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An Intranet’s Dual and Often Clashing Roles for HR, News

An intranet isn’t for every organization, but they are extremely useful for corporations and nonprofits with disparate, far-flung operations to build cohesion. Too often, organizations try to cram together a human resource portal with an internally focused news channel, which can be awkward and a source of friction. Both functions are important and work best when designed and managed separately like siblings.

An intranet isn’t for every organization, but they are extremely useful for corporations and nonprofits with disparate, far-flung operations to build cohesion. Too often, organizations try to cram together a human resource portal with an internally focused news channel, which can be awkward and a source of friction. Both functions are important and work best when designed and managed separately like siblings.

Organizations with intranets often struggle with how to maintain a site that offers human resource information and news content aimed at employees. The lure of a one-click online employee information center can actually be a mirage.

Managing an online HR portal versus an internally aimed news channel is distinctly different. The content needs for both aren’t in conflict, but how they are packaged and promoted can be very different. More fundamentally, they serve different needs for employees – and management.

Intranets are critical for sprawling organizations. They can create cohesion among far-flung employee groups with different jobs, clientele and languages. HR portals are invaluable tools for onboarding and departing employees. Internal news channels are a proven way to keep employees in touch with company news, upcoming events and a response to a crisis.

The HR portal carries sensitive information, which usually involves legal review and variations for employees in different states or countries. For example, health insurance coverage can vary widely for an organization that operates nationally or transnationally. The news channel should center on timely information that is relevant to employees.

Employees will seek out the HR portal to clarify benefits, learn about policy changes and find out the steps involved in leaving. The test for the HR portal is providing up-to-date, accurate and accessible information. 

Employees will go to the news channel if it delivers real news, not just acts as a conduit for bland management messaging. The test for a news channel is to offer brightly written, inviting content about their organization and some form of interactivity. Without interactivity, readership will be perfunctory and engagement nil.

For organizations with bargaining units, the HR portal may need to be segmented for covered and exempt employees. For organizations with international operations, the news channel packages need to be customized for various markets.

Information on the HR portal is unlikely to change often enough to warrant an app. But an app that allows employees to check the internal news channel on mobile devices for breaking stories or timely information is a must. Keeping the internal news channel newsy is necessary to sustain interest and viewership.

Some content, such as a video of a top executive explaining a new organization-wide policy, can be shared on both online platforms. A video of an executive describing the steps being taken to address a major incident or announce a huge new customer are more appropriate for the news channel, which can be designed to accommodate breaking news.

The audiences for an HR portal and news channel are not completely coincident. The HR portal should be constructed to state as clearly as possible organizational policy on behavior and benefits for the employees for whom those benefits pertain. The news channel can be an outreach vehicle for a wider audience that can include key stakeholders as well as employees.

The design of an HR portal should feature access to key information employees might seek. The design of a news channel should appeal to employees and draw them in as viewers and even active participants. Organizations that encourage employees working at different locations to “congregate online” would prefer the congregation on a news channel rather than an HR portal.

When employees depart, they typically surrender company-provided laptops, tablets and smart phones and are denied access to the main HR portal. However, former employees may require some level of continuing contact to monitor unexpired benefits. Access by ex-employees to an internal news channel is usually not a good idea because at least some of the stories – and certainly the interactivity – will have a for-employees-only quality.

As you can see, the purpose, management and day-to-day activity of an HR portal and an internal news channel vary greatly. Their coexistence on a single website can be problematic and an unnecessary source of friction. For both online platforms to be successful, they need to perform their unique functions well. Their overall design and functionality can be coordinated and similar, reflecting the organization they both reflect. There are off-the-shelf designs that can make it easier to start or reinvent an intranet. But it is a smart choice to treat, manage and customize them as separate and valuable avenues to reach employees.

 

 

Don’t Be Put Off by the Term. Newsjacking Works.

Newsjacking is a way to ride the crest of breaking news or a popular event to tell your story and gain valuable exposure that would be virtually impossible any other way. And mostly for free.

Newsjacking is a way to ride the crest of breaking news or a popular event to tell your story and gain valuable exposure that would be virtually impossible any other way. And mostly for free.

“Newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story so you and your ideas get noticed.”

David Meerman Scott hijacked this term to describe a new type of media relations that hops aboard a trending story or topic instead of trying to launch a story from a cold start. Not everyone in the public relations world thinks newsjacking is a great term or idea.

“As a public relations executive with more than 20 years of experience and a track record for creatively connecting clients to top-tier media opportunities, I was initially amused by the mashup ‘newsjacking’ – but only for about 30 seconds,” writes Tracey Boudine, vice president of Wise Public Relations. “Who wants to position themselves as an expert on hijacking news?”

Seen as a form of hijacking, the concept isn’t all that attractive. But that’s not really Scott’s point. In explaining his view on newsjacking, Scott says:

“When there is news in your marketplace, reporters and analysts are looking for experts to comment on the story. Newsjacking gets you media attention. With little effort.

"As a story develops in real-time, buyers become interested in products and services based on what’s happening now. Newsjacking generates sales leads and adds new customers. For free.”

One of the most appealing elements of newsjacking is that anyone who is plugged in can do it. “Newsjacking is being used right now by nonprofits, political campaigns, business-to-business marketers and individuals,” Scott says.

Since a lot of newsjacking involves social media, the cost is minimal. The premium isn’t on how much money you have in the budget, but on how much imagination you have in the brain. “News gathering happens in real time, and it can encompass anyone who steps forward quickly with credible input,” Scott says.

Boudin takes issue with calling Oreo’s Super Bowl tweet about dunking in the dark an example of newsjacking. She says the trending tweet is better described as “real-time, social media marketing.” But that’s semantics. “News” isn’t restricted to what’s covered by newspapers or TV stations.

In an amusing recent segment, Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon noted that more people now get their news from Facebook than any other source. Then he provided some Facebook “news” examples: “Nobody Knows When to Unfriend a Dead Co-Worker” and “Wall Post Discussion About Pumpkin Spice Latte Still Ends Up About Obama.”

Those are fake headlines, but you get the point. News is what people make it. Newsjacking is just a tactic to surf on whatever news wave is sweeping by your target audience.

Don’t crinkle your nose over the term newsjacking. The concept works. Here is a great example from my PR colleague, Dan Keeney:

The Society for Heart Attack Prevention & Eradication (SHAPE) was frustrated by the slow adoption rate of its techniques to identify people at risk of an imminent heart attack. In the hours after former President Bill Clinton’s heart attack scare, Keeney coined the term “The Clinton Syndrome” and used it as an example of how SHAPE’s assessment process works to save lives. Keeney’s rapid response earned quality media coverage in major print and electronic media across the nation, including a cover story in TIME magazine. The exposure SHAPE gained from Keeney’s newsjacking of the Clinton heart attack scare created grassroots pressure and eventually led the American Heart Association to adopt guidelines based on SHAPE’s recommendations.

If you haven’t added newsjacking to your media relations arsenal, you are missing opportunities that literally are at your fingertips.

Gary Conkling is president and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.