Intranet : too many messages, not on right screen says Jean-Paul Chapon (Société Générale)

The web and its social conventions are game changers for communication managers. New tools, postures, an intranet mutating into digital workplaces. That raises many questions.

First for intranet and communication managers. With a profusions of media, messages and tools they struggle to deliver their message to employees whose attention is more and more fragmentated.

On the other side, end users are overwhelmed and their attention span is now 8 seconds (12 seconds in 2000).

I’ve planned to tackle this matters in a couple of future posts but I’d like to start with a discussion I’ve had with Jean-Paul Chapon, head of digital transformation and E-reputation at Société Générale to have the opinion of an enterprise practitionner.

Bertrand Duperrin : We see many communication departments struggling to meet the challenges raised by new media and their social conventions that are bursting into the workplace. What’s your opinion ?

Jean-Paul Chapon : You’re right.

First, employees aver overwhelmed with informaton. Many intranet, work tools, messages from the company, colleagues, from the outside…it’s hard for them to decide what to read, to prioritze. In the end few messages are read and even less are understood.

Second, we don’t reach them on the right screens. The screen of their computer is  too crowded. And I don’t even mention employees whose job requires a specific work environment like in bank agencies or those who work on the stock market. Each inch, each pixel is optimized for their work imperatives and needs. Adding anything to share a message on their screens would be difficult and, most of all, counterproductive from a business perspective. The computer’s screen is not the best place to deliver our message anymore.

Jean-Paul Chapon
Jean-Paul Chapon

BD : What does it mean for communication managers ?

J.-P. C : Flows are reversed. It’s not the end-user that must go to the message but the message should go to the user. The right message, at the right time, on the right screen. The time when we contented ourselves with forcing users to see the intranet’s home page is over. It pushes statistics up but it doesn’t mean that the objective, a message delivered and understood, is met.

Personal notice : it reminds me of a famous quote that’s been attributed to so many people that its origin remains a mystery to me. But in the early 2000s already, facing the new behaviors caused by the multiplication of social media, many experts used to say

if the news is important, it will find me

BD : So, what to do ?

J.-P. C : I see two main streams that complete one the other. First, go mobile, second, make the most of “quiet moments”.

Mobile because it’s the new screen, the one where it’s easier to push something, provided it’s relevant and contextualized. Quiet moments because it’s when attention is available. When they sit in front of their computers, employees have too many things in their mind. On the other hand there are times when they have more attention, when they have time to read a message. By the way, that’s how we’re using our mobile devices : when we wait in line, in elevators, transportations…when our mind and attention is not grabbed by tens of things at the same time, to do what we don’t have time to do when we’re seating at our desk.

Corporate communition should not be something employees suffer but choose. It implies more contextual relevance.

BD : And from a concrete standpoint  ?

J.-P. C : First, we’re going to make our intranet mobile to push things on a screen people can read everywhere, most of all during chosen moments.

Pushing the intranet and corporate communication into productivity tools makes absolutely no sense. In these tools we’ll push the collaborative social network, trying to make the information contextual, based on people’s work, tasks at a given moment.

Of course we’ll push the social network on mobile devices too. But corporate communication won’t try to find a place in work environments.

BD : Collabortion into productivity tools…makes sense

J.-P. C :Right. But it requires a clear understanding of employee’s context and needed. Obviously the application to start with will be the CRM…


First, I’d like to thank Jean-Paul Chapon for this interview.

Then, my takes. I think that communiction managers can learn five things :

• Reversed flows

Information goes to people, not the opposite. The time when employees were phished to bring them on the home page and the number of views of the home was enough to say “mission accomplished” is over

• Relevance

A couples of months ago I wrote that communication manegers should not try to fight for employees “available brain time” anymore. That’s confirmed here : the right message, at the right moment, on the right screen. If not, it’s called massive messaging and we know it does not work anymore.

• Context

Context must be taken into account either for corporate or user generated content. There’s no doubt internal communication departments will make an intensive use of data analytics in a near future for better targeting and an increased value for users. What leads to my next point.

• Value and impact of the message

Businesses have been thinking for too long that the value of the message was obvious because it was issued by them and they needed to spread it. Spreading was the value. Today, value exists only if shared : any content must have value for both the enterprise and the employee. If it doesn’t, the message won’t be read and the communication machine will still be running but without any impact.

• Internal communication and marketing : same fate

It’s interesting – and even funny – to see internal communication managers (who have though they were protected by the specific context of the workplace for long) facing the same issues marketers did years ago. Lots of media, relevance, attention…it looks like “permission communication” where the rules of the game are set by the reseiver, not the sender. Some have been thinking that, contrary to customers, employees were supposed to read anything sent to them because of the relationship of subordination that exists between them and the enterprise. In the end things are the same and it’s even worse with employees because their priority at work is…work. It leaves few time for collaboration and transverse activities and even less to reading internal news.

Maybe you’ll also like this post on how to measure your intranet’s audience.

Et, avant de vous quitter, un bon article sur la manière de mesurer l’audience de son intranet


Image Credit : Information Overload via Shutterstock.

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

Recent posts