Monday, 29 December 2014

Think twice before starting a tweet with an @ sign

Did you notice a period in front of @jetairways?

Why the period at the start?

If you start a tweet with @, only the people who follow BOTH you and the person named at the beginning of the tweet will see the tweet – not all your followers.

This tweet has been targeted to Pat and only the followers of Jet Airways.

I got to see it because, one of my followers retweeted it.

So what’s the solution?

It’s simple. Rephrase the tweet and put the @ sign in the middle of the tweet.

Here’s a presentation by Gary Vaynerchuk that describes it all.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Twitter tips to get more retweets

A picture is worth thousand words. Interestingly, it works for Twitter too. A tweet with an image gets 150% more retweets, 89% more favourites and 18% more clicks than those without a picture.

A tweet with an engaging hashtag or two is 55% more likely to be retweeted. However, make sure that you don’t have more than three hashtags in your tweet.

Similarly, numbers and digits stand out in a tweet. A tweet with numbers or digits is most likely to get 17% retweets.

Humility always stands out and if you mention “Please RT” in your tweet, most likely it will get 3-4 times more retweets.

Brandon Gaille, CEO of the internet marketing company, which specializes in SEO, SEM/PPC, social media, and reputation management, has put together 15 useful tips that will help you get more retweets, favourites and eventually help you increase your followers.

Want more Twitter tips?

Check out the article 6 Ways to Improve Twitter Engagement With Psychology Principles by Beth Gladstone, Marketing Manager at Twilert.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Blogging styles, preferred post frequency and buzz creation

If you have been blogging for long, you must have noticed that certain blogs attract more traffic and some don’t even get a single share. It all depends upon your blogging style, frequency of your posts and the content that you present in your posts.

Rohit Bhargava, founding member of 360 Digital Influence group at Ogilvy and author of the award winning marketing book Personality Not Included, has listed down the 25 basic styles of blogging and when to each one.

Talking about each style, Rohit suggests frequency of the blog (the maximum times a week) to ensure that neither you have a stale content nor you overwhelm your readers. Then he talks about the buzz index – how likely your blog will be read, commented or linked to relevant posts. The difficulty level to create a blog of such style has also been discussed. 

However, before jumping down to the presentation by Rohit, let me talk about few styles of blogging that I like the most and find really engaging enough to attract more readers to my blog.

List blogging
This is the most preferred style of blogging for me. It arouses interest among readers when you start your blog headline by saying “10 tips for writing exciting blogs” or “7 famous destinations for hiking during the monsoon”. I do a lot of list blogging and found that for me they have been attracting more traffic than other blog styles.   

Insight blogging
This style of blogging, though difficult, attracts more readers. Doing such posts, I have noticed that people read and comment if they don’t agree with my opinion or second my views. 

Link blogging
It’s quite easy to search blogs and articles online to create an aggregated post. You can then add your views to the list of resources and publish it. As it is a collection of interesting contents, it is highly sought after by the readers. It is really good to find all resources at a place. Isn’t it?

Review blogging
Writing reviews of a product or service is not always easy. You need to be unbiased and share your honest feedback to your followers. People searching about the product or services will land up at your blog.

Bridge blogging
I am Nepal author for Global Voices and whenever I post a blog, I take care that I am writing for an international audience who don’t know even a bit about the happening and places that I am talking about.

The fives styles of blogging that I prefer make up only one-fifth of the styles suggested by Rohit. Find below his presentation on 25 basic styles of blogging.  

25 basic styles of blogging

So which styles do you prefer? Get acquainted to the styles of your interest and keep blogging.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

8 ways to avoid boring storytelling trainings

Have you ever trained your staff on storytelling?

While conducting sessions on story writing I generally come across a familiar set of questions. Most of the participants say they have taken numerous training on story writing and storytelling. And with the ubiquitous presentations on storytelling in Slideshare and Authorstream, everybody thinks that s/he can craft wonderful stories at a mouse’s click. However, when they sit down to jot down a story, they can’t even move beyond few paragraphs. That’s pity!

Stand-alone storytelling training is not interesting at all. However, when all the components of storytelling including story writing, photography and videography are combined together, it makes the session interesting. And if you add the social media component to it – to disseminate the stories written by the participants – it makes the training engrossing. 

The practical and do-it-yourself sessions keep the participants engaged and interested. Besides, the desire to outshine among the peers motivates them to learn and perform better. 

