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HT+C update for January

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  • Jim Rink
    Reprinted with permission from HC+T: HC+T Update: January 2003 In This Issue: 1. How Do Companies
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 16, 2003
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      Reprinted with permission from HC+T:

      HC+T Update:
      January 2003

      In This Issue:

      1. How Do Companies Staff Intranet Communications?
      2. Study Suggests Web Has Become A Mainstream Info Tool
      3. Do Long URLs Drive You Nuts? Try This
      4. Intranet Used To Communicate Deaths
      5. A Model Web Newsroom
      6. Communicating Electronically By Print
      7. Webinars Scheduled For February
      8. HC+T Update
      9. Boilerplate And Subscription Information

      Apologies first. You received a notice to participate in a survey on
      January 13. This notice was not intended for HC+T Update readers. I
      maintain mailing lists for HC+T Update AND NetGain Update with the same
      service. I had switched to NetGain for distribution of the survey reminder,
      but for some reason, it went to the HC+T list anyway. Sorry about that. But
      if you like HC+T Update, you should probably subscribe to NetGain Update
      anyway. You can subscribe and look at back issues at http://www.netgain.org.

      1. How Do Companies Staff Intranet Communications?

      I've been researching, on behalf of a client, how corporate communications
      departments staff for their intranets. With no studies covering intranet
      staffing, I asked around at a number of companies. No single staffing model
      emerged, which is what I expected. After all, companies already have
      corporate communications departments that are structured in different ways,
      all of which can be tweaked to support the intranet.

      Some trends, however, did emerge:

      * Very few communicators are crafting copy for intranets, including the
      corporate news sections. Even the biggest companies have between one and
      three communicators involved in generating content dedicated to the
      intranet. While these intranet-dedicated communicators do write some copy,
      they also repurpose a lot of content from.

      * Repurposed content is coming from a variety of sources, including print
      material (like press releases and other content produced by the public
      relations folks), stringers from various departments, and employees taking
      advantage of "submit story idea" links.

      * Content development is distributed throughout the organization. Employee
      communications departments are no longer the sole creators of material for
      employee consumption.

      * Corporate communications has little input into the content produced by
      business unit sites (like the HR site or the Sales site). Communications
      may set standards and guidelines, but they're not producing content for the
      HR or Sales (or other departmental) sites. Those business units and staff
      functions are doing it for themselves.

      Typical of these characteristics are companies like Sears and Aetna. At
      Sears, Corporate Communications is one of four departments reporting
      through the Public Affairs office. The other groups include Corporate PR,
      Media Relations, and Government Relations. These groups produce much of the
      content used by the Technology Communications unit, which is part of
      Corporate Communications; more comes from the three full-time print
      writers. The intranet is only one area of responsibility in this
      department; others include photography (which contributes images for the
      intranet) and Sears TV. There are two full-time staffers with intranet
      responsibilities. In addition to producing some copy, these two staffers
      also handle all the company�s corporate sites, such as CEO Alan Lacey�s
      site. They do identify and write news, but also handle submissions from
      employees throughout the organization.

      At Aetna, three to four new articles are added to AetNet, Aetna�s intranet,
      each day. Three full-time people work on the communication side of AetNet,
      including two editors (one handles internal news, the other external) and
      one writer who spends about 50-60% of his time on intranet-related work.
      According to Employee Communications Director Steve Perelman, �We beg,
      borrow and steal stories from other communicators in the company, or use
      their press releases, etc. The good news is that many departments are now
      coming to us, asking for articles on AetNet. We usually ask them to do the
      first draft and we edit, or put them in touch with their communications
      contact. I manage the process, and (even though I try not to be) am pretty
      involved in story generation, selection and placement.�

      What's your copmpany's staffing model for your intranet's corporate or
      employee communications? Let me know, and I'll aggregate everything I learn
      in the next issue.

      2. Study Suggests Web Has Become A Mainstream Information Tool

      Five or six years ago, you couldn't turn on the TV without hearing about
      the World Wide Web. The now-defunct magazine, The Industry Standard, ran
      weekly metrics that included Web mentions in press releases. Now, the only
      time the Web is discussed is in that matter-of-fact manner: "We have more
      information about this on our Web site..."

      Is the gushing, cooing love affair with the Web over? Not according to the
      Pew Internet and American Life Project. Instead, it's just settled into a
      groove. "With over 60% of Americans now having Internet access and 40% of
      Americans having been online for more than three years, the Internet has
      become a mainstream information tool," according to a summary of the
      report, "Counting on the Internet." It's not a novelty any more, so
      nobody's talking about it. If anything, people talk about the content they
      find on it. The Web itself is just the tool used to deliver it. (When was
      the last time you waxed poetic about your phone? "It's so cool; my voice
      travels over this wire, and I can hear my mom's voice in real time when she
      talks back!")

