Corporate Communications Intranet
Intranets, are the poor cousin of a company’s web site—in most cases, they generate neither money nor customers. But in reality, corporate intranets not only offer the potential for companies to transform how they market and communicate, they can streamline and improve operations and impact the bottom line.
In 2002, two years, after Cisco Corporate Communications built News@Cisco, the team began Phase Two of their IT makeover-- adding a Corporate Communications Intranet.
The objectives of this second phase were five fold:
Create Once – Use Everywhere
The issue of providing a consistent voice, content and messaging to Cisco’s 34,000-plus employees and locations had increasingly became of critical importance. The team’s objective was to control the message and provide consistent content, voice and information -- and its mantra -- is to be able to “Create once – use everywhere.”
Provide localized information for
a specific region or country
As a global organization, Cisco needed to support customers, partners and offices around the world. Each location had communications requirements that needed to be delivered by the intranet in a way specific to a region or locality.
Standardize and automate the process of reporting news
One of the biggest problems facing the team was consolidating news and coordinating its delivery. This was both a time consuming and laborious task. Corporate Communications needed a new system that would streamline and automate the process of news consolidation and dissemination to keep all Cisco locations up to date on current industry, world and company events.
Maximize synergies across communications efforts
The enormous amount of information generated at Cisco needed to be consolidated and made easy to navigate for numerous internal and external users. To accomplish this, the new intranet needed to accommodate and manage input from all over the corporation--from legal and product management, to the executive team and others—and make this information accessible to different groups within Cisco communications. Departments including public relations, investor relations, corporate marketing and marketing communications relied on their ability to access current and accurate information. This required Cisco Communications to develop an intranet-based system where content could be archived, searched and re-used, 24/7.
Boost productivity and reduce department expenses
Finally, but not least of all the group wanted a system that would enable them to increase productivity and reduce department expenses.
PR Organizer, "Best Practices" for an Internet-based world
After much planning and deliberation, the Cisco "PR organizer" was developed, based on 4 key tools: the scheduler, an approval tool, a distribution tool, and a message documents archive.
Scheduling for a large company's communications team is an ongoing challenge. The new scheduler tool provides a calendar of all Cisco communications' events, such as press conferences, press releases, trade shows, or analyst briefings. Now, when a communications person plans an announcement, it is entered into the Scheduler and immediately impacts the on line calendar for all involved individuals and departments. A feedback cycle and database is built into the Scheduler, giving people the opportunity to comment on event timing and their participation, and ensuring that the calendar is always up to date. Most importantly, the group calendar is event driven, so that everyone in global Cisco communications has access to the same data on any given activity.
Approvals of releases and other PR collateral can be a very time consuming and error prone process. Like most companies, Cisco’s communications department had relied on email to coordinate the planning, writing, revisions, approval and distribution of releases, by-lined articles, videos and other collateral materials. With the new Approval Tool, the communications team can now circulate a specific document to all internal stake holders and automate the review, comment and approve cycle.
The Approval Tool also automatically generates reminders that feedback is due. The system then collects all the participant’s comments, so that the communications team can read and track what has been said. "This approval tool also helps to build consensus,” said Gretchen Ushakova who heads News@Cisco.
When the approval process is complete, a Final Review tool automatically alerts those with final review authority that the draft they are viewing is their last opportunity for comments or changes. This Final Review process provides both a strong oversight function and ensures that all external communications documents have a consistent voice.
Once a product has been approved, a Distribution Tool will send the specified marketing collateral piece--a press release, for example--to the website team. The website team will then update all databases, News@Cisco, and the appropriate news wires, and alert the system that the release has been sent out.
The PR Organizer allows the communications team to save, share and reuse information. In the past, the communications content would be "siloed" in separate stacks of information, with no consistent process for their retrieval. In the past email assisted in part with this information retrieval problem. However, the intranet now offers a centralized searchable archive, eliminating the silo problem entirely. In addition, all of the communications functions can access the same searchable database and build off of information that has been previously released.
This capability is
especially helpful in times of crisis, where 24/7, global access to archives may
be key. As recently happened when the tsunami hit
As a result of their efforts, the Communications team at Cisco is now able to both control the message, and provide consistency of content, voice and information. Countries or regional offices are able to localize information to meet their specific needs. Cisco now has access to tools that can standardize and automate the process of generating and coordinating the news that is released everyday. In addition, Cisco now has a central, searchable archive of communications documents, as well as a repository of department knowledge that employees can read and reuse. The centralized system even stores pitches to specific kinds of media, eliminating the need for the PR team to reinvent the wheel.
The company has also witnessed a dramatic reduction in releases from some 500 in 2003 to 300 in 2004. This was due, in part to their ability to send information out in a variety of new formats--from broadcast b-roll to RSS—but also to eliminate overlapping efforts.
Cisco Communications estimates that it has saved some $5.1 million in internal productivity gains, reduced head count, deferred calls, while lowering the cost of wire, video and press release distribution.
An intranet can transform many of the routine, time consuming, and laborious processes of corporate communications while improving efficiencies, saving time, effort and money. By adding tools and processes that simplify the press release cycle, announcements and corporate information can truly be “created once – used many” times, and the intranet can become a trusted source, for the latest, most accurate information.
But perhaps the greatest opportunity comes from an intranet’s ability to facilitate communications and decision-making across the enterprise, and around the world, 24/7.
Just as new technologies allow start-ups to gain access to sophisticated tools and economies of scale, previously unavailable to smaller companies, they also enable large companies to operate with greater efficiency, agility and speed.