Step #1: Identify your content team members
No matter the complexity or focus of your organization, there are likely to be multiple stakeholders involved. Make sure to clarify the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved in your content workflow.
Don't forget those outside your official organizational chart as well. You may use external contributors who write content or feature customer-generated material like product reviews. Even if they're not part of the content governance planning process, thinking about how their contributions will fit into your overall plan is important.
Step #2: Evaluate your current content creation process
It's tempting to jump right into the content governance process, especially if your team has ideas they're eager to share. But you can save time and effort at the start by understanding your current content development, production, and distribution processes.
Are your existing processes overly complicated—going through multiple rounds of unnecessary editing—or are there few processes in place at all, leaving each department or employee to create and distribute content without ensuring appropriate coordination or consistent messaging? Knowing where you're starting from will make your content marketing transformation more effective.
Step #3: Solidify your content strategy
Strategy involves both the overall plan for what you want to achieve with your content and also factors like which social media platforms you'll use and who your target audience is overall or for each communication channel. You may already have brand guidelines established, and these can be a good place to start thinking about what kind of content fits best with your brand and your target audience.
Step #4: Establish policies, standards, and procedures
Consider the specific needs of your industry and organization. A content governance model for a nonprofit might put more emphasis on tailoring content to the accessibility needs of their audience, while a business that sells industry-specific products may need a style sheet detailing how the products' technical specifications need to be written. This is the place to make sure your brand guidelines are clear and inform the other choices you make when producing content.
Step #5: Create a content workflow
For large organizations with multiple stakeholders, content workflows may be complex with many steps. But even for small organizations, defining a basic content workflow will make sure you don't have to start from scratch each time.
Complex content or multilayered organizations may include additional steps like research, multiple drafts, a legal review, or design work. But the following steps are basic ones that almost any business or organization will want to include.
Before you start writing a blog post or designing a marketing campaign, you should understand why you're doing it and how it fits into your overall brand content strategy and your organization's goals. Making this the first step of your content workflow ensures that you get started on the right foot.
Now that you know what you need your content to accomplish, your workflow should allow ample time to plan for such content. Longer items may need an outline, and a website redesign might need a multistage schedule of its own.
Before starting to create content, get your whole content team on the same page, whether it's agreeing on an editorial calendar or establishing the exact color scheme for a new package design. Larger projects may need content briefs or project-specific style sheets. Time invested in this step is well spent. It's likely to save you even more effort later.
This may be writing social media posts, designing a new web page or product packaging, or sending out a newsletter. Creating content is where you get to put your plans and procedures into practice and let your brand's story shine.
Since you've already created a solid strategy and editorial guidelines, your content creators should be free to focus on the message itself while they're working on content production.
Once a draft of planned content has been generated, it's not quite ready to be sent out into the world. Have a plan to review this content to make sure all proposed pieces adhere to your organization's editorial guidelines, are consistent with your brand message, and are accurate and error free. Your content governance model should specify which team members are responsible for the approval process. Inconsistent approval workflows can cost time and efficiency.
The payoff for all your hard work and planning comes when you publish content that is timely, high quality, and consistent with your brand image across all of your communication channels.
Once your content is out in the world, use the policies you've established for post-publishing content governance to promote your content and keep it updated according to your content lifecycle guidelines.
Step #6: Get everyone on the same page
A thorough, well-designed content governance plan is important, of course, but for it to work, all relevant team members have to be on board. Invest time and effort to make sure everyone understands the new plan, is clear about their roles and responsibilities in the content process, and knows where to find answers to questions they might have along the way.
Step #7: Review, adjust, and grow
Your content governance work doesn't end once you have a plan that meets everyone's needs. You should also think about who will be involved in the review process. Marketing teams are important of course, but optimizing the strategic function of your content may also involve human resources, customer care, and your legal department or outside counsel.
Review your editorial calendar as well. Does everyone feel that deadlines are reasonable and that there's enough time for the creation and approval process while still prioritizing timely content workflows?
Lastly, don't forget to take into account the content lifecycle. It's rare that any blog post, homepage copy, or YouTube project demo will be relevant forever. Consider how often you want to publish new material and whether there's a new content channel that makes sense for your brand.
Useful content governance tools
When you're ready to build your content governance plan, you don't have to start from scratch. Read about some resources that take some of the work off your hands, allowing you to focus your energy on creating great content.
Content management systems
A content management system is a valuable process management tool that can help with complex content workflows, allowing everyone to track progress and next steps for effective content marketing. If this sounds of interest, this guide will give you a comprehensive overview.
Collaborative content platforms
The more members your content team has, the more complex the content creation process will be. Rather than sending documents or files back and forth, you may find it more efficient to share digital content with other team members in a collaborative platform like Google Docs.
Storing files in a cloud-based system and giving access to team members as needed can help everyone see the progress of the material in real time and can save valuable time, especially for large organizations with stakeholders in multiple time zones. No need to wait for the office in Berlin to open in order to send the first draft of the new product catalog to Tokyo for translation. Creating content is often one of the most collaborative parts of any business. Finding the right tool will streamline the process and improve efficiency.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
Whether you use an AI program to gather research for a blog post or to generate a list of keywords to include on your homepage, this developing technology can be a valuable tool for creating content.
But there are pitfalls as well, so this is one area where it will help to establish clear guidelines. Are you OK with content creators generating first drafts with AI? Does any AI use need to be noted when content drafts are submitted for review? Getting your content team on the same page will help avoid confusion. Technology is changing rapidly, so this is one area where you'll want to review and update your content policies frequently.
Take it to the next level: 5 bonus tips to elevate your content governance plan
Tip #1: Consider using templates
Content governance models can be complex, and while it's possible to create one from scratch, there are many content governance templates and tools available to make the process less overwhelming. They're also great for ensuring you're including everything you need in your content governance framework. Sites like School of Content and the US. Government's General Services Administration offer free sample templates, forms, and content governance examples.
Tip #2: Balance internal stakeholders' needs
Often different employees or departments will have different goals. Thinking about the way those goals might come into conflict will help you make a plan to deal with them ahead of time.
While your marketing team may want to include as much product information as possible, your sales agents might be concerned about overwhelming potential customers with details. And while your new CEO's vision might be to build an organic community through user-generated content, flagging the potential legal ramifications will help develop a proactive plan when questions arise about how to implement that vision.
Tip #3: Be specific
One of the benefits of a content governance plan is to reduce confusion. The more specific you can be about how content production should work or what style guide your written material should use, the fewer questions will arise when your content team is on a tight deadline.
Tip #4: Define success
A good content governance model is a living thing. It's always growing and improving and there's no such thing as perfection. But knowing what you want to achieve and how it aligns with your business goals will help you know if you're on the right track.
Using data to analyze your content after publication will allow you to understand what type of content marketing reaches your target market most effectively and will show how well your model works.
Tip #5: Stay flexible
The only thing certain in business is how fast things can change. While your content governance model may be perfect for where your organization is now, it's important to review it regularly to make sure it's keeping up with your company's growth. And be prepared to make adjustments whenever a business change warrants it.
If you expand into new international markets, you may need to update your editorial guidelines. Or if you launch a product line aimed at a new audience, your communication standards or brand guidelines may change. The modern fast-paced business environment makes staying on top of your content governance important.
Implementing content governance is vital for organizations of any size. Once you get your basic workflow in place, you'll find it easier to plan, create, and promote content that shows off your brand and delivers your message effectively!