Content Governance for the Real World

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In a previous article, we discussed Content governance (and why your website can't live without it)." In this follow-up

You need someone in charge of what your website says. Content gatekeepers beyond just graphic designers and IT specialists responsible for pasting words on the page. Strategic thinkers with an impeccable sense of judgment and a flexible but firm hand.

If no one has a complete picture of (or responsibility for) the content of the website, it can become a tangled mess of egos, politics, and competing ideas from individual content owners and writers. Most will have other job priorities, with no time or motivation to work from a unified plan.

Instead, you need a base of operations—people whose job is to make informed decisions about what goes, what stays, what works, and what doesn’t on the web. Who will work with leadership, your branding and marketing gurus, and people from different areas who are actually writing your content.

This brave group can focus on making sure everybody’s messages jibe with both organizational and user goals—a difficult and precarious balance. Here’s how you can make it work.

Give proper support

Arm these people with editorial guidelines, calendars, and messaging tools vetted by leadership. That way they have something to fall back on when there’s a discrepancy about what to say or how to say it. If the leadership supports these documents and empowers a person or small group to enforce them, it will eliminate arguments by giving everyone clearly defined roles.

Everyone needs an editor

These people should be charged with interpreting the standards documents and seen as a resource for content contributors rather than a rule enforcer. They should be beneficent experts who understand contributors’ goals and motivations and try to find working solutions.

Community is more important than policies

It’s important to set standards, but it’s just as important to build a collaborative team of authors you can trust, and who trust each other. Once everyone’s got the basics, encourage creativity within constraints. No one knows an area better than its subject matter expert, and your team needs to work with these people to find fresh and effective ways to communicate your organization’s messages.

Tactics you can actually use

  • Encourage tinkering
  • Make a shared listserv for questions, ideas, and collaborations (not just meeting reminders, corrections, and edicts)
  • Say “let’s try it!” vs. “we’ve always done it this way”
  • Hold training sessions on things beside the CMS
  • Host presentations by staff members—learn what works and what doesn’t from your own experts
  • Share coffee, lunches, and happy hours to build camaraderie

These should be tailored according to the personalities of your team members. Stay flexible, and find out what works for your particular group.

But, if you clearly delineate roles and empower people to do what they’re best at, your content governance strategy can make the whole process of the web (and it is a process!) run much more smoothly.

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