At the start of many web site relaunch projects, “content governance” gets brought up by someone in the room.

Content governance is a set of guidelines for how content gets created, approved, published, and maintained.

Too often though, by the time the launch rolls around, it’s a frantic dash to get the product out the door, and content governance gets the short stick – if it gets any stick at all.

But we argue that content governance is absolutely critical for long-term content and digital success. Keeping content fresh, aligned to the organization’s strategy, relevant to user needs, and consistent with style guidelines is a crucial component of a great digital experience.

How can you help ensure that what you launch today will continue to knock everyone’s socks off next year? Content governance plays a big role.

Do Your Research

To begin, you’ve got to dig in and do some research.  What’s the current workflow? Is it working? What could be improved?

It’s not always necessary – or preferred – to throw out an old workflow. Take the time to document “what is,” and then take a careful and focused look on what’s been problematic. Was it lack of responsibility? Bottlenecks in editing? Misalignment with business strategy? Too many signoffs required?

Talk to as many people as you can who have any touchpoints with the content – they’ll each bring a unique perspective.

When you come away from your research, you should have captured a solid understanding of:

  • Existing and expected content assets
  • Resources and team members
  • Launch schedules and timelines
  • Content management system workflows

Building out the Process

Every organization will have a slightly different approach and order to its content workflow and governance, but some key categories to think about include:

Initiate

  • Identify user needs and business needs
  • Determine what content assets (and what content types) can meet those needs

Create

  • Author the content
  • Edit the content
  • Gather or create secondary assets (images, audio, video, transcripts)
  • Copy edit the content

Approve

  • Get subject matter experts’ approval
  • Get any necessary legal, regulatory or compliance sign off

Publish

  • Input the content into the content management system
  • QA the content
  • Push the content live

Review and Optimize

  • Develop a regular review process (whether annually, quarterly, or monthly)
  • Optimize content based on content analytics
  • Retire content when necessary

Once you’ve determined the best way to order and organize these components, a process diagram that outlines how content moves through the workflow should be a key deliverable of this effort. We also recommend developing a roles and responsibilities document that explicitly details each step and role in the process.

One final note – content management systems can have a significant impact on governance, due to both their capabilities as well as their limitations. It’s a good idea to have technical discussions often and early – to discover how best to optimize the CMS you’re using.