Content governance is a lot easier (and a lot more exciting!) than it sounds

October 21, 2016

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Content governance. It sounds so… civilized. You may have heard the term thrown around in content circles. So is your organization doing it? And if not - should your organization be doing it? Of course!

Almost every organization creates content every day - and tries to reach as many people as possible. But how many organizations are making sure that all this content is actually making a difference? Do they have a content governance framework? Or in other words: a plan?

Content governance is a framework that organizes how you manage content throughout its lifecycle: creation, publication, measurement and optimization. Implementing a systematic process will ensure your users receive a great content experience - one that is timely, accurate and meets their needs.

Whether you’re a startup looking for content best practices or part of a digital communications group for a large organization, you can scale your governance framework to align with organizational resources and structure. The following principles will help you streamline your content efforts so you can work more efficiently and drive more impact.

1. Know why you are creating content

Not everyone creating content may be a subject matter expert, but it’s important all contributors understand why they are creating content, who it is for, and how it rolls up to business objectives.

Content exists to serve two purposes. Firstly, it has to meet your users’ needs - helping them understand or do something. Secondly, it has to support your business needs - communicating marketing priorities and organizational goals. Ultimately, all content should deliver value and support conversion. If you can’t answer why you’re delivering a piece of content, re-evaluate, rewrite or remove!

2. Map out a publishing process

Many organizations fall in the trap of creating content year after year, without guidelines or oversight. You can spot these organizations because their websites are clearly just dumping grounds for inconsistent and disparate content. Duplicated or out-of-date, content becomes hard to navigate, leading to a frustrating user experience. 


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Until relatively recently, internal subject matter experts would write content, and publish it direct to the site. But today, organizations are realizing the importance of managing content to ensure it stands up to best practices and standards - in other words, they are implementing content governance.

Enter the content team. This could be a small group of people in your digital or communications group, or, one person - the editor. The content team acts as a filter in the publishing process, assuring the right content is being developed, at the right time, and for the right audiences. Content from different digital channels (i.e. website, social channels), should pass through the content team, who hold oversight of a consistent experience. They need to make sure content being produced is relevant, meets user or business needs, and always maintains the brand tone and voice.


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Mapping out a process makes content development more efficient and effective. At a high-level, try beginning with how content is assigned or commissioned. Is there a need for an intake process if the business is requesting content from your team? Next, outline the stages involved in editing and approvals. Who is the final approver before it’s published on the site? Last, develop a timeline for how often content should be reviewed, updated or archived. This step is key in keeping content current and avoiding the “dump and die” content trap.


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3. Measure and optimize

Content is a living, breathing ecosystem. Content development is not complete on the day the site launches. It’s never complete. In order to drive the results you’re looking for, we need to measure the success of content because there’s always room for improvement. A performance framework helps to identify what content is resonating, not working, and/or what is missing. Basic content metrics such as page views, visitors and average time spent will provide insights that will lead to data-driven decisions. It’s great to test content ideas, but after it’s in the wild, real data trumps wild hunches!

Identify the pages people are going to – how can this content be promoted to drive more reach? For content that isn’t drawing traffic, evaluate if there is a need for it and/or how it can be iterated to meet your goals. Data should give you all the clues you need, so optimize your content against it.

Creation is not enough. Content is the heart of your site, it’s why users come. So take care of it with a governance framework that will help you produce smart content in an efficient way. Ensure each piece of content serves a purpose. And then track it to ensure it continues to meet both user and business needs.

Now go govern!

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