Another crucial factor needed to make the training effective is making participants work in groups. And if you can arrange to make it residential, it allows more discussion, dialogue and exchange of ideas among the participants. This in turn, makes the training more productive.

Content is the king and will always be. Don’t feel awkward to curate the best content from the available resources in the Internet. Slideshare and Authorstream are two sites where you will find loads of presentation on storytelling. And of course you can always Google for more relevant resources. Here’s one of my earlier pieces on storytelling.

Tell the participants how they can get their stories to a wider audience. After writing stories if they don’t reach the target audience, it’s of no use at all. So, provide guidelines on how they can get their stories published, either in an organisational newsletter or in an external publication. Knowing that they can pitch their stories even to international publications, the participants will be more interested to write better stories.   

Everybody loves challenges. Once the sessions come to an end, collaborate with the participants to sketch personal story writing plans. Coming up with a concrete plan to write stories on a regular basis and getting them to the target audience will keep the flames burning. Even after the training. 

To get the maximum output, the sessions should be long enough to generate interaction. The one-sided teaching should be avoided. And for it, you will need to spread your training to three to five days. A day each on storytelling, photography, videography, practical sessions and dissemination through various channels seems the best spread out.

Another important aspect of an effective training is the resource person. The participants get inspired by resource persons who are known well in their fields. Circulating a schedule with short bios of the trainers few weeks ahead arouses interest among the probable participants. 

I am sure the above suggestions will help you to plan an interesting and effective storytelling session. If you come across some more interesting ideas, add to the list. 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Can social media change the world?

Can you imagine? There are more mobile phones in the world than toothbrushes.

Unbelievable? But it’s true.

A video produced by International Development, University of East Anglia has all sorts of staggering data convincing that social media can change the world.

And why not if 26 per cent of world’s population is using social media including 41.2 million Tweeters in Brazil, 90 million Facebook users in India, 3.6 million Facebook users in Kenya, 6.5 million Mxit users in South Africa, 600 million Weibo users in China and 46 million Vkontakte users in Russia.

Watch the engrossing video “Does social media has the power to change the world?”

How long should your social media updates be?

How long should your tweet be? Between 71-100 characters. So that people retweeting your tweet can add their comments to it before sending it to their followers. Tweets shorter than 100 characters have 17 per cent higher engagement rate.

Likewise, Facebook posts with 40 characters attract 86 per cent more engagement than posts with higher character counts.

Similarly, your blog headlines should not have more than six words. Limit your LinkedIn posts to 16-25 words and blog posts to 1,600 words if you want better engagement.

The below infographic taken from a post by Kevan Lee in buffersocial explains in detail the optimal length of your day to day social media updates.

The Optimal Length of Everything Online

Download the PDF of infographic.

Download the printable companion infographic.

Read the original post.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

World café, multi-stakeholder platforms and knowledge generation

What happens when you mix world café with multi-stakeholder platform (MSP)? As obvious, the outcome is an innovative and sustained effort for sharing and creating knowledge among the actors. And if you are implementing it for a certain value chain – it works wonders bringing about significant changes in the sector.

If you are new to value chain, let me first talk about it. A value chain is a set of activities and actors involved from the production till the sales. In a nutshell: from farm to fork. 

The idea of mixing world café with MSP was deduced from the innovation system (adapted from Woodhill, 2011) that brings together service providers, entrepreneurs, associations, farmer organisations, government, researchers, educators, practitioners and policy makers through interactive knowledge processes like MSPs, action research, dialogues, action groups, knowledge networks and pilots for collective action and shared understanding to bring about a situation for change in a certain value chain.

The below diagram (click the picture to enlarge) sourced from the chapter “Knowledge development, innovation and learning in value chains by Piet Visser, Melat Getahun and Mogessie Fikrie” in the book Pro-poor Value Chain Development: Private Sector-led Innovative Practices in Ethiopia edited by Piet Visser, Marc Steen, Juergen Greiling, Timoteos Hayesso, Rem Neefjes and Heinz Greijn clarifies the concept. Read the review of the book in

We tried concocting these two processes at the High Value Agriculture Project in Hill and Mountain Areas (HVAP).  The producer groups and cooperatives, traders, input suppliers and service providers were bundled into groups so that they could discuss about the opportunities and challenges in the value chain with each other.

Each group then presented the challenges and opportunities including prioritising the pressing issues in the sector that provided a platform for open dialogue among the value chain actors, enabling institutions and service providers.

