Laying A Framework For Content Governance

It is everywhere. And while content is prolific, it is not simple — it is a complex, multi-faceted effort that if not managed properly can mean the difference between success and getting sued.

The content – images, text, audio, video – that fill our digital channels does not appear out of nowhere. Success in digital and content marketing comes from the quality of the content being managed. This success requires supporting content strategy. A large part of that strategy has little to do with the content itself, and everything to do with people; the people involved in creating, managing, and regulating the content. In other words, the people involve with content governance.

Don’t be afraid of the elephant

Content governance is often the elephant in the content team room – everyone knows it’s important and should get attention, but no one’s quite sure how best to go about it, because it’s really big, and a bit scary, so they avoid it, or worse, actively ignore it. Content governance can be daunting because when set up properly is relational to tasks, not defined roles, and often does not align neatly to the existing org structure. Thus, requiring at least some organizational change management, which is almost always complicated and messy.

But that mess and complexity is worth it. Trust me.

Traditionally companies simply try to take the same approach to creating content that they’ve always taken – and wind up with the same results of unengaging, inconsistent content, perhaps, if they are lucky, it ends up in a more visually attractive package (think lipstick on a pig), after spending millions of dollars for a new content technology and strategy. A scalable, strategic, and well understood content governance model is what enables a content team – centralize, decentralized or a little bit of both, no matter where they sit in the organization – to focus on content quality. Successful content teams understand that a content governance model is the foundational piece to an optimized digital content marketing strategy.

Addressing to the elephant

As mentioned earlier, setting up, or revising, a content model can be not only daunting, but also difficult to “sell” to those who you want to involve in executing the plan. Structuring the model with the following information can help get the “what’s in it for me” message through at all levels of the organization.

Business Purpose – Understanding and articulating how content governance impacts the different areas of your business will help define the business purpose for content. This will in turn help garner support from the various stakeholders to support their part in the governance model. Aligning the purpose with at least one company objective will help the senior leadership team see the value, and thus support, the plan.

Organizational Responsibility – Content needs to be owned, and people need to be responsible for its day-to-day quality, regardless of the size or structure of an organization. And for the assigned content tasks to be embraced (read: done), these responsibilities must be understood by the broader organization. (This is where the organizational change comes into play.) It is not enough to assign content related work; it needs to be tasked officially in context to what the individual and/or team will be measured against at the end of the day/year. This enables the content owners, contributors, editors, etc. to prioritize content related tasks over other ad hoc, non-measured, work efforts. This in turn will require buy-in by their managers, which cannot be assumed particularly if they are not a part of traditional marketing or content related teams.

Leadership Responsibility – Every organization is unique, with its own silo’s and culture to be managed; complex in its own way. Regardless of size or complexity, there needs to be someone or a group, that will help to facilitate and lead as a decision-making body. This is the leader/team that will help define the business rules – and then how those business rules translate into technology requirements and execution of content related tasks, and then, ultimately, the allocation of resources – financial, human, and technological.

This trifecta creates the framework for establishing ownership, driving decision-making, developing coordinated processes, and devising metrics for a successful content governance model. This framework should establish clear lines of sight between the organization’s executive management down through to the tactical management and execution of the teams focused on the various content initiatives. It should identify roles and responsibilities as well as corporate- versus regional- versus product/solution/LOB-level ownership, and cross-functional representation should be established where appropriate within the governance model.

Content may be strategically more important to one part of the organization than another. This difference is why understanding the business process and purpose of content is a precondition for effective governance. If we do not identify a clear business value, then we are not going to get time, attention and resources devoted to the effort that it deserves.

What resources are needed to execute a content governance plan? That is a topic for Content Governance Part 2: Building the right content governance teams.

Cathy McKnight
As a founding partner of Digital Clarity Group and leader of its enterprise consulting practice, Cathy helps organizations transform the way technology can enable business strategy and performance. In her current role, Cathy has helped dozens of companies realize their digital transformation objectives. With more than 15 years of global experience and expertise in digital partners, content management, intranets, marketing technologies and customer experience, Cathy has led strategic business transformation initiatives as well as the detailed execution of enterprise technology implementations.

Prior to DCG, Cathy served at Aon Hewitt as the Innovation Lead and a Senior Associate for the Communications Consulting Team, building an innovative Web solutions practice for the company and leading communications and organizational change initiatives. As Director, Client Services at Prescient Digital Media, Cathy led a team of consultants delivering enterprise strategies and technology and agency selection projects for an array of global clients. As Senior Communications Advisor for IBM’s Global Services division, Cathy led the overall change management strategy and messaging of IBM’s values and mission to internal IGS audiences.

With her background crossing technology, emergent business trends, and change management, Cathy focuses on working with clients to bridge leadership, business process, and technology acquisition and adoption. Cathy is a frequent speaker and workshop facilitator at numerous events around the world.
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Author: Cathy McKnight
As a founding partner of Digital Clarity Group and leader of its enterprise consulting practice, Cathy helps organizations transform the way technology can enable business strategy and performance. In her current role, Cathy has helped dozens of companies realize their digital transformation objectives. With more than 15 years of global experience and expertise in digital partners, content management, intranets, marketing technologies and customer experience, Cathy has led strategic business transformation initiatives as well as the detailed execution of enterprise technology implementations. Prior to DCG, Cathy served at Aon Hewitt as the Innovation Lead and a Senior Associate for the Communications Consulting Team, building an innovative Web solutions practice for the company and leading communications and organizational change initiatives. As Director, Client Services at Prescient Digital Media, Cathy led a team of consultants delivering enterprise strategies and technology and agency selection projects for an array of global clients. As Senior Communications Advisor for IBM’s Global Services division, Cathy led the overall change management strategy and messaging of IBM’s values and mission to internal IGS audiences. With her background crossing technology, emergent business trends, and change management, Cathy focuses on working with clients to bridge leadership, business process, and technology acquisition and adoption. Cathy is a frequent speaker and workshop facilitator at numerous events around the world.