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Content Strategy: Let's Talk about Content Governance

Customer Experience, Let's Talk about GovernanceThink about some of the systems you have in place in your own life — you probably don’t think of most of them as “systems.” For example — dental care. You brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day and visit the dentist twice a year. Why? Because dentists have done an excellent job of educating people about oral hygiene.

Content governance provides content creators the same structure and guidelines, to help with consistent messaging. 

Think about family dinners. How do you plan dinner? Do you plan each meal you will have that week, make a list, go to the grocery store and buy all the items? Or do you get home at 7 p.m., exhausted and just eat a frozen dinner and a pint of ice cream?

Now think about how you manage your finances. How about your bills? Do you have a system in place to pay them on time? Do you use automatic bill-pay? How do you keep track of your spending?

Whether or not you realize it, your life is full of systems, which keep you organized and allow you to get through your day with minimal chaos — hopefully.

Systems Create Freedom and Security

Almost every organization has a process in place for finance, accounting, procurement, human resources and so on. On a person’s first day of work, she meets with a human resources manager, receives an information packet, goes through an orientation and learns about her new position.

In matters of public safety, the government and other governing bodies have created systems to ensure the safety and security of people. Planes don’t fly unless engineers have examined them thoroughly and given them the go ahead. There are checklists and systems in place to ensure that disaster does not occur. Very often, when there is a major accident — anywhere in the world — we find out that part of a system was not thoroughly examined or reviewed. These are, thankfully, few and far between. Why? Because all industries understand the importance of creating checks and balances as a form of control within systems so mistakes do not happen.

If serious things require systems and controls to ensure they are consistent, should our content be any different?

Governance Will Improve Your Content and Therefore Your Conversations

Why is governance so critical to an overall content strategy?

Is your content:

  • Unorganized?
  • Lacking a clear voice?
  • Consistently confusing to customers?

Then you should be interested in content governance. (Note: We are specifically speaking of content governance in this rule, and not web governance, which mandates consistency across content and technology and design.)

What Is Content Governance?

Content governance is the day-to-day detailed management of content delivery and style, as well as the long-term execution of content strategy tactics. Think of content governance as an overall structure that:

  • Determines priorities
  • Provides detailed guidelines and standards on how content should look, behave and interact with your customers
  • Assigns ownership to people within the organization, so they can make strategic decisions about content

Why Content Governance?

Some think of governance as a phase of content strategy, similar to plan or create. However, I firmly believe that governance belongs at the center of any content strategy. This is because governance:

  • Creates a consistent customer experience across channels
  • Avoids content bloat
  • Sets internal organizational controls

Governance Tools

The tools involved in content governance may include, among others:

  • Content workflows
  • Editorial guidelines
  • Style guides
  • Taxonomies
  • Web content committees
  • Archiving standards

Which Content Governance Tools Should You Use?

The right tools for your organization are rooted in your culture and attitude. If you work in a place where people are generally supportive of trying new things, then you’ll probably have a pretty smooth time introducing the concept of governance to your colleagues. If people don’t wash their dishes in the kitchenette even though there are three signs in red, underlined bold font telling them to … well, you’re in for a bumpy ride.

Start with a style guide. That’s something most people can understand — say it like this, not like that. Focus on one part of the style guide — maybe voice and tone is what you pick for the first task. Demonstrate that following the directions makes life easier.

Title image courtesy of D7INAMI7S (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read some of Ahava's content strategy advice in Content Strategy: Why Branding Matters and Content Strategy: Don't Ditch Your FAQ Page

About the Author

Based in the Washington, D.C. metro area, Ahava Leibtag is a Web content strategist and writer. She leads AHA Media Group, a Web and content consulting firm operating since 2005. She authors the blog Online it ALL Matters. Want to know more about content governance, content strategy and content marketing? Read more in Ahava's new book The Digital Crown: Winning at Content on the Web.

 
 
 
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