Getting to the top of the content governance mountain

Establishing and maintaining content governance can feel like an uphill struggle. Especially in large organisations with a devolved publishing model.

I recently attended a content governance webinar where Liam King shared five truths about web content:

  1. Your content is degrading from the moment it is published
  2. We don€™t truly value our content
  3. We design sites that will never be sustainable
  4. Content governance just ain€™t exciting
  5. Love for content dangerously fluctuates

If you weren€™t nodding in agreement as you read these, please get in touch and share your secret to success€¦

Before you can tackle the problem you need to find the cause. Liam King recommends using the five whys problem solving method.

Once you know the root of the problem it€™s time to start tackling it. Here€™s how we€™re trying to climb the content governance mountain at Newcastle.

Content governance in higher education

We€™re currently working on a programme to bring all the University€™s external websites into the 21st century. It€™s called Go Mobile.  It is an opportunity not only to improve the site design and systems we use to publish websites, but also to improve the content and set up governance processes for that content.

Ownership and accountability

Before any site gets to begin the Go Mobile process we€™re making sure there€™s a named editor for us to work with. They will have ownership of the site€™s content and be accountable for its quality.

There€™s a lot of work to do with our editors to make sure they have the skills to create and maintain quality content. We€™ve developed a new approach to training web editors to help them succeed.

Training our editors

A significant amount of our training focuses on planning web content. We walk through the content lifecycle and introduce resources to help at each stage. These include templates for editorial calendars, and tools like Hemingway (to improve readability) and Siteimprove (to check for misspellings and broken links).

Throughout our training we reinforce the standards set out in our style guides and review examples of good and bad content.

Standards and style guides

We€™ve always had a content style guide that outlines standards and best practice. But I can probably count on my fingers the number of people who regularly consult it when creating or editing content.

Through Go Mobile we€™re trying to make it as easy as possible for our editors to put our content standards into practice. We€™re embedding standards where possible in the content management system. We€™ve also created a demo site that puts the standards into context of the new content types available to editors.

Content quality reviews

For every site that gets the Go Mobile treatment we€™re taking a snapshot of the content quality before any work gets done. This includes information from Google Analytics, Siteimprove and readability scores for every page. As part of the go live process we repeat the snapshot to check for improvements.

The quality assurance process doesn€™t end there. There€™s a plan to review every site after six months to make sure quality is being maintained. We€™re not at that stage yet, with the first sites only going live in August. If you want an idea of how these reviews might work, read up on the Government Digital Service€™s €˜spot checks€™.


Content governance processes and policies are redundant if you don€™t have people with the right skills to implement them. Part of our challenge is getting editors to think differently about their role and their content.

We€™re still in the early days of setting this up but so far all signs are looking good. Check back with me in 6-9 months to see how the first batch of Go Mobile sites have done in their content quality reviews!

How do you manage content governance in your organisation? Share your experiences in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Getting to the top of the content governance mountain

  1. Emma, another nice post. I work for the digital department for a large bank and there is also a big drive to make EVERYTHING suitable for reading/ viewing on a mobile device. We are lucky in that we have skilled people and the right tools to assist with this, but the challenge we have is that of getting stakeholders to sign off the new content before it can be published. It’s a massive ball-ache and can take weeks. Yes. Weeks. So many people want to have a say in the words that end up on the screen that the copywriters have a really tough job trying to cater for the varied inputs they get from compliance, legal, risk, marketing (to name a few) but still make the content customer centric and concise. I guess what I’m trying to say is that upgrading existing or creating new content seems to be a tricky problem to solve for different reasons in different environments. Sharing best practise and ideas can only help.

  2. Hi Noel, thanks for your comment. Managing input from different stakeholders is definitely an issue. It’s something that came up in training I was running yesterday. One approach we’ve taken in the past is to ask for feedback on content that relates to facts only – not style or tone. Another idea if you’re asking people to supply new content is to provide a proforma that helps them to put their content into a form that you can work with.

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