*Update: Whoaaa, this blog post is really old! Check out some more recent posts here.
A brand is a lot more than a logo, a word mark, and a color palette. It's a visual representation of what makes your company unique, differentiated, and valuable. Just like public branding, your intranet brand plays a role in how employees feel about your company, and how they behave with one another and your customers.
Today, we share three methods for articulating your intranet brand, so you can start designing an intranet that is meaningful to employees (and your bottom line).
Method 1: Affinity diagramming
There's already a lot written on Affinity Diagramming (also called a K-J exercise), so here's the short version.
Affinity diagramming is a quick, easy, and effective brainstorming exercise that's useful in group decision making. It allows groups to come to a consensus quickly using qualitative data.
Start by determining one to three focus questions. The goal of the focus questions is to get participants to share expectations, memories, stories, and relationships. Think about what questions will help you uncover the company culture.
“You're trying to encourage a friend to apply for a job at your company. How would you describe what it's like working there?”
“Remember a time you were really proud of an accomplishment at work. What made the project a success?”
Next, select a group of participants that is truly representative of your organization, not just it's senior leadership team. Your brand needs to be authentic — or employees won't buy in.
Open up the workshop by explaining a little bit about what you're doing and what the goals of todays session are. Then, for each question, conduct an affinity diagramming exercise in three simple steps:
1. Brainstorming: Participants write as many answers as possible within a provided time frame (ie. five minutes). Answers are written on sticky notes with sharpies. Post them on a whiteboard or a wall.
2. Grouping: Advise participants to work together (without talking) and re-arrange the stickies into groups that share the same theme. Groups can be as big or small as the participants decide.
3. Prioritizing: Working together (and talking), create a name for each group that summarizes the theme. Then, agree on a numerical rank of importance for each group (ie. the most important theme is 1, the least important is 10).
Afterwards, you will want to document, analyze, and streamline results. These answers will form the basis of your brand values — and give you a starting place to come up with intranet brand concepts. Remember to share and celebrate results with the whole team!
Method 2: Emotional reaction cards
If you have less creative and outspoken participants (or a tight timeline), using product reaction cards is a simple way to get started on intranet branding. Recommended by intranet consultant James Robertson in his book Designing Essential Intranets, reaction cards were first designed by Microsoft for rapid desirability testing.
Reaction cards list 118 potential emotional reactions to software. Download, print, and cut out the cards before the sessions (free download from Microsoft). They are the feeling words, not the hard, tangible descriptions you would list in intranet requirements.
Get a group of participants to create two piles — a pile that describes what frustrated you about your previous solution, and a pile that describes what you aspire to in the new solution. The piles should contain no more than 3 - 5 cards. The challenge for the group is to create consensus around what the most important values are.
Design your new intranet brand around the desirable traits. And keep the pile of undesirable traits for your intranet launch; you can use these to help employees understand why you are breaking free of the old system and what you want to accomplish with the new intranet.
Method 3: Create a culture team
Your intranet brand is visual and interactive representation of company culture. And culture really shouldn't be something you only talk about one day per year. It's pervasive throughout everything your company does.
Understanding the value of culture, Eric Ryan, founder of Method soap (an amazing little start-up that's taking on the likes of Proctor & Gamble), created a cross-functional team in charge of culture. This team was responsible for distilling company culture down to five unique, memorable values — and then bringing these values to life on an ongoing basis. Create a culture team and put them in charge of your intranet brand, from launch to keeping it alive everyday.
Intranet branding design is a great catalyst to overhaul the way your company thinks about culture. Take advantage of this opportunity to articulate your values and turn your intranet into something truly meaningful.
Have questions? Get in touch! We're always happy to hear from you.