As a society, we apply rules to most aspects of daily life. For instance, you have to adhere to a certain set of rules when driving a car, opening a business, or investing money. Not obeying the rules when performing these tasks is a recipe for chaos.
That means for 72% of brands, content creation is still the Wild West—no laws, no oversight, and no accountability.
If you consider your brand part of that 72%, you could probably use a little content governance. With content governance, you can modernize, operationalize, and optimize your content to ensure you see the highest content marketing ROI possible.
In this guide, we’re going to show you how to create a content governance plan for your organization. But first, let’s learn a bit more about what content governance is, and why it’s important.
What is Content Governance?
Content governance is the blueprint for how your content is planned, created, and distributed. It’s a system of procedures that determines content priorities, provides guidelines on how content should look, feel, and behave, and assigns ownership to people within the organization.
Content governance is similar to a content strategy in that it’s concerned with the planning, development, and management of content. However, a content governance plan needs to be put in place before there can be a content strategy, as the content governance plan will inform how the content strategy is executed on a day-to-day basis.
“For us, content governance means organizing our content operations from top to the bottom. It means writing down everything, from the people who do the work to how the work gets carried out,” says Malte Scholz, CEO and Co-Founder of Airfocus. “The most important part is identifying all of the stakeholders and their duties, so that we know who does what and exactly which part of the content creation/distribution/promotion process they handle.”
You should be able to refer to your content governance plan to determine how to create your content strategy, who is responsible for different aspects of content creation, and how success will be measured.
Why Do You Need Content Governance
The need for content governance is a byproduct of the effectiveness of content marketing. Back when brands were only producing a handful of pieces of content each month, there was no need for rules and guidelines around the creation of content.
But today brands understand that content marketing drives brand awareness, engagement, and lead generation. As such, they’ve taken to producing more content than ever before. While this is a good thing, it creates some new challenges:
- More people creating, editing, and publishing content: As the demand for content increases, so do the number of people you need on staff creating the content for you. This could lead to less consistency between pieces of content, and duplication of efforts.
- More departments demanding content: The sales team is asking for sell sheets, while the product team needs copy for the help center. How can you prioritize, manage, and execute on these requests in a timely manner, while still fulfilling your other content obligations?
- More content channels: There’s no shortage of places you can distribute your content. How do you decide which ones are right for your brand, and how you’ll go about creating content for them?
- Everything is global: Your site is being visited by people all over the world. Therefore your copy needs to be translated so that it can reach those markets.
Without a clear content governance plan in place, this confluence of demands can create chaos in your marketing department. The result will be reactive content that’s off-brand, fragmented, inappropriate, or doesn’t serve your goals—all of which means loss of time and money for your business.
“To a certain extent, every company that has multiple writers creating its content needs a content governance system—whether it’s just basic rules like ‘don’t speak about this topic,’ or an in-depth document detailing content dos and don’ts,” says Hannah Stevenson, Content Marketing Manager at UK Linkology. “By clearly outlining what content should include and how it can be written, business leaders can reduce the chances of receiving a backlash.”
Benefits of Content Governance
You should now understand that content governance can bring order to your disparate content workflows. But what does that order look like? Here are some benefits of having a content governance plan in place:
- Consistency: You want prospective customers to feel a certain way when they think about your brand. That won’t be possible if the style, tone, and word choice of your content differs from article-to-article. Content governance avoids this problem by putting into place the specifications with which every piece of content is created. This way all of your content is uniform in style and tone.
- Productivity: A content governance plan informs every member of the content team on not just what they should be creating, but how they should be creating it. This leads to fewer failed drafts and long edits, and more time spent creating new content.
- More Voices: With ironclad processes in place for how content is created, it will be easier to involve subject matter experts (SMEs) outside the marketing team in the content creation process. Your content governance plan will outline how other stakeholders can get involved in the ideation, production, and distribution of content.
- Protection: Having policies and procedures in place can help avoid any embarrassing errors or mistakes from appearing in your content.
“Content governance allows for the content to be put out faster, as you ultimately have a list of guidelines to follow so it is much easier for something to get the green light and go public,” says Christopher Prasad, Marketing Manager at JookSMS. “You are streamlining production, which means that you are lowering costs of production, as you have a clear focus on what should be created within the company."
How to Create a Content Governance Plan
Now that you understand what content governance is, why you need it, and the benefits it can provide, it’s time to understand how to create a content governance plan of your own.
Keep in mind that you can start small and grow your content governance plan as your content team (and business) scales. Here are the steps you need to take:
Step 1: Determine Your Goals
Understanding what you want your content governance plan to achieve will help you determine what it should look like. For instance, maybe you want your content governance plan to enable you to produce 3-5 additional pieces of content each month, or provide a framework that will make it possible to scale your content team.
“The right formula is rooted in your culture and attitude for your organization,” says Carolyn Cairns, a Marketing Manager with Creation BCI. ”Start with an objective and aim to achieve the goals of your objectives. Focus on one part of your objective and work your way through it.”
