If you’ve ever seen the Disney movie The Lion King, then you’re familiar with the scene where the three hyena characters, up to no good, react to hearing the name of Simba’s regal, powerful father, Mufasa: wide-eyed terror.
That’s a little how marketers react when I mention content governance.
While content marketing technologies, such as content hubs and DAMs, solve many issues – asset storage, effective search, and efficient workflow among them – they’re far from “set-it-and-forget-it” solutions. Careful configuration will go a long way toward determining how the technology solution will behave, but it does almost nothing to determine how the humans using the technology will behave. That’s why you need content governance.
What is content governance?
Like IT governance, content governance is an agreed-upon set of rules, policies, and procedures directing how data is stored, managed, accessed, archived, and distributed. In the case of content governance, the data is content: text, visual assets, metadata, and so on. In the case of content governance, workflow and approval processes, as well as brand continuity, are also part of the equation.
Now you know why people shudder when I mention content governance. It all sounds rigid and process-heavy, and stifling, doesn’t it? But it has its benefits, not only for your content but also for the people who create, manage, and publish it.
Why is content governance important?
Without content governance, you have (at least) three potential problems:
- Content strategy falls victim to ad hoc requests
- Content disappears into the ether
- Content gets duplicated, and brand continuity suffers as a result
Let’s tackle that first one: ad hoc requests. Without a clearly defined workflow, and designated ownership and roles to go with it, it’s easy for people to pull your content creators into an unending vortex of side projects, throwing them off course and your editorial calendar into chaos. Content governance provides an excuse: “Oh, that’s a great idea! Did you submit a request?” or “Let me email Debbie in Marketing for you. She prioritizes my work for me. I’ll copy you on the request.” Content governance also accounts for approval processes, which keeps Legal and Compliance happy, at the very least, and your content humming smoothly along its path to publication.
Workflows and approvals aren’t the only victims to poorly defined (or, dare I say it, non-existent?) content governance. Search capabilities in your storage solution – your content hub – can also quickly deteriorate, which wastes time, effort, and money. (If you can’t find content, you can’t use it.) An important part of content governance is determining where and how content and its metadata are defined, stored, and accessed. Without clear planning, it’s easy to lose content, even if you aren’t a big, multi-brand, multi-lingual retailer with several, integrated systems. And that leads to the last issue: a loss of brand continuity.
When your content creators can’t find an asset or overlay or…whatever they’re looking for…they often duplicate it, usually based on memory, which often results in losing the richness of the original content – as well as diminishing SEO – not to mention its alignment with the most up-to-date brand standards. (In fact, the brand standards documentation itself might live in the system – a handy place to keep that stuff! – but, again, if it can’t be found…) Leaving search terms (taxonomy and metadata) definition solely up to your IT department is not only unwise, it’s unrealistic. Just as Marketing doesn’t know all the ins and outs of how IT departments work, your IT department doesn’t know how users interact with all of the myriad content types and attributes and assets they create. While IT might create a perfectly logical (to them) taxonomy, it might not meet the needs of your marketers, and you’ll be right back where you started, with asset duplication and potential brand dilution.
OK, I lied. There’s one more issue, related to duplication: That spiffy new content hub you’ve taken the time to install and integrate – you know, the one you thought was going to solve all your asset management and content production problems – gets bogged down with duplicated files, just like your last solution. Big waste of money, time, and effort.
How is content governance created?
Remember how I said above that content governance is an agreed-upon set of rules, policies, and procedures?
Content governance is usually created and overseen by a Content Governance Board, which (in the best of worlds) recruits members from across departments, brands, business units, IT, functional roles, etc. The Content Governance Board collaborates to determine roles, responsibilities, and onboarding for those involved in any part of the content creation, management, and publication process. While you don’t want your Content Governance Board to get too big, you do want to recruit and retain people who interact with the content at key points in its journey from creation to publication. These might include marketing managers, content creators, legal and compliance officers, brand managers, and marketing systems admins from IT. In another post, we share a few quick tips for creating a Content Governance Board, but for now, suffice it to say that obtaining buy-in and guidance from the people who interact with your content and your brand (or brands) is critical to the success of your content governance plan.
The bottom line
Even the best configuration of your marketing content hub won’t provide the guidelines, policies, and procedures you need to keep it humming along efficiently and effectively because people are still at the core of content creation, management, and publication. They, too, need predictable, reliable standards by which to work in order to preserve your brand’s integrity and, in some cases, your content marketers’ sanity. Content governance sets those standards and allows your marketers to navigate the technology more easily, uphold their editorial calendars more assertively, and save your organization money by avoiding needless duplication of content and the effort required to produce it.
So, stop shuddering, and get that content governance in place!