Following the presentation, a world café session was organised. The traders became the table hosts and the producers went from one table to another in groups. The groups spent around 20 minutes at each table and discussed on the issues concerning both the buyers and producers. Some even came up with buy-back arrangements with the traders, while the producers and traders were seen busy exchanging the mobile numbers.  A partnership was already taking place and links were being strengthened – guaranteeing both the producers and traders of selling their products and sourcing products respectively.  Similarly, a separate table was hosted by the enablers including scientists, agro-vets and representatives from district agriculture development offices of the government. The farmers were surprised to know about the services provided by the government.

For those of you who don’t know about world café, it’s a process of holding structured conversation in groups. The individuals or groups switch the tables and the table host gives a snapshot about the previous discussion to the incoming group or individuals. At the end the table host presents on the outcomes of the discussions.  Visit the site to learn about the world café method.

The world café and MSP helped build a consensus and ownership among the stakeholders. It would obviously help bring about changes in the sector.

To know more about the sessions and quotes from the participants, read my earlier post in IFADAsia portal.

Friday, 23 May 2014

5 sure-shot ways to boost internal communications

Internal communications is not only about being social with colleagues and sharing information, but it’s about making the organisation more responsive to a constantly changing world, says

Organisations nowadays pay a fortune to establish vehicles for internal communication like enterprise social networks, intranet, content and document management tools, and video conference facilities. Apart from these, most rely on the social media platforms like LinkedIn groups, Skype, group mails, Google Hangouts and Facebook closed groups to discuss, share documents, news, knowledge, and collaborate.

As many groups you form, as many discussions you attend, perfect communication is still elusive. However, using the platforms efficiently will obviously help you better the internal communications in your organisation.

Interlinking the intranet pages
If you have offices across different geographical regions and you are using SharePoint, it’s lot easier for you to better internal communications. SharePoint integrates intranet, content management and document management.  The contents uploaded by each department or branches in their pages, if interlinked to the main SharePoint home pages, will enable you to get a bird’s eye view of happenings within the organisation. If the interlinking is done, when a news item is added in a department/branch page, it gets aggregated in the news section of the main home page. Likewise, a story appeared in the media of a particular department will appear automatically in the media section of the main home page.

The interlinking automatically updates the feeds and facilitates the sharing and communication among the departments and branches.

Rotating the facilitation responsibilities in the LinkedIn groups
Using the LinkedIn group is one of the best ways to get regular updates and participate in discussion. If the groups are closed, it gives liberty to discuss the stuffs internal to the organisation within the group.

However, there are limited discussions in the groups and sometimes the discussion continues between just two colleagues. And the daily updates from LinkedIn to the personal or official mails leads to vexation.

One quick method to get the discussions ongoing and enthuse motivation among the group members is to rotate the facilitation responsibilities. If each member of the group can take turns to post interesting stuffs and arouse interest among the members, the discussion becomes lively.

Besides, inviting some influential figureheads to the group also helps forge better and intellectual discussions, though it restricts sharing internal stuff.     

Monthly e-newsletter for updates
A monthly e-newsletter providing short snippets of what’s happening in the departments, what’s being discussed in the LinkedIn groups and what type or work is being done in the different branches, will help bring about collaboration in the work you do.

A short synopsis of what happened in the meetings will not only inform those who missed the actual meetings but will also invite interest from members of other departments, if there are certain avenues of collaboration.

Microblogging the updates
Twitter, though an external means of communication, can be a helpful medium to send direct messages (DM) to the followers on real time. Its 140 characters limit and ease to share wakes up the lazy person inside us to share the updates instantly – and it’s up to you, whether to make it public or share personally.

Short updates to group mails
The traditional and most reliable way of sharing the updates within your organisation is sending a paragraph each on the recent happenings to the concerned group mails. People who are interested in the issues will contact the respective colleagues personally and thus it will increase collaboration.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

5 team building lessons from blind cricket

(c) Suraj Gurung/NBA
George Bernard Shaw once said, “Cricket is a game played by 22 fools and watched by 22,000 fools.”

Now replace the fools with blinds and read the sentence again. And that happened last February, when I was invited to a tournament to select the team for the upcoming Blind World Cup Cricket being held in Johannesburg of South Africa this November. The only difference was the number of spectators – they were less than few hundreds. However, were mostly blind.

It was my turn to be a fool amongst them – dumbfounded to see their skills, courage and camaraderie.  

