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.

Advice for first time bloggers

Last week I ran some training for first time bloggers. To give some personal insight I thought a lot about my own blogging practice and how I got started. And here’s the result.

In the beginning…

I started blogging before I was even aware of what a blog was. I was a teenager, working out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. I created an account on diary-x and started writing. I’ve never thought about it before, but this means I’ve been blogging in some form for around 15 years. I’m comfortable doing it. I’ve developed a voice that I’m happy with. And yet I still get nervous every time I publish a post. I wouldn’t have it any other way – it means I care about what I’m writing and making it the best I can for the people who are going to read it.

I can’t tell you the number of blogs I’ve had over the years. I’ve always had at least one on the go, but more likely two; one personal and one professional. When I’ve set them up they’ve all had a clear purpose. Some I’ve set up and then handed on. Others were written for a specific event.

Deciding what to write about

There’s an easy answer to the question of what you’re going to write about – anything. Yes, really. As long as you’ve got a clear idea of the goal of your blog and the overarching theme, within that you can write about any topic. You don’t need to be an expert. In fact I think it helps if you’re not. What I’ve observed from interactions with the readers of my blog is that they’re looking to learn from the experiences of others in a similar position to them.

I’ve got the best response to posts where I’ve shared what I’m learning or what I’ve tried. The most popular post on my blog is about writing handover notes. I wrote it when I was looking for tips on how to write a good handover document and couldn’t find anything useful. It gets as many daily views (around 40) as it did the day it was published over a year ago. Why? It shares my experience, offers practical tips and covers a topic that isn’t written about much.

The act of writing

Once you know what the topic of your post is going to be, get the initial ideas out of your head. Put them down on paper or in a digital notepad, whatever works best for you. You might find it helpful to give yourself a time limit – I usually begin posts in my lunch breaks which gives me a deadline for getting something down. Don’t edit as you go along. You’ll end up with a rough draft or perhaps just a list of disconnected thoughts. The important thing is that it’s a start.

Now you can edit. I find it’s best to leave the draft for a while, when I come back to it with fresh eyes it’s usually obvious where to go next.

I find it’s easier to write outside of the blog environment. Only once I’ve got what I’d consider to be the final draft do I copy this to my blog editor. At this point I preview it to see how it looks in the template and give it a final proof. Once the final tweaks are made it’s finally time to publish.


And there you have it, my advice for getting started with blogging. I’ve summarised that stream of consciousness into a few key takeaways:

  • write about your experiences and share what you learn
  • give practical advice
  • choose topics where there’s a gap in existing writing
  • once you’ve got a topic, just get some ideas onto the page – don’t worry about order or style
  • give your draft some space and then begin to edit after a few hours

Do you have any top tips for beginner bloggers? Share them in the comments.

Ideas for library inductions

Earlier this week I attended an exchange of experience event on inductions at De Montfort University. It was organised by Kaye Towlson and based on the TeachMeet model.

The session began with speed networking and thought share bunting, or analogue Twitter, where we could easily share our ideas throughout the event. My contributions which came out of conversations during the speed networking were:

  • less is more
  • first impressions are vital; we need to be seen as friendly and approachable so students will come back and ask questions
  • learn by doing

We were also able to share examples of our marketing and branding as can be seen in the photo below which includes a Check It Out flyer from Warwick and brochure from Leicester.

Thought Share Bunting

Thought Share Bunting

What I especially enjoyed about this event was that all attendees contributed something. It felt very much like a collaborative effort and equal exchange of experience. Some of us gave short presentations, and others produced posters. All the presentations will be on SlideShare at some point and I’ll update this post with a link when they’re up. The rest of this post is a summary of my notes from the presentations, with my slides at the very end. In a future post I’ll write more about what we’re doing at Warwick.

Birmingham City University – Using rounds
All staff in the Learning and Teaching Team at BCU are required to complete a PGCert. The use of rounds was something that Christiana Titahmboh picked up from her PGCert course. These rounds were used in induction sessions after a tour, or presentation, to engage the group. Essentially, you open up the floor to the group for them to make observations and ask questions about what they have just seen. It works particularly well for postgraduate students and small groups. Another benefit is that you get instant feedback on the session.

University of Leicester – One size does not fit all
Leicester apply a flexible approach to inductions so that sessions can be tailored to specific subject groups and study levels. Unlike the other institutions at the event all inductions are done in the departments. A virtual tour, using annotated PowerPoint slides is used to show the physical library. This is favoured over a video because it can be easily kept up to date and adapted to suit the audience.

In addition to the departmental induction sessions a weekly email is sent out over the first few weeks of term to provide refresher information about specific topics, including: library membership, self-issue and return, study zones and electronic resources.

Aston University – Library Matters Live
Aston are in a unique position with all departments timetabled in for library inductions. Their inductions are run as orientation sessions with three demonstration areas on the ground floor. The demonstrations areas are: printing, reserve and collect, and take control. The first does exactly what it says, the second shows the self-issue and return machines and the third is a catalogue demo and introduction to the Information Specialists.

Nottingham Trent University
At Nottingham Trent inductions are run by the subject librarians. For them, the number of students in the group dictates the approach taken. Their library inductions include an IT element as this information is not delivered by anyone else. They also provide refresher sessions scheduled later in the term to give students a chance to actually use the library and then come back to ask questions or clarify information.

De Montfort University
At DMU indcutions in the past have been very traditional including a presentation and guided tour. A number of factors, including staff to student ratios and poor attendance have prompted a revamp for this year. The key elements of their new induction programme is that is interactive, multimedia, multimodal and learner-centred. The programme combines an e-induction to cover the basics and a library trail, or treasure hunt.

University of Warwick – Get Started
At Warwick this year we are looking to streamline our inductions. In previous years there has been both departmental inductions and a central programme, called Check It Out. In the coming year we are re-launching the central programme as Get Started. The main focus of this will be an area for Get Started on the library website where all of our induction materials can be hosted. There will also be sessions running within the library and resources for subject librarians to use in departmental inductions. The emphasis is on flexibility so that we can provide consistent information no matter what method of delivery is used.

Update 27/6: most of the presentations from the event are now available on SlideShare.