“Creating great content is not the finish line. It’s the starting line.” – Mark W. Schaeffer, The Content Code
Very few of us have the luxury to truly start at the starting line. We enter the content role as a marketing writer, or as an expert in a particular field who is tasked with creating content for the institutional website, or maybe we’re a new hire brought into the university marketing team explicitly for the purpose of untangling all the wires behind the website in order to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) on this big marketing expense.
In other words, the website is an inheritance. You were not there in the beginning, but this exceptionally important marketing tool is now all yours, and you need to draw a line, a line that will become the website’s new starting line. Your website spreads out before you like a grove of unpruned and overgrown cypress trees; where do you start?
Content governance is about people.
Typically, you have a network of people creating content, but they may not have any clearly defined goals, or a style guide, or any direction on when to return to the content for reevaluation. Find out their issues, frustrations, and concerns.
Train them on how to best use the content management system (CMS); make it clear the CMS handles the formatting and display, and their job is to focus on quality content that meets the college’s expectations for accuracy, timeliness, and accessibility.
Develop a system of intentional governance practices. Designate roles and responsibilities. Don’t forget to include built-in quality control checks on accessibility. Create a checks and balances system to ensure standards.
Adopt a style guide. Provide resources for language clarity and accessibility. Adopt standard SEO practices and provide the resources for checking on the SEO health of their content.
Content governance requires goals.
Content governance requires goals, measurable progress towards those goals, and timelines for achieving those goals. You create a page with a clear goal in mind. Is it an action, like directing the user to request more information? Is it engagement, like monitoring how long users spend on the page? Is it a traffic goal, like the number of page views?
Content governance may require pruning shears (how long do you leave content on a page before checking back in to evaluate if the content needs updates or maybe needs to be removed?) and fertilizer (what is your process for evaluating if and when new content should be added?). You need to plan for the future as well as tend to the existing content.
Cool cats and their humans know content governance is not an oppressive system of rules and regulations that stifle content creators. Instead, good content governance should enable and empower content creators across a vast network to deliver consistently great content that serves and meets goals and objectives. Good content governance recognizes the website as a living garden that needs continuous work to keep it healthy, fruitful, and beautiful.