Being a communicator, I was gleaning lessons for professionals while watching the cricket.

Diversity is the key to develop a good team and succeed
Each of the two playing teams have 11 players comprising a minimum of 4 totally blind players (B1s), 3 partially blind players (B2s) and a maximum of 4 partially sighted players (B3s).

The B1 players wear a blue wrist band on the right arm, while B2 players wear a red arm band on the left arm. The B3 players don an orange arm band on the left arm. The mix of the teams motivates them to perform well. 

Likewise, if you have a team of diverse people, you will get a motley array of ideas – ranging from stupid ones to bright ones – which are a must for coming up with a winning team.

Equity motivates the team
In blind cricket, a B1 batsman has a runner and a B2 batsman has the option of a runner. When a B1 batsman scores a run, it is counted as two runs. Likewise, if a B1 player takes a one bounce catch, the batsman is given out.

The bowling is underarm and the ball has to pitch once before the mid pitch. This limits the height at which the ball will reach the batsman.

Equity, not equality all the times, motivates the team members. If the ones with less skill are prioritised to develop their skills, cohesiveness develops and everybody feels as a part of the team.  

Well informed teams perform a fair game
The ball used is made of hard plastic and filled with tiny ball bearings. It makes sound while being bowled or hit by the batsman. The bowler gives an audible signal before bowling and the batsman gives an audible signal when he is ready.

The team members should be always aware of what their mates are doing. If the members are aware of each other’s work plan, they tend to work together for complementarities, helping each other and avoiding duplication of work. The turf issues are also minimised once they know each other’s priorities. 

The feeling of oneness builds a responsible team
One thing that I rarely see these days was the coming together of the blinds, irrespective of their caste, religion and regions. There was an immeasurable joy amongst them. They had forgotten that they are living with any sort of stigma.

It was the feeling of oneness, their friends were more closer to them than their family members, relatives and society. They were happy to be in their own world – a world of people similar to them. There was no feeling of “we are less fortunate than others”. And this helped them perform better, work together and lead a life of dignity.

In a team, the members must forget their caste, religion, regions and status in the society. This allows them to develop the feeling of oneness and responsibility to the team.  

Equal opportunity to all team members is the secret to performing better
The blind cricket is a perfect example of providing equal opportunity to each team members. When a batsman is given out, the new batsmen must come from a new group (B1, B2, B3) in sequence, allowing all an equal chance to perform.

In a team, if all team members are given equal opportunity in terms of exposure, skill enhancement and recognition, the team remains a thriving and kicking bunch of outperformers.

After hearing so much about the blind cricket, you must watch in person how the game is played. I am certain this will motivate you to be a better team player. And if you watch it together with your team mates you will enthuse the motivation to outperform in each of your team mates. 

Like me, you will also differ with George Bernard Shaw and say, “Blind cricket is a game played by 22 team players and watched by hundreds of team playing aspirants.” 

If you want to know more about the blind cricket, click here for a link to the World Blind Cricket Council rule book.

Now it’s your turn to add to the list of lessons on team building gleaned from the blind cricket.

Friday, 21 March 2014

7 must-have elements of a compelling infographic

As I talked in my last post, infographics are gaining popularity more than ever. However, there are maximum chances that your infographic might get lost in the deluge of data pounding by your competitors. 

So, what are the must-have elements to make your infographic compelling and stand out among the mee-toos?

Obviously, the most important thing is how you craft your story – the storyline, the way of explaining your message including the facts. Visually appealing style, simplicity, size, statistics, shareability and quoting the sources referred are the other elements that make your infographic compelling, says Donna Moritz, a Social Media Strategist and Visual Marketing Specialist – and founder of Socially Sorted.

Read the original post by Donna.

7 Superpowers of a Knockout Infographic
Courtesy of:

Saturday, 22 February 2014

7 things to avoid while sending emails

Can you imagine? In the year 2012, the total email traffic per day worldwide was 144 billion and the number of email users worldwide stood at 2.2, as reported by Pingdom.

With such huge email traffic worldwide, it’s for sure that the person you are emailing must be getting a lot of emails. If you want your emails to be read by the recipient and in order to make them effective you need to avoid the below silly mistakes.

Do you like others shouting at you? Obviously not. Make sure that you never write emails in capital letters. The receiver will feel that you are BARKING LIKE A HOUND – if it’s in all capitals.

