3-Minute Guide to How Government Agencies Should Handle ‘Content Governance’

20 Nov 2017 Man stressed out with his loose tie

Let’s not dance around it: Every government website in existence struggles with content governance. That’s because “content governance” is a pretty new concept, and very few public websites have discovered it.

So here’s your three-minute primer on content governance for government websites:

1. Know what “content governance” is and isn’t

Let’s get clear on our terms. “Content governance” describes how decisions about your online content are made and implemented across your organization. It’s large-scale.

The work that goes into creating content—messaging, writing, design, keyword research—are about process and execution. Content governance, meanwhile, is about operational strategy, the big picture.

2. Identify your core content team

Whether a government agency has 10 employees or 10,000, it needs a core content team. Their job is to both generate high-level, strategic content decisions and solicit regular feedback from their stakeholders to inform those decisions.

Their mandate is simple: Nothing goes online without, first, aligning with the core team’s policies. What they say, goes.

Naming a core content team comes with a few benefits:

  • Everyone in the organization understands who to talk to about website content
  • There’s accountability and trackability—allowing you to actually see how your content is handled and make course corrections over time

We recommend a core content team comprising:

  • One member from each major department/division
  • No more than 7 people (after which, decisions and calendars get messy and slow)
  • Experienced staff members who understand your message, goals, and industry
  • Members from outside the executive offices

Announce the formation of your team organization-wide. The team should meet at least once a month to review analytics, discuss upcoming goals, share ideas, etc. And they should also understand that the agency website is, now, their baby—to be nurtured and protected.

(Note: If your agency is too huge for a small core team, we recommend not adding to the core team, but instead, forming “work groups” within each major agency department. These work groups would operate like mini-core teams, pushing content upward to the core team.)

3. Create a Content Governance Plan

With a team in place, the next job is to craft a plan. The elements of a content governance plan are negotiable—it’s a new discipline, after all—but we’ve found that developing content governance plans for our clients usually include:

  • A simple content chart that illustrates which agency departments are responsible for overseeing certain portions of the website—and how they should request changes of the core team
  • Guidelines for the core team to use when considering what to publish online—e.g., Does SEO play a role in your content decisions?
  • A set of policies for how, and how often, content should be submitted, reviewed, and published
  • An “evergreen” content calendar that lets different departments know when, during the year, they’re expected to deliver certain types of content

It’s important to put these decisions down on paper and share them far and wide. If possible, put your plan into a slide presentation and spend 30 minutes with each division, explaining how content will be handled moving forward.

Our Three Minutes Are Up

Content governance is easier said than done (which is why clients hire us to help build their plan), but it’s also a critical investment. Government websites are especially important to the public. If the content is outdated, ignored, or simply dull, then you’re missing an opportunity to better serve your constituents.

Andrew Buck

Content Strategist

Andrew is obsessed with words—and how to wield them for good.

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