During our first Meet Content webinar, an attendee asked a great question: where do you start with web content governance?
It’s a challenging question to answer because content governance requires that you first have a content plan. Content governance — a process of managing content roles, responsibilities, processes, documentation, tools and training — can’t be distinguished from your content strategy.
In order to manage the elements of content governance, you have to first define them. That’s part of your content strategy. What roles do you need to assign? Who’s responsible for content collection, creation, approval, publishing and maintenance? What are the processes for content work? And what documentation and tools do you need to get this work done?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a content governance plan template you can download and implement. Your plan must suit your organization. Your resources and requirements are unique. Heck, even the resources and requirements for departments within your organization are unique. Some departments have dedicated content managers, while others have staff assistants charged with content management on top of their other work. You need a content governance plan that works for you.
So, where do you start with content governance? (That was the question, right?) While a content governance plan relies on a content strategy, you can start by conducting an assessment of your content governance readiness. By evaluating roles, processes, documentation and training, you can determine the strength of your current content governance model: what needs to be improved and what, if any, additional planning do you need to make your content governance succeed?
Roles and Responsibilities
Identify all the of current roles and responsibilities for collecting, creating, curating, approving, publishing and maintaining content. This goes from student bloggers and those who edit their content all the way up to those who determine what content lives on your homepage.
Likely, many (if not all) of the people filling these roles and responsibilities in your organization are people in non-content focused position. That’s expected. What’s important is that you are able to identify everyone who is involved in the content publishing process. Consider your entire content ecosystem.
Roles and responsibilities assessment checklist
- Does every role have defined responsibilities? Does everyone understand his or her responsibilities?
- What are the knowledge gaps? Is there expertise that is not adequately supported by those involved in the publishing process?
- Are established guidelines and policies enforced?
- Are there adequate staff resources to support your content strategy?
- Does everyone understand how his or her work relates to and affects others? (Does Steve in Student Services know that giving you the annual student survey questions on Friday morning doesn’t allow enough time for them to be reviewed, approved and published the same day?)
Identify or document all the current content processes, including editorial and workflow. What are the criteria for creating or selecting featured content? How do news stories get written, edited, approved and published?
Ideally, your content processes are already well documented and can be referenced. However, if you’re like most, these processes are in someone’s head and not written down. In this case, you have some work to do. You can’t easily assess processes that aren’t documented.
Process assessment checklist
- Where does the content publishing process start and end? Does it start with a formal request or a brainstorming session? Does it end with a planned archive or a content assessment? Or does it start and end with a user complaint?
- What are all the tasks (steps) involved in your content publishing process?
- Are all content publishing tasks adequately accounted for, or are there gaps?
- Are there tasks that are unnecessary? Can the process be simplified?
- What are the expected timeframes for each task? Is adequate time allotted for each task? (How much time is needed to research, write, edit, publish and maintain an alumni profile? What if new photography or video is part of the process?)
Identify and evaluate the efficacy of all documentation that supports your content plan. This documentation — including information about existing content, guides for creating new content, and methods for evaluating and maintaining content — enables people to support and execute your content strategy. We often consider these sorts of documents to be content strategy “deliverables.”
Documentation assessment checklist
- Accessibility and usability guidelines
- CMS training guides
- Communication goals
- Content audits and analysis
- Content workflow
- Editorial calendars
- Editorial style guides
- Information architecture
- Message architecture
- Roles and responsibilities
- SEO guidelines
- Social media and community management guidelines
- Success metrics (KPIs)
- Taxonomy and metadata guidelines
- Web policies
- Web writing guidelines
- Webpage template requirements (content formats, types)
People don’t often associate governance with training. But if you are governing content, you are in a leading role. Content governance requires educating everyone involved in the publishing process and clearly communicating roles, responsibilities, processes and guidelines.
This is particularly valuable in the case of the person for whom content is only a minor percentage of their responsibilities — like the work study student for a department or an admissions counselor charged with managing the admissions website. Content contributors can’t be blamed for poor quality content if they don’t understand what’s required of them and how to do the work.
Training assessment checklist
- Are staff trained on content policies, processes and guidelines?
- Is there adequate documentation, including guides for editorial style, SEO, accessibility, usability, delivery methods, content types and formats?
- Are messaging and communication goals made useful and usable for content contributors?
- Are content contributors made aware of changes in web policies, processes and guidelines?
The Good and the Bad
No doubt, there are content processes and documentation in your organization that work well and ones that don’t. If you’re looking to tackle content governance but don’t have a content plan in place, an assessment is a good place to start. It’s a valuable exercise for evaluating governance problems and determining how to begin drafting a content strategy.
An assessment is also good for giving yourself credit for things that work well. In fact, you can start giving yourself credit here on Meet Content. Do you have examples of processes or documentation that favorably serve your content governance? If so, I’d love to hear them and give you a “high five”!