Use the cc (carbon copy) and bcc (blind carbon copy) options sparingly. Mark a copy only if you want a specific action from the person or simply want to inform him/her by keeping in loop. Use bcc only when you want to send the same information to multiple receivers and you don’t want them to know who the other recipients are. 

Try to avoid using the ‘high priority/urgent’ options. It seems you are being bossy. Likewise, don’t request delivery receipts – the receiver is irritated with such mails. If it’s super urgent, simply state that in your mail. If you want to make sure that the receiver got your message just ask to confirm the receipt.

While replying, never push the reply all button without thinking. First, be sure whether all the receivers should be getting your reply or not. Simply replying all is filling the mailboxes of the recipients and wasting their time.

Don’t include the internal email discussions while forwarding the mail to an external contact. Don’t do that while forwarding to internal contacts as well. Use the message thread only when it is needed for the reference.

Don’t use flowery language and excessive compliments. You send emails to communicate, not to make the recipient turn the pages of a dictionary to look for the meaning. Compliment only if it’s necessary. Flatter too much and you will be taken as a bootlicker. 

Don’t use too large or too small fonts. Also avoid the flashy colours and fonts. Stick to easily readable fonts like Verdana and Arial. Don’t go above 11 points and below 9 points.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Courtesy and employee commitment - a must for customer loyalty

Deal with your customers courteously (c)
Recently I was at one of the famous guest houses in Thamel of Kathmandu to meet one of my friends from India.

He had called me from the guest house landline and I could not grasp the room number correctly. When I asked the front desk staff, he fumbled through few pages, could not find the name and threw the log book to me. I scanned through the pages but could not find the name.

The staff showed no interest at all to help. Instead, he claimed that my friend might have lodged at some other hotel.

So I took out my cellphone and showed him the number. Luckily, it was dialed from the same guest house. Then the next person at the front desk came forward and checked in the computer’s log. And there he was – in the room no 308.

He dialed the room and handed me the phone. I thanked the man for his kindness.

When we left the place, we asked the gatekeeper directions to a well-known pub. But instead of helping us, he behaved like a self-satisfied snob. There was no politeness and not even a pinch of humility in his tone of voice.

As a result, my friend from India said that he would not stay at the guest house from now-onwards. And I promised not to recommend any of my friends to the guest house.

Thus, here goes the first nugget of wisdom to retain customer loyalty.

Customer relationship starts at your organisation’s gate itself. Conduct training on courtesy and etiquette for all staff starting from the gatekeeper and front desk staff. And apply zero tolerance on compliance.

In a recent webinar titled “Creating a sustainability innovation culture in your organisation: Employee engagement 2.0”, Christine Diamente, Head of Brand and Corporate Sustainability at Alcatel-Lucent, explained how the company ensures same culture in all countries across the globe. Alcatel-Lucent applies zero tolerance on compliance and conducts compliance training for all employees across the globe, as well as contractors and subcontractors.

***            ***            ***            ***

Few days ago, as I was passing by a state-owned dairy products outlet in New Road of Kathmandu, I thought of picking a packet of paneer. So I went inside the shop and asked for a 200 gram packet. As the lady gave me the packet, I handed over a 500 rupees note to her.

To my astonishment, she took back the packet from me and the man sitting next to her bluntly said that they don’t have the change.

What a nonsense! They had the product, there was a customer ready to buy, but they did not have willingness to sell it.   

It not only miffed me, but even tempted me to look for other options. Though I was a loyal customer of the dairy, I bought a competitor’s product. And it tasted equally good!

Thus, the second nugget of wisdom to retain customer loyalty goes like this.

Come up with plans to ensure employee commitment. Embed sustainability within the employee culture. 

In the earlier mentioned webinar, Sarah Ellis, Head of Corporate Responsibility and Society at Sainsbury’s, said that sustainability is embedded within the employee culture at Sainsbury’s. They have come up with 20x20 Sustainability Plan with 20 commitments based on five corporate values to make them an even more sustainable business by 2020.

At Sainsbury’s colleagues with innovative ideas are rewarded. “Little stories, big difference” videos showcase employee efforts in engaging customers to advance 20x20 goals at Sainsbury’s.

***            ***            ***            ***

The webinar, Creating a sustainability innovation culture in your organisation: Employee engagement 2.0, was organised by Ethical Corporation on 12 February 2014. The names of the organisations have not been mentioned to protect their identities.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

5 simple steps to better internal communication in your organisation

Informal gatherings help better internal
communication. (c)
Are you always worried about bettering the internal communications in your organisation? Worry not, think outside the box. Go out of the track to communicate better within your organisation.

