Let’s imagine that you’re a content strategist at an ecommerce company with a global presence, and your task is to introduce content governance into the wider organization. Not only that, but you have to get your colleagues engaged and excited about the topic, and to really understand its value. Not an easy thing to do when people are already plenty busy and don’t want to be distracted from their daily work.
This is the challenge that Megan Nixon faced as content strategy lead at Wayfair. In her presentation at Contentful Fast Forward 2021, she explained how her company embraced content governance, and her success in getting key stakeholders invested in it. Below she shares some of her key learnings.
You can watch Megan’s full presentation here, with advice on building the right team for content governance and seeing the bigger organizational picture.
Why stakeholders push back on content governance
At Wayfair, we define content governance as the process of maintaining your content from the beginning to the end of its life cycle, from brainstorming and publishing, all the way to scaling, translating and archiving.
In abstract terms, that sounds phenomenal. Why wouldn’t you want to have such a wonderful process in place? If you were to raise the subject with any of your stakeholders right this second, I’m sure they’d respond positively. “Yeah, that sounds great! Sure, sign me up!”
But if you actually ask them to take the processes that their team is currently using and adjust them to accommodate content governance, their enthusiasm won’t be as high. “Oh, well,” a stakeholder might say, “we have a big project coming up. Let's try that next quarter?”
They’ll rationalize that such a step isn’t necessary until they move into a different market, for example, or adjust their content for a new brand.
This pushback happens because while they understand what you’re trying to do, they don’t want to start a new project that might impact the workflows of their team in the short term. Especially if that team is already performing at a high level in their silo. And the situation only gets more complicated when there are multiple stakeholders across different departments, and you have to get all of them fully on board with content governance.
So what’s the answer? You need to be able to take that big picture of all the different things that content governance solves for all these different teams and establish what works best for each individual stakeholder.
How to get stakeholders involved
The most important way to secure the engagement of a stakeholder is to ensure that you find the right person.
At Wayfair, when we were first pitching the move to a new content platform, Contentful, we had to have a very specific group of people in the room to sign off on this decision. And those are not the same stakeholders that I'm working with today for our content governance plan. We needed to aim a little bit higher up to sign off on this process.
Next, we had to revisit our list of stakeholders and adjust our “tiger team” so that people would be working closer with those who work in the weeds. We achieved that by sharing the right information at the right time, so that people are able to put their hand up and say, “Okay, that's not me. That's someone else. Let's bring them into the room. I'll give up my seat at the table for them.”
If you do this correctly, by making sure you have the right people and that you're giving them the right information, then you can immediately get feedback from them. They can quickly tell you where the bottlenecks are, whether it’s a process or a person.
Plus, they're able to tell you when content is going live. That puts you in a position to communicate important status updates to your other stakeholders and across other teams. And then you're able to find out what really makes them tick and can share the impact of them working within the content governance plan.
How to get stakeholders to care
Now that you’ve got your stakeholders involved, how do you get them to care over the long term? When we first developed the content governance team on content operations, it was developed with content strategists like myself who had grown weary of not having content ownership.
Wayfair is a highly organized company, and we work within these intense matrices of ownership to make sure that everything keeps running smoothly. With our old CMS, if I was writing for the credit card or for a registry, I'd be working with a different group of people on the relevant pages, e.g., the homepage or the checkout cart page.
This meant there was a handoff of content that was a constant thorn in our side. In the past, we weren't able to fully test our content. We weren't able to update it or translate it or adjust it as freely as we are now with one streamlined editorial process on Contentful. This was the outcome that really mattered to content leadership — but this impact isn’t felt so keenly by different engineering teams or the SEO team or the cart team.
How to address this gap? You have to spend time with your stakeholders and find out what they are working toward. What are the goals that really matter to them? And how can you translate that back into what you're doing with content governance?
For instance, how much time is an individual team saving by having a streamlined process? Share the results with them. How are you saving a team from duplicating work and repetitive tasks? Are stakeholders saving on budget and costs? Are they more efficient? Can they make decisions more quickly? Is there less confusion overall about ownership? Report on all these outcomes too.
You as the content governor need to be able to take this information and distill it back down to the respective stakeholders, and put it in front of the people who find it most relevant. Ensure that you're actively communicating the impact so they understand the value behind that process that they’re contributing toward.
So in summary, to get your stakeholders invested in your content governance plan you need to understand what's happening in every team that plays a part in its success. And then you need to actively communicate and share the positive outcomes which are most relevant to each stakeholder, so they can immediately recognize its value and remain engaged with the project.
Watch Megan’s full presentation here, “How to get stakeholders invested in content governance,” with more advice on building the right team for content governance and seeing the bigger organizational picture.