The term content governance can have a couple different interpretations in digital marketing. In this post, we’re going to look at key roles in a content governance team—the people involved in implementing a content strategy. We’ll save the technical back-end development side of governance for another time, and a more qualified author.
“Content governance may sound as dry as burnt toast, but when done correctly, it can make sure you both delight your readers and drive business growth.” —GatherContent blog
In very basic terms, content governance is the set of guidelines and processes that detail the content life cycle.
- What is the content?
- Why (for which business goals) is the content being created?
- Who creates / approves / publishes it?
- How is it created / approved / published?
- When is it published / archived?
- Where are assets saved / published?
A content governance document can be as simple or as detailed as your organization needs it to be. There’s also no shortage of templates and samples online that you can use to start thinking about your document. You can search for “content governance sample,” “content governance template,” “content governance best practices,” and so forth. We’re big fans of the Moz team, and chapters 4 and 5 of this downloadable template cover content governance and workflow.
Governance is where content strategy gets direct and specific: we encourage you to name names.
“A huge part of content strategy actually has nothing to do with content itself. It’s about people.” —GatherContent blog
Content starts with the subject-matter experts. This is more intuitive than it sounds—it’s simply the people who actually do what you say you do. This is your software developers, your bicycle mechanics, your chefs. Let’s say you have a lead researcher named Julie. (Hi, Julie!) She helps develop your product, and she is great at what she does. She’s one of your experts.
Not all of these experts may be comfortable writing about what they do, whether writing in general isn’t a big part of their role(s), or it’s just hard to summarize something so broad and nuanced. This is where content developers come in: these are people who specialize in translating subject-specific information into more widely consumable formats.
Here’s where we’ll introduce Alex, your tech writer. Alex will conduct interviews with Julie and her team, and write up solution briefs, white papers, case studies, and infographics presenting that product information for external audiences.
“Does governance stifle creativity? No. Governance enables innovation and creativity.” —Content Marketing Institute
Everything that gets published, though, still has to be reviewed—whether it’s for branding, or a legal review of performance claims, or to make sure it’s what the team had in mind when they decided to create a product-launch infographic. For this hypothetical product, everything should be checked by Vicky in legal and Mark in the product business unit. These are your content approvers.
Your content strategists may be internal staff or partners at an external agency (cough, like the Gravitate team). The content approvers forward along the final asset to the content strategists, who can look at how this new piece fits into the overall content strategy.
We’ll look at the content calendar to see what’s been planned for which channels and when, and we’ll look at content you already have to see whether this replaces something (i.e., should an older version of this product be archived now?). We could see that this new product infographic was scheduled to go on your website the day after a PR post, with sections of the infographic being published on social media channels as shareable bits of the launch campaign.
“When we deploy content without any consideration about its governance, we aren’t truly embracing a full content strategy.” —Content Strategy Forum
The content manager may also be someone in your internal team, or an external partner with whom you have an ongoing relationship. This person is the curator: she or he publishes new assets, archives outdated content, manages version control, and maintains asset files however they’re saved / published / archived.
You may have a content management system (CMS) or digital asset management (DAM) tool that automates some parts of this process, but there’s still no replacement for a qualified person to keep things (and people) on track.
Content governance can be easily compared to several good habits: doing your homework, having your car regularly maintained, brushing and flossing your teeth—basically anything where “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Invest the four hours at the beginning of your project to save yourself stress, panic, embarrassment, and forty hours of damage control, even if the damage is simply loss of credibility with your audience for having outdated information.