We discuss how your charity could benefit from content governance
Imagine you’re on your favourite charity’s website. You’re trying to sign up for an online service, get legal advice or donate, when something goes wrong. Whether it’s a broken hyperlink or an out-of-date event listing, it’s jarring when content doesn’t do what we want it to.
If you’ve got content, you need to look after it. According to research by the Content Marketing Institute, 63% of people surveyed say they don’t take a strategic approach to content management because they don’t have the right processes in place.
They need better content governance.
Producing content isn’t as simple as creating it, hitting publish then forgetting about it. What happens after a blogpost goes live? How do you know when to archive or update time-limited content? What do you do if a video doesn’t perform as well as you hoped: improve it or delete it? How do you check for broken links? And whose job is it to fix them?
Content governance is a mix of policies, processes, standards, guidelines, and workflows for producing content. It makes sure you create high-quality, consistent, valuable, user-focused, on-brand content, then look after it.
“Think of content governance as the care and feeding of your content” says senior content design manager Erica Jorgensen. “You can’t just launch content and call it good. I think of content governance as analysing how content performs, optimising it, and when it’s at the end of its usefulness, deleting it!”
Every content governance model is different. It depends on what content you create, why, how often and who it’s for. It depends on which channels you use, who’s involved in gathering, creating, editing, publishing, assessing, optimising, and removing content, and what kind of goals you’re trying to achieve with that content.
But whatever your content governance model looks like, you probably need to do the following.
“Good content always starts with people” says Lisa Welchman in The Basics of Digital Governance. “Roles and responsibilities must be assigned, discussed, and agreed on.”
Content isn’t just for your digital, content, brand or communications team to think about. Watertight content governance comes from collaboration across the whole organisation.
Consider creating a content governance team with people from a few different teams or backgrounds. Make sure there are people on the team with strategic expertise (to define and plan the content management strategy in the long term), operational know-how (to implement the plan through day-to-day activists), and specialist knowledge (bringing specific, in-depth, and technical understanding).
Content is all the information and ideas on your website and beyond. It’s all the words and all the pictures, in all the formats, on all the channels.
Tweets, email newsletters, toolkits, job descriptions, terms and conditions, event invites, Instagram stories, user-generated social media content, Facebook videos, LinkedIn articles, PDF reports? All content.
Every organisation produces a different mix and volume of content. So get clear on what you have, including any old content. Once you’ve defined your content, you can segment and prioritise it according to your content goals.
Content quickly stacks up. You can end up with mountains of stories, photos, videos and images in a surprisingly short time.
Whether you categorise your content through a complex system of tags, or simply group it in a few folders that match common use cases, it’s vital that you label your content consistently.
Blockquote: If you have great material but can’t find it when you need it, you might as well not have it.
If you’re taking photos, shooting videos or transcribing interviews with real people, you’ll need to get informed and specific consent from them. Your content management system must include an accurate record of when permissions expire, and it’s wise to keep signed consent forms there too.
You can use digital asset management tools, as well as visual focused ones like Asset Bank or Panopto for video and images. Free and cheap alternatives like Google Drive and Dropbox all work well, although you’ll soon need to upgrade your memory.
Content standards are rules on what your content needs to be. They’re measurable and practical.
Accessibility standards, for example, are concrete rules around how to create content that includes and works for a wide range of people.
Principles describe your shared vision. You might always not be able to measure them, but they’ll inspire and guide your team throughout the content creation process. “We create inclusive and accessible content” could be one of your content principles, which you then put into place using a relevant content standard.
Guidelines give direction when fulfilling a specific task, such as writing a blogpost.
The BBC’s editorial guidelines are a great example of how to use guidelines to create consistent, instantly recognisable, on-brand written content.
If your whole content team quit tomorrow, could the organisation keep producing consistent, high value, on-brand content? With the right documentation, you should – in theory – be able to bring in a whole new team without any cracks appearing in your content.
Procedures and processes cover how you gather, create, edit, approve, publish, promote, distribute, archive and delete your content.
Workflows chart how content moves from being an idea to a finished product, and beyond. They typically cover the following stages.
This is where you set out ideas and objectives for your content deliverables, like blogposts, webpages, and videos, as well as setting milestones, deadlines, and identifying possible challenges or bottlenecks.
Research and write the blogpost. Script the voiceover. Animate the video. Whatever you’re making, make the content.
Depending on the content, this could mean a quick look over some tweets, or a multi-stage set of reviews, edits and amends on your flagship fundraising video.
Approval is more than sign-off. Well-designed approval processes help your team check their progress against a shared vision, hold each other to account, and continuously improve.
Schedule or send content live, at the right time, to the right channels.
How do you get your content in front of the right audiences? This stage identifies which channels, like social media, web and email, are right for which pieces of content, how often, how and when to promote that content.
Content ages. Hyperlinks to old reports, news items or out of date references can all make content look unloved.
Some blogposts, videos or tweets are evergreen, so you can keep on reusing them, with sight tweaks as needed. Others go out of date quickly: set reminders to check and remove content swiftly.
Great content meets people’s needs. When it’s no longer meeting those needs, it needs to be removed quickly, or you risk damaging your audience’s trust in you. Create checklists to decide whether web content should be archived or deleted completely, and make sure you set up redirects.
With a solid content governance system in place, you’ll save time, smooth hectic schedules, and iron out confusion. You can focus your energy where it’s needed: creating consistently brilliant content.
We discuss how your charity could benefit from content governance