Get rid of emails once a week
Can you work without sending mails? Get back to the brick and mortar module once a week. Try doing it once a month first and if you are successful, make it a no-email day once a week. Encourage your colleagues to talk to each other on phone, if it’s face-to-face even better. However, be flexible enough to reply to the urgent mails. Don’t miss a chance to reply to a prospective customer or a donor if you are working for a non-profit.

Try changing work stations and responsibilities once in a while
Have you watched an advertisement where a husband going to office exchanges duties with his wife who manages the home affairs? The husband gets to know how hard it is to stay at home and be a housewife. Meanwhile the wife experiences the hard work her husband does in order to earn the bread and butter for the family. Both end up respecting each other at the end. Similar sort of exercise once in a while will command respect and build trust among staff.

Extended potluck once a year
Bring enough food from your home to share with your colleagues. Ask them to bring their stuff as well. Eat together. Extend the lunch hour by an hour or two. You can add few bottles of beer to the food, especially if the potluck is organised on Friday. You will find people talking in an open environment, laughing, cracking jokes and sharing their personal matters during the eating together. It will help develop better bonds among your employees.  

Organise a monthly hike
Everybody wants to stay healthy and most people like to travel. Combine these two things. Organise a monthly hike. On the first attempt only few will participate. Ask them to post photos from the hike in the intranet, Facebook or Flickr and share them with their colleagues. Request them to talk about the experience with their colleagues. The word-of-mouth and sharing through social media tools will increase the participation in the next hike. Once you get people to join the regular monthly hikes, it will certainly be helpful in breaking the communication barriers and silos in which the different teams work.

Encourage blogging
You must have heard – blogging is outdated; it is dead.   But it can do wonders to share the experiences and progress in your organisation. Create a team of active bloggers. Request them to blog at regular intervals. Encourage others to comment on their jottings. Start writing and commenting yourself. Announce attractive prizes for the top 10 influential bloggers.  And you will see the incredible flow of ideas, the increasing batch of bloggers, and more and more sharing of information within your organisation.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

10 new rules of crisis communications

Crisis communications is a tough nut to crack. I have had situations when I was running here and there gathering the facts, calling the journalists, contacting bloggers, writing letters to the editors, and holding a press conference to clarify the issue.

As the Nepali adage goes, "Oralo lageko mrigalai bachchhole pani khedchha" (translation: a deer running downhill is challenged even by a calf.), you will be bombarded by questions, some really nasty enough to tackle, once an image ruining rumour spreads.

Now-a-days you have got plenty of options to address the situation. Melissa Agnes, the editor of Agnes + Day's Crisis Intelligence Blog, explains the very important 10 new rules of crisis communications through an infographic designed by the Agnes + Day crisis intelligence team.   

 10 New Rules of Crisis Communications - InfographicThe 10 New Rules of Crisis Communications – Infographic by Agnes + Day

Monday, 27 January 2014

22 killer features to attract your employees to intranet

A popular intranet leads to an open sharing culture.
So you are having tough time to attract your employees to the intranet? Worry not. Once you make the intranet a happening place, you will see the engagement growing day by day.

First and foremost, name and brand the intranet. It creates the feeling of ownership among the employees. Seeing the corporate colours, strategic design and the bits and pieces related to the brand personality, they feel like the site belongs to them. And it is where you start adding further information. Remember, “Hit the iron when it’s hot.”

Letting the page stand alone will not make it interactive. So, breathe life into it. Ask your CEO to write monthly, if he is not able to jot down a weekly motivating column. Though we always advocate for a horizontal structure where there are no hierarchies, we still look up to the senior management to guide and motivate us towards the organisational goals.  

Let the employees comment freely to the CEO’s column. This will invite an open platform of sharing ideas. Don’t edit the comments unless they are nasty and derogative. At the end, every employee has the rights to put forward their views.

We are always eager to know what our colleagues in the adjacent department are doing. Make a point to gather updates from each department and if your orgnisation is spread over many countries make sure to upload the recent news from each department and each country. It keeps all informed of the recent happenings in the organisation.

Another biggest crowdpuller is a column comprising the recent appearances in the media. Though we don’t admit, each of us has a little bit of Narcissus inside us which feels happy when it gets the limelight. Post the recent appearances of your work in the media and never forget to provide a link to the original story. It adds credibility.

