Understanding content governance

Small content marketing efforts can be simple. But once you start to scale, things get complex fast.

You run into questions like: What’s the best content approval process? Where are the subject matter experts in each department? How do we ensure that every piece of content is meeting its goals? What are our archiving policies? Who’s in charge of our brand guidelines? What are the brand guidelines?

Content governance can help you answer all those questions and more. It’s the secret sauce for truly great content marketing.

What is content governance? 

Content governance is the big-picture management of content across the organization. It helps you to make sure that every piece of content is on-message and good quality.

A content governance model does this by providing a framework for stakeholders at every stage of the content lifecycle. It includes tools, resources, and standards for every team member — from subject matter experts to your content strategists — to help them produce good content.

Content governance resolves potential issues in your content production process before they even become a problem. It might help clear up:

  • The best approval process for new content

  • What content should use a template

  • Editorial guidelines for the content team 

  • How and when to review old content for relevance

  • The correct metrics and KPIs do you use to measure success

  • And more…

To keep content production running smoothly, a content governance model uses a variety of different tools and resources. It might include style guides or brand guidelines, which make it easy for a content team to edit content. Or an editorial calendar to help coordinate the movement of social media and blog posts through your organization.

What is the difference between content governance and content strategy?

A content strategy determines how your organization will use content to meet its business goals. It dictates how your content team will produce blog posts, social media posts, videos, and other content to communicate your organization’s messaging and keep your customers engaged.

A content governance plan determines how that content gets managed. It outlines the workflows and processes for moving that content from the idea stage through refresh or retirement at the end of the content lifecycle. It also provides resources like style guides and content calendars that stakeholders can use to ensure content is produced consistently, and at a high level.

For effective content marketing, you’ll need both content governance and content strategy.

Why is content governance important?

Building a good content governance model will help your organization clarify the important details of your internal content operations. That makes your content workflows much stronger. 

With a content governance model, you will:

  • Involve more team members in content creation: When your organization works on its content governance plan, it will often identify new content stakeholders across the organization — maybe you’ll learn that sales wants to be involved, or human resources. This brings more expertise to your content workflows.

  • Define clear roles and responsibilities: When your content processes involve multiple stakeholders, content governance is key. It will show team members what part they can play to produce effective content.

  • Develop content workflows: This helps stakeholders understand when they should work on the content, and where to send it when they’re done. It can also give your content team a top-level view you can use to streamline your processes.

  • Establish standards and policies. Documents like editorial guidelines ensure that every team member knows how to do their jobs well.

How will content governance benefit my content strategy?

It might sound like all the benefits of content governance are internal. But using a content governance model to iron out these issues will make for much more effective content. And your audience will notice. 

With good content governance, each piece of content will show:

  • Consistency: Resources like style guides and brand guidelines help content creators and editors speak with the brand’s voice. Keeping a content calendar is crucial for publishing at a regular cadence.

  • High quality: Templates, editorial guidelines, and a good approval process make sure your content is accurate, well written, and easy to understand. They will also act as your main defense against legal trouble and embarrassment.

  • Strong messaging: Content briefs and well-defined content workflows ensure that every piece is on message. That way you can be sure readers hear the story you want to tell.

How do you implement a content governance plan?

A good content governance plan can take many forms. The model that helps a government institution scale up their content marketing might not be right for a financial organization. 

That’s why you’ll want to take the following steps to find out what a content governance plan looks like for you.

1. Gather the content team, and define team member roles

When you start, you might think that the content team is purely operational team members. For instance, subject matter experts, content creators, and the editorial staff. Not quite!

Since content is a company-wide initiative, you’ll want to find team members throughout the organization. Find out what departments have content stakeholders — the list could include people operations, marketing, sales, and any number of other departments. Ask around and be thorough.

During this step, identify a variety of different kinds of stakeholders. You’ll want to look for team members like subject matter experts, SEO specialists, and data specialists. Also look for the content strategists, or the team members who have vision to help guide your content production. 

And don’t forget to find the policy team members, who will help define best practices and ensure they’re followed in each department, so you can move your content marketing forward.

Once you’ve identified your content team members, define their roles clearly.

2. Model your content workflows

Once you know who your team members are, it’s time to model your content workflows. 

You will want to model every part of the content creation process. Develop workflows for using the content management system, editorial approval processes, marketing team review processes, archiving, metrics reviews, SEO analysis, and so on. Again, be as thorough as possible to save yourself problems in the future.

Consider the diagram below, an example of an editorial approval process. The basic workflow begins when a content creator submits a draft, which is reviewed and returned for edits. That process continues until the content approval stage, which looks like it ends in publishing content. 

But note stage 5. It shows that the last stage of this content workflow starts the process all over again. It shows editorial requests for further changes in content that is already published. 

This is important, because it shows that content is never finished. It should be regularly reviewed for relevance, messaging, and style. 

Once you know who your team members are, it’s time to model your content workflows.

3. Create your content policies and standards

This is where you define the “big picture” details of your content strategy. Bring your pertinent team members together to discuss issues like your editorial policies.

These policies will reflect your organizational values. For instance, your content team might have a policy of telling customer stories rather than highlighting the expertise of internal experts.

You’ll also define your standards, which will answer questions like: What’s our tone? How do we talk about ourselves, and what are our brand guidelines? How often should we be publishing content? How do we judge the visual quality of our content? When is it time for archiving?

Everyone on your content team will want to get involved with this process. That’s good, it means that people throughout your organization care about content marketing. Take your team members’ input and synthesize the information to find the best possible standards. 

Be careful that your standards are workable — you don’t want standards that no one can reasonably follow.

4. Produce and share documentation

In other words, write it all down. Roles, workflows, policies, and standards aren’t worth much if your team members can’t find them.

Use the insights from the previous stages to document stakeholders, roles, and content workflows. Compile a style guide, generate your editorial guidelines and messaging goals, build a content calendar, create templates for blog posts and social media, and so on. 

Store these documents where everyone on the content team can find them. Share these documents widely so everyone knows where they are. Train your team members to use them properly.

5. Review, rework, improve

Your content governance model is like any piece of content. You’ll need to review it.

Make it part of your content governance to check in regularly. Ask the editorial team how the approval process is working, and whether it could be streamlined. Dig in with the marketing team to find out if the content marketing is meeting their messaging goals.

Be sure that your content governance continues to support your content marketing and achieve your organizational goals. Your organization is always changing — your content governance model should change along with it.


Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Would you like to learn more about content governance? Here are some helpful answers to guide you on the right track.

What is a content governance model?

Content governance models help a business successfully develop, publish, and promote content. Content governance models are made up of employees, guidelines, and explicit processes for how to execute a content strategy.

Why is content governance important?

Content governance is important because it allows companies to be consistent in terms of how content is selected, created, and published for maximum impact. Content governance is an important aspect of branding as well.

What is meant by the term information governance?

Information governance refers to having a structured plan for assessing, creating, reporting, storing, and destroying information within a business. Treating information the same way consistently may seem time consuming, but in the long run it saves time by keeping duplicated effort to a minimum.

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