Sitecore Content Governance

Posted 03-16-2018 by Ken Gray

Not too long ago, in the very recent past, a large dealership of a large North American auto manufacturer decided to take to e-mail marketing, which in my humble opinion was a colossal disaster. You see, the e-mails I began receiving, as a customer, were rife with spelling errors, off-brand and of a very poor quality in general. It was clear they didn’t have a content governance policy, or at minimum, their “digital marketing agency” or “internal marketing team” didn’t follow it. I put the terms marketing agency and marketing team in quotes, because I’m using the terms loosely to describe whomever it was that thought a brand that big should send out such horrible content. I laughed and promptly deleted the first e-mail. After I received a 3rd poorly crafted e-mail, I set up a rule to automatically delete them. I figured, if they can’t take the time to proof-read, why should I waste my time deciphering what they’re trying to say. To that end, I've crafted this post to help those who create content for their companies and gain productivity through clearly defined content processes.

Defining Content Governance

So, what is Content Governance and more importantly how can you leverage Sitecore to be the most effective at it?

I’m not one to reinvent the obvious, so I did a search and I came across two similar definitions for Content Governance:

Content governance is the day-to-day detailed management of content delivery and style.

Ahava Leibag – 5 Essentials for Governance Success

Content Governance is a mix of policies and processes, security, and editorial guidelines for producing content.

Rahul Khosla – How to develop a content governance model…

  

I encourage you to read both blog posts from my esteemed colleagues. Here is my mash-up of their definitions:

  

Content Governance is mix of policies and processes that regulate/control the day-to-day security, creation, delivery and editorial guidelines (style, messaging and voice) of enterprise content.

Why Content Governance is Important

As described in the opening paragraphs, without proper governance policies and processes in place, you can do your brand a great deal of harm and even end up in legal trouble. Additionally, depending upon your industry, there may be laws and government regulations that must be complied with and when out of compliance these same regulations may carry penalties. Even without these dire consequences, Content Governance policies are good at ensuring consistency and accuracy in your content style, messaging and voice.

Now that we know what Content Governance is and why it is important, the next question is, “how do we get started and ensure our team doesn’t make the same mistake as the auto dealership mentioned above?”

Give me a “B”! Give me a “U”! Give me a “Y”! – I’ll spare you the rest.

During the winter months, I coach high school basketball and one thing I’ve come to understand about human behaviour is that there is no point having a playbook or game plan if your team doesn’t believe in it or run the plays you’ve designed. So, it’s important to ensure your team and key stakeholders are on-board with having a content governance policy as well as what it will contain. Here are some things to keep in mind when taking steps to get buy-in from your team:

 

  1. Know your brand guidelines
  2. Know your business compliance regulations
  3. Explain how content productivity and accuracy will improve
  4. Explain how consistency, in your messaging, will lead to better engagement
  5. Remind them that better engagement leads to more sales, brand awareness and brand loyalty

Putting Your Content Governance Policy Together

There are many pieces that need to come together in your governance policy, so establishing a Content Governance Steering Committee will be important.

The committee should include your content editors and publishers, as well as someone from legal along with your marketing and technical personnel to ensure all aspects of the content lifecycle are considered. Here are some essential pieces:

  1. Editorial Consistency
    1. Define and ensure your content creators have quick and easy access to a condensed version of your brand guide or style guide.
      1. A one-page, concise and specific reference guide is best as no one wants to sift through a 50-page document to determine if their content is okay – they simply don’t have time
      2. Agree on spelling
        • Like playing Scrabble, it’s important to agree on a dictionary and spelling for your content – there are fewer arguments and less revisions which in turn leads to more productivity
      3. Naming conventions (dashes vs underscores – never spaces)
  2. Compliance
    1. If your organization operates globally make sure to note and include each regions’ regulations
    2. Account for regular intervals where compliance rules change (e.g. Tax laws)
    3. Decide on content longevity, archiving, relevancy to company goals, etc.
  3. Workflow
    1. Establish your content approval-flow from creation to publishing
    2. Who will review content and enforce the policy before content is published?
  4. Security
    1. Rules to prevent hacking and a course of action if a breach occurs
  5. Maintaining Governance
    1. Your Steering Committee should meet regularly
    2. Do policy reviews and content audits
    3. Write recommendations, provide training and execute/enforce changes to policy guidelines

Sitecore’s role in Governance success

In conclusion, the first step to improving your content author’s and content marketer’s productivity is having clear guidelines for style, providing training and implementing validation to enforce the policies, defining workflows for fast approvals, and performing regular audits to keep things consistent, tidy and relevant.

  1. All the tools in one place
  2. Multi-channel capabilities
  3. Security
    1. Allows you to enforce features like workflows and placement of content
    2. Several Roles are built-in
    3. Sitecore also has password encryption and SSL integration
  4. Content validation to support governance policies
    1. Sitecore can prevent content from being published if it fails validation based on rules you create and specify
    2. Allow authors to name their items with spaces, but programmatically change to SEO friendly names when they save
    3. Media uploading and folder names
    4. Publish upon create as many tickets have been my item gives 404 – parent not published
  5. Define Workflows
    1. Every business is different so Sitecore allows you to custom design one or more workflows for Authoring, Publishing, Archiving, Retaining, and Disposing of content
  6. Team Training
    1. Winning the content war requires fast-pace and timely creation and publishing of content. This can be thwarted if your content authors are unsure of standards, styling guides and various roles within the workflow.
    2. When staff is added or roles change, onboard properly to maintain the effectiveness of your governance policy and make certain your content authors and content marketers are committed to the guidelines you’ve set
    3. Advise your team on who they should notify if there is a security breach and the important next steps to prevent escalation and harm
    4. Equip your team with access to a robust knowledge base of frequently asked questions, videos, tutorials and any other resources (like this one)
  7. Content Auditing
    1. Many companies fall into a habit of waiting for a website redesign to review their website content. This is often time consuming and expensive.
    2. Why wait for a redesign? Review and audit your content periodically as a rule and remove unused or stale content so content authors don’t have to wade through it to get to what’s relevant and current.
    3. Pay particular attention to the Sitecore media library as it tends to grow and become a ball of spaghetti real fast.

Return to the Productivity Tips for Sitecore Content Authors and Experience Marketers outline.

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