Blog: Content writing and content strategy insights

Intranet innovations 2008

James Robertson knows intranets as nobody else does. He and StepTwo Designs are behind the brilliant annual awards for Intranet Innovation Awards. Note the difference: this is not about naming the best intranets in every sense, but about acknowledging innovative projects, large or small, with a big impact on the intranet's functionality, communication and collaboration, frontline delivery or business solutions.

Intranet management teams are generally isolated, and may depend on developers to show the big picture. The goals of the awards are:

  1. to celebrate the great work done by intranet teams across the globe, to give them the recognition they deserve
  2. to find [new] ideas, whether large or small
  3. to share them with the wider community.

Winners and commended entries came from Canada, Switzerland, Australia, USA, UK and Germany.

With typical generosity, StepTwo Designs provides a 30-page executive summary of the whole report, packed with facts and screenshots. It's exciting and it's free. But if you are seriously involved in intranet development, you won't begrudge the US$189.00 for the full report.

Intranet Innovations 2008

Just by the way, the summary starts with a crystal clear IP statement in plain English.

Bad bad web content costs a bundle

Jakob Nielsen spits the dummy this week, and who can blame him:

Bad content, bad links, bad navigation, bad category pages... which is worst for business? In these examples, bad content takes the prize for costing the company the most money.

Spamming your own staff

Jane McConnell comments (March 06, 2008) on a deeply embarrassing feature of corporate communications. Lately she has been hearing about a rise in unwanted internal emails. Anecdotal, but JMC is an astute trend-spotter. She says:

'a few months ago, it was an IT person who told me that the number of "deleted without being read emails" from corporate communications to employees was in the high 80-90%. A figure like this should make people stop and think about what their "all" email policies are.'


At last a new book for content writers

Yay! My new book Better Business Writing on the Web is here! Actually, it's already selling like the proverbial hot cakes.

My previous book for content authors was Web Word Wizardry. Huge changes have happened since I revised that in 2001 for Ten Speed Press.

In 2001 I wrote for individuals, often small business people designing their own sites and mainly concerned with search results. Since then other books have been published for the individual designer-writer, journalist and sales copywriter.

Left out of the loop were content authors who have no control over site design or architecture. Typically, they are salaried employees who simply write for work, without training. They use a CMS or publishing tool to publish their own documents on a web site or intranet. They are busy. They have no idea how to adapt their writing for the web. Their number is legion, now that content publishing is the responsibility of subject experts on the staff.

This book is dedicated to:
Everyone who ever wrote an advertisement, agenda, annual report, chart, discussion document, form, graph, instruction, law, letter, memo, manual, marketing document, newsletter, mission statement, news releases, news story, pamphlet, policy statement, procedure, promotion, proposal, presentation, report, RTF, schedule or specification.

And then the boss said, "We've decided to put this on the intranet." (Or web site.)

The other audience is of course the web developers and managers who battle against a tsunami of terrible content. Someone who certainly knows told me:

The US government estimates (because no one actually KNOWS) that it has more than 400 million pages of content. I'll bet that a) 50% of it is seldom, if ever, used, b) 25% is redundant or actually contradicts other government content, and c) 80% is so poorly written that the intended readers can't possibly comprehend what we intend and/or can't find what they want/need.

What's a poor content manager to do? For this audience I have identified the few key skills that make an exponential improvement to online content, and included chapters on writing for government, academic, commercial and intranet sites. Naturally, Web 2.0 has its own chapter and also pops up elsewhere. Even more important, I discuss how to short-circuit the production of bad content, starting with mass cost-effective training.

Buy one copy for yourself, then buy more for your organisation



Wiki your web and intranet guidelines

Nick Besseling outlines a process for developing web and intranet guidelines using a wiki. Obvious benefits are avoiding the 'style nazi' label, and getting staff involved and committed to standards—everywhere an issue, notoriously so in universities. Wikis were born for this.
Wiki your web and intranet guidelines

Blogs go grunty for business

Asian Development Bank (ADB) makes pretty interesting use of RSS on its site. Contractors can use RSS feeds to get up-to-date, self-selected news of business opportunities.

Blogs are nothing but databases for dummies. Readers control what they read, when they read, according to date and category.

What I find interesting about ADB's use of this technology is that they haven't prettied the page up. With the familiar orange RSS signals on the right, ADB signals 'This is a blog!' That's such a good idea, because anyone who already reads blogs will get the message instantly. ADB is exploiting blog conventions in several ways. The payoff for ADB includes quick updating, version control, and a user-friendly interface.

We haven't even started on the potential of blogs for business. Marketing is the least of it.

ADB RSS Business Opportunities Feeds

Blogging in Fakaofo

Computer-talk figures in the imaginative games of Celia (10) and Max (7).

'This is Lizardcom and the old country is Lizardmania,' Celia quickly explains. Max's lizard is attacking Lizardcom in an army truck.

'Watch out! The upgrade has been cancelled and Sir Lord Scratch is no longer indestructible!' High drama. There's no sign that playing computer games has diminished their power to play old-fashioned hardware games. It's just expanded their vocabulary.

As the family is on its way to Tokelau for six months, I bullied Geoff and Rebecca into starting a blog. (You can lead a horse to water...) In fact I started one for them and commanded the family to watch while Celia wrote her first entry. Then she said, 'I already got a blog six months ago.' Oh? She had never written anything in it, but she remembered the password and name (yo2you) and sure enough, there it was. She's right: neither the why nor wherefore of blogging should need any justification or explanation, especially when you are about to travel to a remote tropical island with the improbable name of Fakaofo.