      The fact that the Web is a taken-for-granted information resource means
      people expect to find information on the Web. For instance, 65% of all
      Americans think the Web should have information they're looking for from
      government agencies. As for e-commerce, 63% of all Americans expect that a
      business will have a Web site that offers information about a product or
      service they're considering buying. (Nearly half said they would be more
      likely to go to the store of a company with a Web site than one that
      doesn't.) Sixty-nine percent expect to find current, accurate, up-to-date
      news online, and 67% expect to find health care information on the Web.

      Further, the Web has become the PRIMARY means of getting information for a
      lot of people. Fifty-eight percent of Internet users say they'll go online
      first next time they need information from the government. Forty-six
      percent will hit the Web first for health care information.

      The implications for business couldn't be clearer:

      * You have to have a Web site.
      * The site should contain information your audiences seek more than
      information you want to communicate.

      The study is available in both HTML and PDF from the Pew site:
      (Or try this URL: http://snurl.com/l4j. Notice how short that link is? Read
      the next item...)

      3. Do Long URLs Drive You Nuts? Try This

      Reader Andy Szul, with George Washington University, forwards a site that
      can help deal with those annoyingly long URLs..and it's free.

      The site, http://snipurl.com, converts those insanely long URLs (usually
      generated by databases) into something short you can save as a Favorite or
      send in an email. Visit the site and paste in a long URL, and it will
      provide you with a new URL that is permanent. The URLs all begin with
      http://snipurl or http://snurl, and is stored on SnipURL's site. But when
      you click on it, it'll take you to the original site you snipped. You can
      also add a SNIP THIS link to the links bar on your browser. If you
      register, you can save your "snippings," and give them added names to make
      them easy to remember.

      Here's an example. I found my book, "Public Relations on the Net," on
      Amazon. The URL was 135 characters. I snipped it, then edited the URL to
      read http://snurl.com/pronthenet. Go ahead, try it -- it'll take you right
      to the 135-character URL.

      Sure, it's trivial, but it's also kinda nifty, and it has its uses.
      Consider the URLs you might add to your email newsletters, the ones that
      are so long they wrap around multiple lines, sometimes breaking so they
      won't work when your readers click on them. Or how about sending URLs in
      instant messages or SMS (text messages)?

      Anyway, it's free -- and free of advertising -- so what can it hurt to give
      it a try?

      4. Intranet Used To Communicate Deaths

      OVer the past few issues, I've been talking about using intranets as a
      vehicle for crisis communication. Now comes an example from Kate Raulings,
      Web Manager at Ericcson (Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands). While
      not exactly crises, these tales of high-profile employee deaths offer
      another viewpoint on how the intranet can be used to communicate and build
      employees' connection to the company. In Kate's words...

      "The first (instance) occurred as a result of the Milan plane crash a
      couple of years ago. Tragically 2 Ericsson employees were on the plane;
      one of whom had worked in Australia for many years. We began a site
      directly linked from the homepage which covered internal releases about the
      death of our colleague as well as news articles and more. Within 48 hours
      we had collated stories he had been in from internal magazines etc and
      presented them online for people to read. Memorial service details and
      locations of condolence books were detailed as well as employee support
      services such as counselling for staff. Employees could also offer online
      condolences which together with the paper books and a colour version of all
      the stories was offered to his family.

      "Last year saw the death of one of our company Directors through leukaemia.
      Again, details of the funeral, online condolences, counselling services
      and stories were gathered online for employees. We even used the site as a
      means to gauge transport requirements provided for those wishing to attend
      the service. As per the family's wishes we also provided details of how to
      make donations to the Leukaemia Foundation (a not-for-profit organisation
      dedicated to supporting those with the disease as well as finding a cure)
      in lieu of flowers. Again copies of condolences and stories were given to
      the family who very much appreciated the time, effort and support the
      company had provided for them.

      "We also plan to ongoingly support the foundation in annual fundraising
      events dedicated to our employee's memory.

      "Employees felt the organisation was very supportive during both these
      periods allowing time for people to attend services as well as the other
      services we offered together with the opportunity to remember their
      colleagues and having these passed along to the families."

      Do you have stories of crisis communication enhanced by your intranet? I'll
      share them here.

      5. A Model Web Newsroom

      My NetGain partner Pete Shinbach, APR, and I share a distaste for
      gratuitous Flash applications. I was surprised, then, when Pete advised me
      to look at a media relations site that is Flash-driven. It was, he said,
      incredible...and left it at that.

      The Duke University Medical Center's media site lives up to the billing.
      The Flash is used mainly for navigation purposes, but the site creators
      have gone out of their way to make the content as useful as possible.