A calendar of events and upcoming opportunities is another way to attract visitors to the intranet. They visit the page to check whether there are any opportunities available for them.      

It’s the age of knowledge sharing. Your credibility increases with the knowledge sharing. Make sure that you add a column “Interesting reads” where you share the recent happenings and any new document published in the areas you work. Employees will find this useful. Instead of searching in Google and other search engines, they will flock to the column for new reads.

Another way of engagement is putting a snapshot of your e-newsletter in the main page. Make the e-newsletter more collaborative, give chance to each office and each department and staff to write down their views. It is quite common that all are busy in their respective works. But it’s the responsibility of the communications department to encourage them to jot down their feelings and experience. Put snippets of the articles with “read more” buttons that lead the readers to the related pages.

Navigation is always an issue with the websites. The visitors leave the main page if they don’t find the relevant information. To keep them visiting the next pages provide the important links on the main page itself.

We keep on making simple mistakes while writing. It’s generally using wrong fonts, colours and tone of voice and even using the logo in a wrong manner. To avoid these petty mistakes, put a “Communications Toolbox” with the organisational house style, corporate identity guidelines and downloadable logos at a prominent place in the main page which takes the employees to the brand page.

The next important thing the employees look up to is the decisions made at the senior management level. Never forget to put a folder containing the senior management team meeting minutes. It enhances the transparency within the organisation and makes the staff feel that they are part of the decisions made.

People like to discuss and healthy discussion makes the management easier to decide on a certain topic. Make sure to provide links to the discussion topics within each department and offices. The trending topics will invite more participation and employees will visit the pages to put forward their views.

A section leading to the “New staff orientation” page attracts new employees and if you are able to keep on supplying interesting content to the new recruit s/he becomes a loyal visitor in the process.

Links leading to the pages “Staff directory”, “Benefits and services”, “Policies and procedures”, “Forms” further help to attract employees to the page.

A column on “People updates” leading to the details of newly hired staff, anniversary, birthdays, special achievements, birth of babies and other personal news is a way to create ownership aong the staff. It subsequently leads to greater traffic generation.  

Snapshots of the major activities that lead to the image gallery or the Flickr/Picasa based is another way to attract visitors. Instead of reading the full news, people like flipping images with right captions.

Looking at the popularity of microblogging, it might be a good idea to include the Twitter feeds of your organisation at a corner of the main page.

Even simple applications like “Booking a meeting room” and columns like “FAQs” and “Important/Urgent phone numbers” can be a way to generate more traffic to the intranet.

Word Clouds show which topics are trending and people are currently discussing about. It encourages and motivates the page coordinators to add more relevant and useful information in their respective pages so that they attract more visitors.

At the end of the page, a section “Browse the intranet” displaying the major pages with live links makes the navigation much easier. 

User of the month is another source of motivating the employees to visit the intranet. If you put a small picture and bio of the user who visited the intranet the most, it will encourage others to follow on the footsteps. It will generate more traffic to your intranet.

Sending page analytics to each offices and departments at the end of the month makes them informed about their performances. In a way it creates a competitive environment, encouraging the teams to perform better.

Having shared all the good things, it’s not a good idea to jumble up everything on the main page of the intranet. It will create confusion having so much information at one go. So, have faith on your conscience, choose the right and most important things to display on the main page, and go ahead with engaging your employees.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Brand the intranet, engage employees

Brand your intranet, it also needs a name! (C)
“I never feel like visiting the intranet.”

“It’s boring.”

“I don’t see any value getting there. It doesn’t look like our website.”

You must have heard these murmurings in your office. And especially if you are responsible for communications, it seems that the grapevine is abuzz with denials and negativity all the time.

In spite of being one of the tools to facilitate communication between employees, the intranet turns out to be a tedious task to handle, if not used properly.   

While the intranet needs killer features to attract employees (I will talk about it in my next post), the step preceding the content creation is branding. Branding the intranet. In terms of organisational culture, mission and values. 

Naming the intranet
The first and foremost step in branding is to come up with a name which connects well with the purpose and organisational mission. I like the name of WWF’s intranet. It’s called “CONNECT” and it lives up to its name connecting employees across the globe. Naming can be rhymed like “Pipeline”, the newsletter of an oil company and “Inner Sole”, the newsletter of a shoe manufacturing company.

