all employees.

Aligning content strategy with the content lifecycle: When you build your digital workplace content strategy, make sure it covers all stages of the content lifecycle. This will ensure continuous monitoring of content while leaving room for adaptation as your employees’ needs evolve.

Developing and maintaining digital workplace content is a continuous process. Each stage of the lifecycle focuses on different elements that ensure you have the right content for the right audience. The stages of a typical content lifecycle within a digital workplace include:

  • Assessment: What content do you have and how is it performing?
  • Planning: What are your content goals and what types of content should be created to meet them?
  • Creation: Who will create the content and how, and who will review/approve it?
  • Publication: How will content be organized, categorized, and published?
  • Maintenance: How will content be managed and governed?

 

Learn more about the importance and value of nurturing your digital workplace: Defining the Digital Workplace

Best practices to build into your digital workplace content strategy

Now that you know the key elements of a content strategy, it’s time to talk about the actual content that will populate your new destination.

How will you decide what content to include? How should you write it? And how can you keep content preparation on track for launch? This second installment will give you the lowdown on current best practices to ensure every choice you make about content is an informed one.

We’ll start by showing you how to take stock of your existing content and determine what’s missing. Then we’ll guide you through a content preparation plan and finish up with some practical tips on writing for a digital audience.

Why, how, and when to do a content audit

Organizations hold vast quantities of information. The older and bigger the company, the larger the stockpile. But even small start-ups have major knowledge stores. And all this information rarely gets scrutinized.

A content audit dissects every piece of content in your organization to assess its quality and usefulness. Full disclosure: it can be a slog. But it’s vital to meeting the goals of your content strategy. Think of it like spring cleaning: an opportunity to clear out the junk, find the gems, and start fresh when you launch your digital workplace.

Why do a content audit?

Content audits are also a crucial step in creating your site structure and information architecture (IA). By evaluating which content employees need to complete their daily tasks, you get a good idea of what needs to be built.

An audit of your existing content (within a legacy intranet, other file repositories, or on the company server) helps you make informed decisions about what key content areas you’ll need (e.g. news area, HR area), content gaps that need filling, and what to do with the content you already have.

Existing content can be:

  • Moved into the new digital workplace
  • Reviewed/updated/reformatted
  • Retired/deleted/archived

A content audit also reveals content-related business challenges such as:

  • Outdated, irrelevant, and even inaccurate content
  • Multiple versions of the same or similar content
  • Unclear naming conventions
  • Unorganized, hard-to-find content

How to do a content audit

The most organized way to get your content audit started is by using a Content Audit Tracking Template to track critical information for each piece of content, including:

  • Content Name or Title
  • Content Owner
  • Subject Matter Expert (SME)
  • Location and Format
  • Content Status (needs updating, to be archived/deleted, etc.)
  • Action Required (update, get approval, etc.)

Taking the time to complete an audit sheet is well worth the effort. It will become your source of truth for content going forward. It will also help you answer questions from your stakeholders about where their content went or why it’s not on the new plan, for example.

When to do a content audit

Start collecting, reviewing, and organizing content for your digital workplace as early as possible. Work on the content audit in parallel with your other digital workplace planning tasks. This is a good task to split up across the project team and even SMEs who are most familiar with the content.

Preparing content for launch

Content preparation is a common roadblock on the path to launch, especially if your organization has a large amount of content to review, update, or create from scratch. A content preparation plan that includes a content team and schedule will help you manage this process.

Choose a content team

A temporary content team executes content preparation tasks leading up to launch and should include the following roles:

  • Content Owners and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
  • Content Creators/Publishers and Digital Workplace Builders
  • Content Manager (coordinates the two groups above)

Create a content schedule

A content schedule provides a high-level view of progress across the entire site. Combined with your content audit, which provides the granular details about individual pieces of content, the content schedule coordinates the uploading of content to your digital workplace.

A content schedule template manages tasks such as:

  • Determining the number of pieces of content required for each channel
  • Identifying the Content Owners
  • Assigning Content Creators/Publishers or Digital Workplace Builders to upload content
  • Assigning deadlines for content completion

Use the information from your content audit to set deadlines based on the amount of content, actions required, and the workload of Content Owners and Subject Matter Experts. High-volume content (e.g. knowledge bases), new content, and content that needs heavy updating and review take the most time.

If possible, content should be ready a minimum of one week — but preferably two weeks — before launch.

How to write readable content

With your content strategy, audit, and content preparation plan in hand, you’re ready to get down to the fundamental task of writing and editing. Don’t rush this stage or underestimate its significance, because you’ll risk filling your new digital workplace with second-rate content that nobody reads.

It can be daunting, but here are two secrets to success: keep your audience’s needs top of mind and follow the basic rules of good digital writing.

What does a digital audience want and need?

The visitors to your digital workplace want content that’s easy to access, consume, and use. They come to find information, complete a task, or both. And they want to get in and out fast, without hitting any roadblocks or wasting any time.

