Intranet news needs good headlines too (reposted)

Originally posted 6 November

There are a gazillion articles out there about how to write great online headlines but they tend to fixate on company internets and blogging and how to attract readers through SEO. What about the humble intranet? Writing headlines for a “captive” internal audience is a discipline in itself.

Message

It’s a given, but as always, everything should relate to your message. Your headline still needs keywords so the reader can quickly determine that this is the right content for them. And since internal search engines are not the best, think about how your headlines will be displayed in a search return. Can the reader quickly find the content they want, even six months later, based only on your title?

Tone

A no brainer, but often ignored. Your tone should reflect the nature of your content. Inspirational language on an announcement of a new PPT template doesn’t make sense. Likewise a boring label on a personal story or exciting breakthrough is not going to encourage readers. It is a fine line between hooking the reader and leaving them disappointed when the “emotion” incited in the headline is not delivered in the written material.

Be honest

Editorial content has a lot of spin. Unfortunately we haven’t overcome this trend yet. Don’t add to it with misleading headlines. If content is neutral be neutral. If there is an overall negative or difficult message don’t promote the only highlight to the headline. And don’t forget not everything can be the biggest, fastest, best, most improved and so on.

Get rid of the company name

If the company logo, brand colours and customised font are not enough to let readers know where they are, you have a bigger problem than headline writing. On a serious note, attaching the company name to every success rather than acknowledging individual and team efforts reinforces the idea that employees don’t matter.

Provide location markers

It’s incredibly frustrating to click into an intranet article to discover the information has little to do with your part of the business or your part of the world. Of course there are country-specific stories that can inspire the company as a whole, but use the headline to explain this. “German success impacts Nordic sales figures” is much better than “Nordic sales climb”.

Take a risk every now and then

With the intranet you do have a “captive” audience so you don’t have to follow all the online rules designed to meet SEO requirements. You can drift into “newspaper” territory with clever or colourful headlines that entice rather than purely inform. A break from straight forward, hard selling headlines can do a lot to make the sender of the message more human, and therefore more credible.

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