What is Content Governance? 4 Steps to Create a Model for Your Business

Content marketers know that creating quality, consistent content is essential for engaging audiences and driving business results. But as your content operation grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to ensure that every piece of content meets your standards and aligns with your strategy.

That‘s where content governance comes in. Content governance is the system of policies, processes, and tools that enables an organization to effectively manage content throughout its lifecycle.

Think of it like the constitution for your content. Just as a government constitution provides the framework for creating and enforcing laws, content governance provides the framework for creating and enforcing standards for your content.

Why You Need a Content Governance Model

Research shows that organizations with a documented content strategy are far more likely to consider their content marketing efforts successful. But a strategy is only as good as your ability to execute it consistently.

Consider these statistics:

  • 60% of organizations don‘t have a documented content strategy (Content Marketing Institute)
  • 63% of companies say they don‘t follow a defined content creation workflow (Kapost)
  • 90% of marketers lack a consistent brand message across channels and content types (Demandbase)

Without a governance model to operationalize your content strategy, you risk:

  • Misalignment between content and business goals
  • Inconsistent brand messaging and voice
  • Wasted time and resources on inefficient content processes
  • Inaccurate, outdated, or low-quality content
  • Compliance issues, especially in regulated industries

On the flip side, organizations with strong content governance reap significant benefits:

  • Companies that align content to audience needs and buyer stages see 73% higher average conversion rates (Aberdeen)
  • Consistent brand presentation across all platforms can increase revenue by up to 23% (Forbes)
  • 95% of the most successful content marketers have a dedicated content marketing group overseeing their process (CMI)

In short, content governance helps you maximize the return on your content investments by ensuring that every piece of content you create is high-quality, on-brand, and aligned with your strategic goals.

The 4 Key Components of a Content Governance Framework

An effective content governance model has four key components:

  1. People: The roles and responsibilities for content creation, review, and approval
  2. Process: The workflows and procedures for planning, creating, publishing, and maintaining content
  3. Policies: The standards, guidelines, and rules that all content must adhere to
  4. Tools: The technology and software that support and automate content governance

Let‘s explore each of these components in more detail.

1. People: Roles & Responsibilities

The first step in building your content governance model is defining who is involved in the content lifecycle and what their responsibilities are.

Common content roles include:

  • Content strategists who develop the overall vision and plan for content
  • Writers and designers who create the content
  • Editors who review content for quality, style, and alignment to standards
  • Subject matter experts who provide input and approve content for accuracy
  • Legal reviewers who ensure content complies with laws and regulations
  • SEO and analytics specialists who optimize content and measure performance

Depending on the size and structure of your organization, individuals may wear multiple hats or there may be entire teams dedicated to each role.

Here‘s an example of what a content role matrix might look like for a large B2B technology company:

Role Content Strategy Content Creation Content Review & Approval Analytics & Optimization
Content Marketing Manager Lead Contribute Review Lead
Content Strategist Lead Review Contribute
Content Writer Lead
Graphic Designer Lead
Editor Contribute Review Lead
Product Marketing Manager Contribute Approve Contribute
Legal Reviewer Approve
SEO Specialist Contribute Review Lead

The key is to clearly define and document who is responsible for what in your content process. This prevents confusion, duplication of effort, and things falling through the cracks.

2. Process: Workflows & Procedures

With your roles defined, the next step is mapping out your content creation and management processes. This includes the steps, tasks, and handoffs involved in:

  • Content planning and ideation
  • Content creation and collaboration
  • Review and approval
  • Publishing and distribution
  • Maintenance, updates, and retirement

Documenting your processes helps in several ways:

  • It creates a common understanding of how content gets done
  • It identifies bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement
  • It ensures crucial steps like reviews and approvals aren‘t skipped
  • It helps with onboarding and training new team members

One helpful tool for visualizing your content workflow is a swim lane diagram. Here‘s a simple example:

graph LR
A[Content Brief] --> B{Draft Content}
B --> C{Edit & Revise} 
C --> D{Approve}
D --> E[Publish]
E --> F[Promote]
F --> G[Measure]
G --> H{Update}
H --> I{Archive}

Your diagram would include more specifics on who does what at each stage, what the criteria are for moving from one stage to the next, and how long each step should take.

3. Policies: Standards & Guidelines

Policies are the glue that holds your content governance model together. They ensure that all content aligns with your brand and quality standards, no matter who creates it or where it‘s published.

Your content policies should cover:

  • Brand voice, tone, and style guides
  • Formatting and structure (e.g. word count, headings, meta data)
  • Quality criteria and editorial standards
  • Approved and prohibited topics, sources, and content types
  • SEO requirements like keyword usage and linking
  • Accessibility and inclusion best practices
  • Legal and regulatory compliance (copyright, disclaimers, etc.)

Aim to document these policies in a centralized content hub or wiki that everyone can easily access and reference. Your policies should be clear, specific, and include examples where helpful.

For instance, your policy on sourcing content might look like this:

All statistics and factual claims in content must be supported by current, credible sources. Acceptable sources include:

  • Government websites and databases (.gov)
  • Academic journals and research papers
  • Respected industry publications and analysts

Unacceptable sources include:

  • Competitors‘ websites and content
  • Wikipedia or other open source sites
  • Personal blogs and social media posts

When referencing a source in content, link to the original source and attribute appropriately, e.g.:

"According to research from Gartner, 42% of marketers plan to increase their content budget this year."

