The idea of content governance has been in the background of business strategy for decades. But, while the system that determines how organisations publish their content has rarely hit the headlines, it’s received a lot more attention since Facebook recruited Nick Clegg as its image “fixer.”
Clegg was hired, in part, to help Facebook address criticism around the posting of harmful or inappropriate content. His rhetoric suggests that a good content governance strategy protects the organisation and user alike, helping them avoid lawsuits, being embarrassed, or both.
If an organisation is to fully control its own content, a good content governance strategy is vital for reputation management.
What’s the problem?
Governance arguably has a bad reputation for being restrictive, particularly in the IT sector. There’s a tendency to view it as the polar opposite of creativity. And even those who see it as a good thing believe its role is limited to avoiding the legal ramifications of content violations.
But governance doesn’t have to stomp out brand creativity, and its use isn’t just limited to legal safeguarding. Instead, the best content and governance initiatives are commercial, strategic change drivers. They mobilise and help content creators achieve tremendous, measurable value for their companies.
If deployed correctly, content governance is about injecting transparency into the process of content creation. It provides visibility across the whole machine, helping to identify issues, gaps, and challenges — and then eliminate them. What’s left is a smooth, streamlined process that offers guidance to content developers. This guidance helps them produce good quality, engaging content that represents their company’s unique brand and tone of voice.
Moving from passive to active governance
To reap the benefits of an enabling, rather than restrictive, content governance strategy, it’s important to move from a passive to an active approach.
Most organisations will already have some sort of governance in place. Indeed, it’s likely they have a “way of doing things,” and even if the process isn’t great, it’s still a governing approach. Companies know that diverging from that process causes problems and erodes their ability to successfully deliver the end “product.”
Most also have some form of measurement. Today, companies mark their content production and delivery by time and resource usage, and while this isn’t particularly nuanced, it’s a form of basic governance.
But having governance is one thing. Deliberate, or “active” governance is something else entirely.
A passive approach to content governance relies heavily on the motivation of the team. Content developers and editors need to be driven to deliver great quality — even when there aren’t standard mechanisms to rely on, and nothing to support new additions to the team.
Active governance proactively guides content developers. It provides standard tools and guidelines that remove quality issues early on and help content developers deliver content that’s “ready for review.”
The tech story
Real-time, in-line guidance, available to all writers means there’s no need for learning or document review — the guidance just works seamlessly in the background. Similar to Microsoft’s spell checker, it’s there when needed. People no longer need to know how to spell “necessary” or “Mississippi,” or understand the difference between “you’re” and “your,” because the spell checker knows these things for them.
But what if you could go beyond spelling and grammar to provide guidance on clarity, consistency, style, tone of voice, and brand compliance? The simple answer is you can. Content developers can now deliver content that’s aligned with company voice and strategy, without endless review cycles.
The critical success factor to practicing Active Content Governance is making use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The hype cycle for AI is reaching its apex, but it’s about more than the march of robots replacing humans. In this context, AI is a mechanism that knows HOW to do the things you care about. It knows how to communicate, in a clear concise manner, global writing guidelines, spelling, and grammar, across multiple languages. It’s read ALL of your content, and learned your organisation’s voice, words, style, and emotion. Finally, it can automate a large percentage of the process, from guiding early creation, to delivering clear and correct materials. In doing so, it provides real business value — the kind that resonates with C-Level executives and includes risk reduction, cost and resource savings, customer engagement, and content clarity.
True technology-enabled Active Content Governance means building a multistep, automated process into the content machine. The output of each stage is a document that’s correct and aligned to company strategy, with less human intervention. This leaves editors to the job of actually creating better content, faster. Automating the process solves the issues of brand alignment, spelling and grammar, voice, clarity, and consistency. The scalability of automation means infinite checks on infinite pieces of digital content, either in real time or with batch checking tools.
By freeing up time using technology, organisations can focus their resources on making sure the content better engages with their audience and improves the user experience.
Delivering smart, unified, consistent, and helpful information can be the difference between winning and keeping customers, or losing them. It really requires content governance and changing from a fragmented, ad hoc approach to content creation to a framework that scales.
Companies, particularly in IT, are used to this methodical approach when it comes to sales. Ask how a lead flows from first touch to closed deal, and they can tell you every detail. But ask how their organisation delivers content, and you hear about a vague collection of touch points and time frames.
Companies should apply the same logic they use for sales strategies to content generation. Treating the content engine in the same way as any other well-thought out process is the first critical step to practicing Active Content Governance. But, it’s when you integrate automation and AI into the process that you rise to the next level of alignment and efficiency. That’s how organisations like VMware — which has a team of 140 technical writers — scales its quality control across a large, multinational, organisation.
The benefits are clear. Active Content Governance improves user experience everywhere you engage with a customer or prospect.
Christopher P Willis, CMO, acrolinx