Digital audiences need content that’s:

  • Easy to access
  • Scannable
  • Attentive to literacy, language, and cognitive barriers

The ABCs of digital writing

Every word matters in your digital workplace. They can make or break user experiences, communication efforts, and even adoption. More specifically, the writing in your content affects:

  • The rate and success of content consumption
  • Users’ ability to complete tasks or access information
  • Users’ trust in the content and the source

These writing strategies will help keep your audience informed and engaged by all your content:

  • Keep it short and simple: Be clear and concise, use plain language, keep sentences and paragraphs brief, and avoid jargon.
  • Use the active voice: Wherever possible, make sure the subject of each sentence performs the action instead of receiving it (“The ball hit the boy.” versus “The boy was hit by the ball.”)
  • Grab your audience’s attention: Put the most important information first.

Break up large chunks of text: Use bullets, headings, visuals, and descriptive links. (See how we just did that with this list?)

Igloo digital workplace playbook icon with a coffee cup, cactus/succulent, and a white note book

Expert guidance on managing digital workplace content

Check out the Igloo Playbook for more recommendations on producing, publishing, and managing digital workplace content that your employees will consume, interact with, and leverage in their daily tasks.

Managing and measuring content in your digital workplace

In the final section of this post, we’ll tackle managing and measuring your content, by looking at:

  • How to curate content that engages and enables employees
  • How proper governance guidelines will ensure that content stays relevant
  • Tools for measuring the impact and usability of your content

Curating content

Content preparation is complete, and your digital workplace has officially launched. Knowledge bases and wiki channels are populated with core business content, and you’ve identified key use cases, target audiences, or business needs that can benefit from “curated” content. This is content that:

  • Serves a specific audience
  • Supports a specific use case
  • Addresses a specific business need

How curation supports content consumption

Curating content allows you to gather information for your employees and gives you some control over what content they refer to, and the order in which they consume it – saving them time while ensuring content is being used for its intended purpose(s). Curating content also supports the reusability of content as pieces are leveraged in multiple ways.

Storytelling puts your content into context

Storytelling delivers digital workplace content to users in an easy-to-consume format. It puts content into context to make information easy to find and retain. Curating multiple pieces of content using different site functions such as pages or widgets, allows you to create a chapter-like experience that makes it easier for them to understand the purpose and use cases.

Quick tips for using curated content

  • Display content for particular use cases: Make your chosen use cases clear through a description, “About” section, and by naming the area that will house this information.
  • Create the best curated-content experience possible: Combine widgets and pages for a consistent experience while employees go through each “chapter.”
  • Write content with reusability in mind: Enforce writing guidelines to produce content that has a consistent tone and style no matter where the content is leveraged.

Governing content

Don’t assume that your content creators, publishers, and owners will monitor the content they’ve added to the digital workplace. Instead, publish policies and procedures to ensure content is properly managed and maintained within your digital workplace. This will help ensure all content is:

  • Relevant and valuable
  • Easy to find
  • Easy to consume and retain
  • Helpful to employees
  • Meeting corporate standards

Content-related policies

Content-related policies can be used across your entire digital workplace or can be tailored to address the needs of specific audiences, departments, or use cases.

Here are just a few to consider:

  • Corporate style guide: Ensures users are applying the organization’s brand image across your digital workplace.
  • Label strategy: Your label strategy should include corporate-level or department-specific label groups to be applied.
  • File naming convention policies: These improve the findability of content, especially knowledge base (KB) content.
  • Usage policies: Document formal or informal policies to define the purpose, goals, and objectives so employees know exactly where to find, and post, information.

Content-related procedures

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) related to creating and publishing content within your digital workplace can be linked to related content policies.

These procedures may include:

  • Content templates: Make it easier for creators to produce consistent content and for readers to scan and consume information.
  • Content publishing procedures: Help content creators push out content that is accurate, up-to-date, relevant, and valuable.
  • Adding new pages/spaces: Publish procedures for adding new pages or spaces to the information architecture to avoid adding unnecessary or duplicate content across the digital workplace.

Measuring the success of your content

You’ve put a lot of time and effort into preparing valuable, engaging, relevant content for employees. Now it’s time to measure the impact and usability of your content. This starts with evaluating what’s working and what’s not – and identifying opportunities to fill any gaps with new content.

There are three main sources of employee feedback: quantitative, qualitative, and subject matter experts.

Quantitative feedback

Using analytics and reporting, you can rely on some quantitative data to give you an idea of how your content is performing.

Commonly used metrics include:

  • # of previews
  • # of views
  • # of comments
  • # of likes
  • Ratings

Qualitative feedback

Employee surveys, polls, or other open forums to collect feedback are an excellent way to properly understand how employees are finding, consuming, retaining, and using your digital workplace content – and where there are gaps. Surveys can focus on key areas or even a specific piece of content.

Subject matter expert feedback

Digital workplace content is a collection of company knowledge. The goal is to get that knowledge out of the heads (and hard drives) of these experts and into a single destination that’s easily accessible to all employees.

If your digital workplace content is doing its job, your subject matter experts should see a reduction in the number of repetitive questions they receive.

Igloo digital workplace playbook icon with a coffee cup, cactus/succulent, and a white note book

Manage your digital workplace with expert help

Check out the Igloo Digital Workplace Playbook for expert recommendations, tools, and best practices, on producing, publishing, managing, and measuring the digital workplace content that will engage and delight employees — day in and day out.