How to update teams with content they actually want to read

Good content = posts that get read. It’s as simple as that. 

When posts and messages on your employee app get read, they do what they are meant to do: invite replies, start conversations, kickstart a new idea, or just put a spring in your colleagues’ steps.

Here’s how to write posts that people want to read.

1. Don’t wait till you have huge swathes of time.

It won’t happen. A long free stretch of work time won’t miraculously appear. You already have a job, and it already takes up most of your time.

Happily, you don’t need free empty hours to write a post for your employee app. Small pockets of time here and there are more than enough. All working lives include such pockets. Just make sure you grab them. 

So those 15 minutes between meetings that you end up surfing on social media or news sites? Use them to draft a post instead. It will almost certainly be a better, and more energising, use of your time.

2. Remember – it’s not a performance.

I can’t emphasise enough how important this is. Don’t make writing a message or a post for the app into a Big Deal. 

Writing something that goes to other people can feel like a big deal. That’s because it involves putting down words, and many people believe they are Just Not Good With Words. Often that goes back to our school days, when anything we wrote got covered with negative scribbles (sometimes in red to boot). Urgh. No wonder so many people associate writing with stress.

Writing on an employee app is not school. If you can speak, you can write posts and messages on the app. You don’t need to dazzle or impress. You don’t need to sound clever. You just need to talk to your colleagues, on the app. Nobody is out to mark or assess you; people just want to hear (read) what you have to say.

3. When you update teams, write like YOU.

That is you

Imagine everybody spoke in the same way — same pitch, same intonation, same sing song. That would be so boring. Writing is no different. Everybody has a writing voice, and people like to hear someone’s voice. Write like you would speak to someone, over a relaxed cup of coffee (or tea). Write as a human, for fellow humans. 

Caveat: I am assuming here that you are not the kind of person who goes around ranting, cursing, telling people off, spouting offensive remarks and generally alienating people, and then says that’s ‘your voice’. That’s not your voice — that’s having a problem that you should urgently address (but not on your employee app).

4. K.I.S.S., always.

Kissing is good. Especially when it stands for Keep It Short and Sweet. Or somewhat less sweetly: Keep It Simple, Stupid!  

Readers like posts and messages that are short and to the point. They want to understand what you are saying, and they want you to just say it. So don’t beat around the bush. Don’t spin long pompous sentences that everyone (including you) gets lost in. Don’t bullshit. 

And guess what? ‘Plain English’ words (the words that we are all familiar with) are the shortest but also the most precise way of saying something. You don’t need long words that started out in Latin and Greek. You don’t need to make it flowery. 

Just keep it simple. That doesn’t make you stupid – on the contrary.

5. Treat it like a photo caption.

Long blocks of texts may be bearable in scientific or academic publications. But on a mobile (which is where most people will be accessing the employee app) they do people’s heads in. Text columns on mobiles are inevitably long and narrow, so if you don’t watch it they go on forever. Or till your reader’s brain switches off.  

So stick to small blocks of writing when you update teams. Interrupt with white space if it’s beginning to look like a python that goes on and on. White space is like a pause to take a breath. Breathing keeps us (and our writing) alive.

And if what you want to communicate is complex, then break it down in a few posts, each focusing on their own aspect of what you want to say. This will help you clarify your own thoughts too.

6. Make it scannable.

Most people don’t read every word in a text; their eyes fly over it, and they skim. You can’t stop them, so guide them. Start a paragraph with the most important point. Use clear headers in a longer post. White space is your new best friend. 

7. What about grammar? Spelling?

Many posts to update teams are written on the fly, and you don’t need to agonise or obsess over grammar and spelling. As long as what you say is clear, a spelling mistake or an adverb in the wrong place won’t matter.

Clarity matters, though.  Take the one that so many people get wrong: it’s or its? And remember that

A business that knows it’s sh*t 

means something different from 

A business that knows its sh*t

And the only thing that separates those two sentences is an apostrophe.

So re-read before you update teams,  to make sure there isn’t a big booboo in there ready to escape.