Having these policies documented and shared helps content creators understand expectations up front and reduces time-consuming rework later in the process.

4. Tools: Technology & Automation

The right tools can make managing content governance much easier and more efficient. Three key types of tools to consider are:

  1. Content management systems (CMS)

    Your CMS is command central for your content. Look for features like customizable workflows, version control, user permissions, and audit trails to support your governance processes.

  2. Project management software

    Tools like Asana, Trello, or Airtable help you plan, track, and collaborate on content throughout the creation process. They ensure tasks and deadlines don‘t fall through the cracks.

  3. Content quality tools

    Automation can help you efficiently maintain your content standards at scale. For example:

    • Grammarly or Acrolinx for writing consistency and brand voice
    • Hemingway App or Readable for content readability and clarity
    • Moz or Ahrefs for SEO optimization
    • Accessibility checkers like WAVE or Lighthouse
    • Custom tools to scan for legal compliance (e.g. product disclosures)

The key is choosing tools that integrate well with each other and with your existing tech stack. You want to streamline your content operation, not add clunky extra steps.

How to Implement Your Content Governance Model

Putting your content governance framework into action can seem daunting, especially if it means significant changes to how your teams currently work.

Some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Start small, iterate often. Trying to transform your entire governance approach overnight is a recipe for confusion and resistance. Start with the most critical or problematic areas first and gradually roll out changes, gathering feedback and making adjustments as you go.

  • Prioritize documentation and training. The success of your governance model hinges on everyone understanding and adopting it consistently. Invest the time upfront to thoroughly document your standards and processes and train your teams on how to follow them.

  • Assign clear ownership. Every role, process, and policy in your governance framework should have a clear owner responsible for maintaining and enforcing it over time. Establish a schedule for regularly reviewing and updating your governance documentation to keep it current.

  • Measure and report on results. Track metrics that show how your governance model is impacting content quality, efficiency, and performance over time. Share these insights with stakeholders to demonstrate the value and secure ongoing buy-in.

Real-World Content Governance Examples

To bring this all to life, let‘s look at how leading brands are approaching content governance in the real world:

Example 1: Intel

As a global technology leader, Intel has massive amounts of product and marketing content to manage across multiple business units. To ensure consistency and efficiency, they use a centralized content governance model.

Key tenets of their approach:

  • A content Center of Excellence (COE) that sets standards and best practices for the entire organization
  • Clearly defined content roles & responsibilities across the business
  • Standardized workflows and approval processes built into their CMS
  • Extensive training and certification for content creators and approvers
  • Automated tools to check content for accessibility, SEO, and brand compliance

Since implementing their governance model, Intel has seen a 63% reduction in time spent on content review and approval, 30% increase in content reuse and a 20% boost in content engagement.

Example 2: Cleveland Clinic

As a leading healthcare provider, the Cleveland Clinic must balance rigorous clinical accuracy with engaging, patient-friendly content. They use a decentralized governance model with strong central oversight.

Key components:

  • A central content team that sets strategy and standards
  • Subject matter experts in each specialty who review content for medical accuracy
  • Patient education specialists who ensure content is easy to understand
  • Legal reviewers who ensure HIPAA compliance
  • A custom CMS with built-in checkpoints for each stage of review and approval
  • Analytics dashboards that track content performance against patient outcome goals

Through this approach, Cleveland Clinic has built one of the most trusted and popular health content hubs on the web, driving millions in revenue from new patients.

Evolving Your Governance Model Over Time

As your organization and content needs change, your governance model will need to evolve as well. Plan to reassess your approach at least annually, if not quarterly.

Some signs it may be time for an update:

  • Content production has scaled significantly and creators are struggling to keep up with demand
  • Inconsistencies in content style, quality, or messaging are slipping through the cracks
  • Silos are emerging between regions or business units in how they approach content
  • New priorities, audiences, and channels require new workflows and standards
  • Advances in technology open up opportunities to automate manual governance tasks

Gather input from your content teams on what‘s working, what‘s not, and ideas for improving. Look for opportunities to simplify, streamline, and optimize your governance framework continuously.

Conclusion

Effective content governance is the key to unlocking the full potential of your content as a business asset. By establishing clear policies, processes, and oversight for content, you can ensure that every piece of content you create is high-quality, on-brand, and aligned with your strategic goals.

The four pillars of a strong governance model are:

  • Defined roles and responsibilities
  • Documented standards and guidelines
  • Efficient workflows and approval processes
  • The right tools and technology to enable governance at scale

Putting a governance framework in place takes time and effort. But the payoff in terms of content quality, consistency, and performance is well worth it.

Don‘t try to build Rome in a day. Start with the most critical areas and build your governance muscles over time. Regularly review and iterate on your approach as your needs and capabilities evolve.

Most importantly, prioritize getting buy-in and adoption from your content teams. Help them understand the benefits of a governance mindset and give them the training and tools they need to successfully work within your framework.

With a solid content governance foundation in place, you can create content with confidence, knowing that it will drive the results your business needs.