You can find a list of creative names at SnapComms. Though they are meant for employee newsletters, you can get a cue for naming your intranet from them.

Look and feel
The intranet should don the corporate colours and their variants. Although the corporate typefaces cannot be used all the time, the alternative fonts like Verdana can be used to give it a decent look. Too many pictures in a page or a bland page without any image, both are a complete No-No. Try to maintain the visual balance on the page.

The masthead
The masthead or banner should boldly spell out the name of the intranet along with the corporate tagline. While designing the masthead make sure to use the motifs related to the organisation’s strategy, mission and values, if you are using one. Otherwise, bold type typefaces or specially designed fonts can be used. Sometimes, calligraphy can do wonders.     

The master page
The main page of the intranet should carry the zing thing. By zing thing, I mean to include an inspirational message every week from the CEO, news from offices across the globe, appearances in the media, useful links, navigational links to important pages and other important stuffs that you think should be there in the main page.

The design, look and feel of the following pages should be consistent with the master page. So that you don’t juxtapose oranges with apples!

Now, if you are done with the initial branding, you can start creating killer content to attract your colleagues to the intranet. You have crossed the first step. The branding will help build the initial trust and ownership, instigate the engagement, subsequently leading to employee loyalty towards the intranet. 

Friday, 17 January 2014

Share information, win the game

Share information, be popular. (c)
Information is power. Isn’t it? So why not hoard information and remain powerful? Well, it was the thinking few years ago. Nowadays if you hide information, you will no longer remain powerful. The information seeker will google it, bing it and get the required data. And you will feel ostracised at the end.

I recall a widely circulated anecdote. Once a man approached a mason laying bricks. On being asked what he was doing, the man nonchalantly said, “Well, don’t you see, I’m laying bricks.”

The man then went to another man who too was laying bricks. Nearby was standing the foreman. He was supervising the masons. When he posed the same question to the second mason, the foreman took over and said, “We are building a wall.”   

Getting a different answer, he thought of contacting the contractor who was in-charge of the construction. The contractor welcomed him to his office, offered a cup of coffee and explained, “See, we are coming up with one of the largest churches in the neighbourhood.”

Now, you can see the difference.  Had the mason known of the bigger picture, he would have taken his job more seriously.  The foreman would have gone an extra mile to be a proud partner in constructing the landmark.  

This makes the difference. It’s not only about sharing the information, but showing the bigger picture to your teammates. So that you come together as winning team. And accomplish your goals. Efficiently. Effectively.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Three easy steps to developing knowledge and learning

First identify the knowledge theme, then start developing
knowledge products. (c)
Working as a knowledge worker, the most difficult task that I have come across is knowledge extraction and creation. While adapting, structuring, and sharing aspects of knowledge management are a bit easier, the knowledge developing seems a daunting task, especially when you start from the scratch. If you are to extract knowledge and learning from a project during a stated period, you need to first set the knowledge agenda. To set the agenda, identify the themes around which you want to develop the knowledge and learning. As the project progresses, you will come across some obvious knowledge and learning. However, at the beginning of the project you will need to identify the themes based on the project design document.

Knowledge themes and key questions
The knowledge themes could be gender and social inclusion, commercialisation, sustainability and so on, depending on the project document. After identifying the knowledge themes, discuss with the stakeholders and find out the key questions that will lead to developing knowledge and learning under each theme. For instance, under the theme gender and social inclusion, one of the probable questions can be, “What are the effective ways of targeting women and disadvantaged groups?” Similarly, you can collect a set of questions by interviewing the stakeholders, asking them what they expect to learn from the project.

Knowledge sharing mechanisms and tools
Following the identification of knowledge themes and collection of key questions, list out the knowledge sharing mechanisms and tools best suited to capture the key learning. The knowledge sharing mechanism can be a success story, a case study, a practice paper, a practice brief, a manual, a guideline, a website and so on.

Knowledge matrix with deliverables
After listing out the knowledge sharing mechanisms and tools, develop a knowledge matrix comprising columns for knowledge theme, knowledge sharing mechanism and deliverables. Talking with your team and management, decide which mechanism is best suited to capture the learning of a particular knowledge theme. Looking after your team’s capabilities and duration, fix the number of deliverables you want to come up with. For instance, to develop knowledge and learning under the theme gender and social inclusion, you might choose to go for two case studies and three success stories in a year. Likewise, to develop a knowledge product under the theme sustainability, you might go for a collaborative research.