In content strategy, when we talk about “governance,” we mean how you make decisions. Many organizations think about their content in a very tactical way: How much do we have? Who creates it? Where does it go? Those are all important questions. But more important are: Why? Who decides? How will they decide? What’s the impact of those decisions on the business? That’s content governance.
This topic can feel very theoretical when you’re used to day-to-day content tactics. So today I’m sharing 5 ideas to help you get to the details of content governance.
- Make a list of the content decisions you make. This might sound simple, but it often reveals places you may be acting on instinct instead of intentionally.
Here are some examples of decisions:
- Deciding to write a blog post
- Choosing how to capitalize headlines
- Selecting metadata for a piece of content
- Creating an annual calendar
- Deciding how to make your content accessible
- Deciding what topics to cover
- Selecting your target audience
- Creating an approval process
- Deciding when to review already published content
- Deciding when to create a video instead of text
- Choosing images to support your work
Some of those are small, everyday decisions. Some are a bit bigger. But over time, they all add up to create your message. Is your message intentionally crafted, or is it being built by accident through hundreds of small, undesigned decisions?
- Create a chart that shows all the roles related to your content. Lots of people use RACI charts for this kind of work. That shows the roles that are Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed for any particular decision. You are welcome to use that kind of framework, and it may be enlightening in more ways than one. In a large organization, a RACI chart can often identify unnecessary complexity that’s gumming up the inner workings of your process.
For a more tactical perspective, I often ask people:
- Who decides we need content?
- Who decides what kind of content?
- Who creates/gets content?
- Who reviews content?
- Who approves content?
- Who publishes content?
Regardless of which framework you use, try to get to the roles involved, not just the names. Sam may edit every blog post, but I want you to think about her as the “Editor,” not just Sam. In some organizations, Sam may be the Editor, the Writer, the Videographer, the Strategist, and the Product Manager. In others, there may be more than 5 people in those 5 roles.
Often, we fall into a decision framework as a default, or almost by accident. We don’t always think of a decision-making process as something that needs to be designed. But our instincts may not always serve us well, and it’s worth being intentional about how we decide to manage our content decisions.
- Talk through the decisions, the roles, and the process with everyone involved. It’s very helpful if you can get everyone together at one time for this, and not just have informal one-on-one chats with members of a large team. I have never yet called this meeting and found that everyone understands the process in the same way. Never.
- Create a trigger calendar for your content decisions. For a few lucky folks out there, your triggers align to the actual calendar. If you’re in retail, the end of the year is big, so you can start there and walk backwards to decide when content has to be ready to support year-end planning. If you’re in healthcare, flu season happens at a predictable time each year, so you can plan accordingly.
Some content can’t be tied to the chronological calendar, though. For this content, make a list of the triggers themselves, and see if you can create a calendar of actions that happen once the trigger occurs.
For instance: Our organization plans a new product launch. Before that happens, we need to create a tutorial. We need to create marketing materials and plans. We need to identify the content support plan for the new product. So we can walk back a certain number of weeks from an expected product launch to plan each of those activities, including time for brainstorming, creation, editing, testing, review, and approval. We can walk forward from product launch to mark dates for A/B testing for particular content, or content review, or whatever we need.
The idea here isn’t to make your work cumbersome or complicated. It’s to prevent you from slapping together an entire product tutorial the week of a product launch. When you work like that, you’re going to miss important details. Your development team wouldn’t dream of writing and launching a new feature in 3 days. Don’t let anyone tell you the content work can be done that way, either.
- Compare your content priorities to your time and your budget. Here’s a tricky one. Are you putting your money where your mouth is? Look at your annual budget. Look at how you use your time every day, week, or month. Are you spending your money and your time in a way that reflects your priorities? This is a helpful gut-check for many activities.
These 5 ideas alone won’t create a content governance plan for you, but they will help you get on the right track to ensure you are being intentional about your content.