Intranets and On-line Public Relations

What is an Intranet? Who uses an Intranet?
Why use an Intranet? When do I use an Intranet?
How does an Intranet fit with public relations? Where can I learn more about Intranets?

What is an Intranet?

The simplest definition is that an Intranet is the Internet used inside an organization and walled off from the rest of the Internet community.  Inside an Intranet web site, one can find information about an organization that it might not wish to make known to the public at large. Here are a few things that Intranets are used for.
Employee newsletters Sales figures by unit
Product/service information Internal product demos
Tutorials Employee benefits information
Project information Access to the organization's data warehouse
Newswire clippings Software libraries
Organization phone directory Conference room reservations
Internal information libraries Subscription services
Policies and procedures Sales support
Technology support Competitive analysis
Official travel guide Stock quote
Performance tracking Surveillance
Maps Conferencing
Whiteboarding Job notices

An Intranet can be used for just about anything that you could and would put on-line in your organization to share information and collaborate across boundaries. That is a blessing and curse.

Some organizations have internal networks that carry the information they need. They do not need an Intranet.

Some organizations have many Intranets set up by units collaborating across the unit but not across the organization. Their Intranets do not have standards. The kind of information presented, and the way it is presented, is disorganized.

Some organizations have joined units into a coordinated Intranet that allows easy access to information outside of unit boundaries.

To confuse you further, organizations that open their Intranets to select groups outside of the organization use a different name to characterize their Intranets. They call them Extranets.

Why Use An Intranet?

A few reasons:

The Internet is built on a technology standard that everyone uses. It is less expensive.

The tools to build an Intranet are the same that you use to build a Web page.

An Intranet provides opportunities for multimedia that internal corporate networks often do not.

An Intranet is available 24 hours day like any other network.

The ability to hyperlink on an Intranet provides fast information access that other networks do not offer.

An Intranet saves reproduction costs of paper-based information, such as employee handbooks, job postings, travel and expense reports.

Are there reasons not to use an Intranet?

If you are a single location operation of modest size and you are well-served by internal communications, there is no need for an Intranet.

If you have an excellent proprietary network that delivers the information you need, you don't need an Intranet.

If you are an organization that does not need to coordinate or communicate across unit boundaries, you might not need an Intranet.

How Does an Intranet Fit with Public Relations?

Intranets complement or substitute most internal employee communications in use. An Intranet allows faster communication, wider distribution and greater efficiency than many printed and electronic media. An Intranet is one more communications medium and tool that you can use to get your organization's message out internally.

Who Uses an Intranet?

Anyone in an organization with access to computer resources and the Internet can use an Intranet. Increasingly, that is everybody. In reality, it isn't. Some individuals don't like to go on-line. They ignore an Intranet in favor of other media, even if the media are less efficient. If you put an in Intranet, promote its use as much as you would any other medium.

I am aware of a high-tech company that built a wonderful Web page with useful information. The senior executives of the firm never looked at the Internet. An Intranet was lost on them. They still required information by paper memos, e-mail and voice mail. Other groups used the Intranet heavily.

Culture, behavior and inertia enter into an individual's decision to use an Intranet. You will most likely encounter all three.

When Do I Use an Intranet?

If you need rapid distribution of information and the Intranet provides you with access to most or all of your organization's individuals.

If the organization is using the Intranet as a regular means of communicating.

If an Intranet provides you with opportunities for communicating that other media do not -- such as interactive multimedia.

If it is less expensive to use an Intranet over developing a more traditional internal communication, such as a newsletter or corporate magazine.

If you need quick feedback from internal audiences.

If the top of your organization needs/wants to speak interactively with the bottom of your organization no matter how dispersed it is geographically.

Where can I learn more about Intranets?  Click here


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