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Content Governance: Escape the Three-Ring Circus

By May 8, 2013May 13th, 2019

These days, working in a marketing team often feels more like working in a three-ring circus. In one ring, sales demands rivers of highly-qualified leads. In another, the CEO wants measured ROI on every marketing effort. In the last, finance expects us to deliver results with the smallest budget they can get away with. Finally, our audience calls for valuable education and entertainment. It all makes for an extremely noisy tent.

The only way to keep from going completely bonkers is to have systems and processes that work. The balancing act is to ensure that the systems aren’t so strict that they stifle creativity, especially when it comes to content creation. The guidelines for creating content are called content governance.

What is Content Governance?

Content governance consists of the guidelines that say how new content is written, what styles are allowed, and addresses privacy and security.

There are three main reasons content governance is important:

  1. To ensure consistency of content
  2. To improve the brand
  3. To minimize risk

The two parts to content governance are Editorial Guidelines and Style Guidelines. Editorial guidelines vary greatly from company to company, depending on whether they are more liberal or risk-adverse and how much of their internal and external data and information must remain private.

Editorial Guidelines

The following topics should be covered in editorial guidelines.

Privacy

Who can be mentioned or written about? (i.e. employees, company officers, board members, customers, general public) How much personal information can be disclosed? (i.e. name, phone number, social media accounts) How is permission to be acquired?

Information Security

The processes, tools, and metrics used in a company tend to be sensitive. Sometimes there are legal documents pertaining to the use of client data and internal proprietary information. What information can and cannot be used? What is the process for getting permission to use such information?

Brand Integrity

Every marketer knows the importance of keeping the message consistent with the brand’s mission, vision, goals, and purpose. Still, it’s often helpful to see those consistent messages frequently and to constantly question the content’s alignment with the brand.

Creative Commons & Attribution

If marketers are looking outside the company’s database for images and video, they should be educated in finding and attributing creative commons works, as opposed to trademarked content. The process for finding and attributing appropriate content should be listed here.

Gray Areas

Anything that is illegal or taboo, controversial, religious or political, can be considered a gray area. Of course, anything that falls into this category must align with the brand’s message, but can be valuable in certain situations. This area can be difficult to define but there should be some basic guidelines, even if it’s to ask a superior on a case-by-case basis.

Style Guidelines

AP Style is the basic stylistic guideline that most companies adhere to, although some industries may have other requirements. This list that you’re reading is not comprehensive by any means, but is an example of basic AP style.

Voice

In general, blog posts should avoid using 1st person. Sorry, we don’t care about you. We care about how you solve our problems. Of course, there are exceptions to everything, so there may be some tactical advantage to using 1st person, but rarely.

Acronyms

Even if you use the acronyms CRM, SEO, and ROI multiple times a day, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your audience does. When you introduce a new acronym, Spell It Out First (SIOF) so that your audience understands you, then use it alone afterward.

Titles

Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters, and put quotation marks around book, movie, opera, play, poem, song, television program, lecture, speech and works of art titles. Do not underline titles. Use italics for catalogs of reference material, almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazettes, handbooks, magazines, and newspapers.

Links

Links should be anchored to nouns and their adjectives, not verbs.

Numbers

Write out numbers one through nine. Any number 10 or higher should be numerical. Only use Roman numerals in a name (i.e. Henry VIII). Any number with four or more decimal places should have a comma (i.e. 1,350 or 200,000). Use 3.5 million instead of 3,500,000.

Headings

In blog posts, headings are useful to break up the text and help readers absorb one section of content before moving on to the next.

Bullet Points & Ordered Lists

Numbers and bullet points are another way to break up content and makes for easier consumption of the content.

In Summary

Content governance is meant to provide principles, not rules, and to give structure and consistency without uniformity. Therefore, it doesn’t have to cover every single possible question or issue that might arise but give guidance for general writing practices. With this, you can lower the risk without compromising creativity.

 

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Larry Levenson

Larry is passionate about inbound marketing and is a HubSpot Certified Trainer. He's learned the "secrets" of leveraging HubSpot to make marketing hyper-effective and customizes that information to help our clients meet their goals. Larry lives in Prescott, AZ, and when not at work, he is hiking or hanging out with teenagers as a volunteer with Boys to Men USA.