Step 2: Audit Your Existing Workflows
To create a content governance plan, you need to first understand the existing processes around the creation, distribution, and promotion of content. You must then audit these processes to identify gaps and issues that can be improved.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when auditing your content workflows:
- What types of content work best for our brand?
- What types of content have received poor results?
- What steps in the content process take the longest to complete? Why?
- Who are the stakeholders in each step of the content process?
- How do we ensure content quality?
- How often are deadlines missed?
Some of these questions will be easier to answer than others. To help you answer some of these questions, refer to the data collected in your Content Intelligence Platform, Content Planning Software, and feedback from colleagues.
Step 3: Create Processes Around Your Goals
Now that you understand what your goals are and how your current content processes work, it’s time to reimagine those processes so that they better serve your desired goals.
Start by reviewing all the formats you create content in, and the tasks that need to be performed for each piece of content to be completed. With each task, be sure to note how long it typically takes to complete. For example, if you primarily create blog content, the tasks involved might include the following:
Format: Blog post
- Perform keyword research (30 minutes)
- Research (2-3 hours)
- Write article (2-4 hours)
- Edit article (1-2 hours)
- Promote article (1 hour)
- Build backlinks to article (Ongoing)
Perform this exercise for every format you create content in. Soon you should have a complete list of tasks your content team is responsible for executing on. Next you will use this to build the processes that comprise your content governance system.
Step 4: Assign Responsibility
With each task laid out in front of you, it’s time to assign responsibility so that everyone knows what they’re in charge of.
Take your list of tasks and assign them to specific members of your team. Who is responsible for which tasks will likely depend on the size of your content team, and your content marketing team structure. For a small team, the responsibility breakdown may be as follows:
- Write blog content
- Promote content
- Perform keyword research
- Edit blog content
- Manage content calendar
- Distribute content
Head of Content:
- Formulate goals
- Measure performance
- Set editorial and brand guidelines
Having every member of your team know exactly what they’re responsible for clarifies expectations and allows everyone to operate with greater confidence.
Step 5: Set Editorial Standards
With tasks and responsibilities clearly defined, the last piece of the puzzle is setting the standard to which every single piece of content must be created.
Creating a standard for both quality and brand alignment is necessary to ensure every piece of content is consistent and serves the marketing team's goals. It also takes away a lot of guesswork for your content team, as they know exactly how each piece of content should look, feel, and behave.
This leads to higher quality work that requires fewer edits.
So what do these standards look like? Every brand is different, but here are some common things that brands create editorial standards around:
- The way headlines are formatted
- The number of times a keyword must appear in a blog article
- The length of a YouTube video
- The channels where a piece of content must be shared
- The word count of a blog post
- The way graphics are formatted
- Subheader structure
- How to link within an article
- How frequently social posts are shared
“Editorial standards will give your employees an idea of what’s expected from the content they are writing, so there will be no repetition or chaos,” says Nathan Sebastian, Content Marketing Expert at GoodFirms. “When it comes to publishing the content, employees will be able to keep track of what has been published and what is the result of the current content marketing campaign.”
When setting editorial standards, we recommend creating a brand style guide that details the expectations of every piece of content, including grammar, spelling, and article structure.
Step 6: Document Everything
Having your content governance plan worked out in your head helps nobody. The final step is to document the tasks, responsibilities, and standards that form the basis of your content governance plan.
“In order for content governance to work, it needs to be clearly laid out so that all stakeholders can access it,” says Jennifer Willy, Editor at Etia.com. “It should talk about workflow, assigning accountability, and maintaining performance to ensure that your organization’s content strategy is successful.”
Your documented content governance plan should not be long or cumbersome to read. Instead, it should provide a brief description of each task, where it falls in the content creation process, who is responsible for executing on that task, and what the standards of success are.
“Your content governance plan should be brief enough that it can be referred to quickly and often,” says Simon Ensor, Founder of SEO agency CatchWorks. “The ideal scenario is to have overarching guidelines, with appendices that can be accessed for specific processes. These documents should be distributed to all stakeholders, but it’s the responsibility of management to ensure they’re being adhered to.”
We strongly recommend leveraging technology to ensure your content governance plan can be accessed by all members of your content team. There are a variety of tools that can make content governance a cinch.
For instance, project management tools Asana and monday.com allow you to create tasks and assign them to specific members of your team for completion. They're also capable of hosting templatized brief forms that members of your organization can fill out and submit when they have a request for a new piece of content.
“We created a template in Asana that we use for each new piece of content that we push out. That way, every piece of content can go from one person to the next and they immediately know what has been done and what needs to be done afterwards,” says Scholz. “We recommend all marketers create a template you can re-use for the content that you create frequently, such as blog posts. It will speed up your work and make sure that no steps get omitted.”
Knotch Can Help With Content Governance
If you’re looking to institute content governance in your marketing organization, Knotch can help. Our Content Intelligence Platform can provide you with tailored insights into your content marketing performance that can help you determine where you should focus your efforts.
Blueprint, our competitive content analysis & market intelligence product, makes content planning easy and powerful by showing you real-time content from every brand & publisher across owned & paid channels. Blueprint does the work of researching and analyzing top-performing content across the internet so you can make smarter marketing decisions.