Tips for managers training intranet content authors

All intranet managers face the problem of content quality. Social intranets make the problem even worse: staff certainly write more content, but the quality drops.

Obviously, you need to train your content authors. Most managers schedule training to coincide with an IT project, when the need for high quality content is urgent.

But how can you get them involved, enthusiastic and skilled? And how can you be sure of getting maximum value for your training dollar?

We’d like to share some valuable tips from intranet managers who have used Contented online courses to train their staff writers. They’ve had the same problems. Here are their solutions.

Ten tips for training intranet authors successfully

If you’re managing a group of learners, here are 10 tips for getting maximum benefit for the entire organization—not just for individual learners. These techniques have all been used successfully by Contented clients.

  1. Get support from top level managers. When the CEO does a Contented diploma, that’s perfect.
  2. Enrol staff in a complete 10-course Contented diploma. Staff are keen to win a professional development qualification for their CV.
  3. Advertise the training opportunity on the intranet and invite people to apply. Promote scarcity and urgency: first in, first served.
  4. Train an influential group first, for example your content owners or your communications team, so they lead the charge and become role models.
  5. Train in the computer training room, away from desks.
  6. Make training mandatory for intranet contributors: before you can publish content, you must train.
  7. Make Contented training part of new staff induction programme, and stop rotten writing before it starts.
  8. Praise and encourage intranet writers. Chocolate fish, anyone?
  9. Promote good new content on the intranet, and identify the writers.
  10. Measure traffic and conversion rates before and after training, and publicize the return on investment.

Once training is underway, word-of-mouth does the rest. Usually, your web writers are genuinely surprised that they enjoy Contented courses and learn so much—and enthusiasm is contagious!

Mix and match and adapt the 10 tips to create the right strategy for your own organization. All web content authors need to learn the same skills, but there are many successful ways to manage the training. Three examples follow.

Strategy A. Enthusiastic content writers in local government

An Australian web team knew their project was threatened by their writers' inertia, lack of confidence and IT-fatigue. So their strategy was not train content writers but also to inspire, encourage and empower them.

  • Training was presented as a privilege for the few. Staff had to be nominated by their manager, and competed for the opportunity to train as a content author.
  • First, 10 superusers were selected and trained. These were the most capable writers on the staff.
  • Next step was to train all the other staff writers. For the first module, groups of staff studied in a training room. Away from their desks, they could concentrate, and a superuser answered questions.
A surprise result: ‘Contented training was the best PR,’ said a member of the web project team.

Strategy B: a university web site transformed in 6 weeks

A university web team had a different problem: a content audit of their web site showed major problems, but knew the difficulty of getting university departments to work together. Moreover, professors are not known for their lack of confidence! The team set a rigorous training schedule designed to make a big impact on their web site in a short time. Here’s how the web team proceeded.
  • Trained 50 writers over 4 weeks.
  • Identified the 500 most significant web pages.
  • Gave each writer 10 web pages to write immediately.
  • Later expanded the training to 250 staff.
Within 6 weeks, members of the public had begun to comment on the improvement in university web content. A tipping point was reached: other staff can now see many models of better web content, and quality web content is the new norm.

Strategy C. Empowered as individuals and as a group

A large, diffuse company was introducing a new intranet. The CEO wanted the new intranet to create a community feeling in the company. The unpopular old intranet was used mainly for the staff directory. Content owners took no responsibility, and each business unit was a world of its own. In this situation, training needed to give content authors not just skills but a sense that they had an important role as a group.

  • The CEO and senior managers did Contented training first.
  • Then 2 writers were chosen from each business unit to form a Contented Leader Group (CLG).
  • A festive startup meeting introduced CLG members to Contented training and to each other.
  • CLG attended weekly brown-paper-bag lunches where they shared before-and-after pages.
  • All writers were required to complete one course per week.
  • Names of writers completing the Contented Diploma were publicized in the company newsletter. This aroused general interest in the new intranet and the training. It also gave the remaining trainees an incentive to finish the training.

As a result of this training strategy, CLG members began to feel proud of their identity as content authors; friendly links between business units were established; and the new intranet project was highlighted in a positive way.

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