      Take, for example, the news covered on the site. There's a lead story and
      several other headlines. Click any of them and you get a page with the full
      story. But wait; there's more. The story appears in a column on the left of
      the page, led by contact information (including a hyperlink to the
      contact's email address). The column to the right contains related
      information. For the current top story, on sleep apnea, related material
      includes a downloadable photo of the doctor quoted in the story. Then
      there's the five pull-down menus that appear on every story: ExpertsList,
      MediaKit, MedMinute, DukeHealthTip, and MedControversies. When you click to
      view the story, the site automatically searches its database to find any
      related information that falls into these categories. For the apnea story,
      matches were found in the MedMinute and DukeHealthTips categories. The
      database search also pulls up all other stories on the topic and ranks them
      by relevance, so reporters can do additional research.

      The site also features "My Files." Any file on the site can be added to
      this separate personalized page, so reporters can get to the information
      they gathered during a visit to the site.

      You can take a virtual tour of the center's facilities, or peruse the image
      gallery (categorized alphabetically and by people or places); you can get
      more information on each image, print it, download it in print or Web
      format, and add it to "My Files." A list of experts available for
      interviews shows each expert (listed in categories like AIDS, Cancer,
      Cadiology, and Neurophysiology) including the expert's title, interests,
      email, phone number, and a downloadable photo, along with matches in the
      five categories listed above and any articles that reference the expert.

      Audio-video on the site include B-roll, Video News Releases, and over video
      and audio files available. Media kits have been developed, each of which
      includes a related site address, key contacts, media contacts, an overview
      of the issue, information on facilities and research, and other material
      (not to mention matches in the five categories noted above and related
      items from the news archive). Reporters can sign up to receive news
      releases based on their interests. The page also features tips on reporting
      on various medical issues, such as stem-cell research, health statistics,
      and using the Net as a medical information source.

      The site also lists all contacts in the media office.

      Pete's right. Without a doubt, the Duke University Medical Center has one
      of the best media sites I've seen. You can see for yourself:

      6. Communicating Electronically By Print

      Here's a common lament among communicators: "We've gone to email as a
      communication tool, but a lot of our employees don't have email."

      That's true. Financial services companies have the highest percentage of
      employees with email accounts at 92%, according to a Network World magazine
      study. Seventy-nine percent of government employees get email, and 78% of
      healthcare workers. Retail/wholesale/distribution companies, though,
      provide email access to only 30% of employees.

      How, then, can you get the message to those unwired workers that you're
      getting to everyone else by email? One company claims to have a solution.
      Net2Printer has developed a technology that lets you send email directly to
      an Internet-connected office printer.

      The peer-to-peer technology lets you connect send a document to any printer
      the software recognizes is online and available. Recipients have the
      ability to pre-approve receipt of documents from among those sending them.
      Net2Printer compares its technology to instant messaging. It beats faxing,
      since you can reduce fax costs (such as the long-distance phone call) and
      the quality of the document is just as good as one you'd print from your
      own computer.

      The software is currently free for downloading at
      http://www.net2printer.com, although the company will charge with future
      releases. For now, it's an intriguing alternative for communicators seeking
      to get information into the hands of those without email at the same time
      everyone else gets it.

      7. Webinars Scheduled For February

      Two Webinars will kick off in February.

      First up is "Planning Communication for Organizational Change," the second
      go-around for this Webinar originally presented in mid-2002. Your Webinar
      leaders are Tudor Williams, ABC, and me. The Webinar focuses on
      understanding the dynamics of change and applying them to your
      communications. After this Webinar, you'll be ready to help your company
      get through change quickly with the maximum employee support.

      "Planning Communication for Organizational Change" begins on February 3.
      Information is at http://webinar.holtz.com/synopsis/orgchange.htm. You can
      register at

      Next up is "Online Newsrooms for Every Day and Everyone," presented by Pete
      Shinbach, APR. This was very well-received when it was first run last year.
      You'll learn the elements of a successful newsroom for both media and

      This Webinar begins on February 24. Information is at
      http://webinar.holtz.com/synopsis/newsroom.htm. You can register at

      New Webinars are also in the works, including a fascinating session on
      privacy in communications. I'll let you know as soon as we're ready to
      announce them.

      8. HC+T Update

      >>>Shel will present a day's worth of online communication training for
      IABC/Seattle on February 20.

      >>>Shel is wrapping up work on "The Same Page: A Leader's Guide to
      Communicating With Employees." Watch for publication late in 2003 from AMACOM.

      9. Boilerplate And Subscription Information

      You received this newsletter either because you asked for it or somebody
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      Please feel free to forward it to someone =you= like!

      HC+T Update is published monthly by Holtz Communication + Technology.
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      Holtz Communication + Technology helps organizations apply online
      technology to strategic communication efforts.

      (C) 2003, Holtz Communication + Technology. All rights reserved.

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      Jim Rink
      Senior Contributing Editor

      AAA Michigan
      1 Auto Club Drive
      Dearborn, MI 48126

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