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by Lindsey Kempton
Cross-posted with permission from Blue Coda
Many higher education institutions struggle to keep up with the demands, expectations and innovations, in both the service provision and use, of web content management. Most senior members or staff don't have the time to implement changes or plan strategies, and those who do have responsibility for things like websites, blogs and student forums often find themselves without a coherent game plan. Simply having a digital presence but not maintaining it is selling yourself short. Without proper oversight of your digital content, it’s difficult to answer these vital questions:
- How do we measure our site’s ROI?
- How do we know what content is really engaging and useful?
- Are we managing our content creation responsibilities well?
- How can we improve?
Content governance is a comprehensive content lifecycle process that includes several stages, but here are a few steps to get you started.
Define Dedicated Content Creators and Editors
A surprising number of higher education institutions lack a dedicated content team, and the efficient use of resources is strained by the pressures on various members of the administration team who have to fit content management around everything else. Content governance not only determines what kind of information is published, but who is responsible for the different aspects of it’s creation and publication. It’s important to recognize that this isn’t a “nights and weekends” task that can be tacked onto a staff member’s existing responsibilities. Content is the lifeblood of your website, don’t set it up to fail.
Create an Editorial Style Guide
Lacking an encompassing and managed content strategy combined with many different departments and goals, it’s easy for the college’s editorial voice to be lost amongst many individual ones. This leads to a disjointed experience for users. To avoid this, it’s important to create an editorial style guide for all digital content for content creators to follow, and ensure that content editors are experts on the college’s editorial style and voice.
Baseline and Track Your Progress
In order to answer many of the questions we posed at the beginning of this post, you need to know where your content started and where it’s going. First, take a baseline measurement of your content metrics. How many pieces of content do you have? When was the content on your site last updated? How many visits does each piece of content have? How many visits, by month, does your site have?
Tracking these kinds of metrics will allow you to demonstrate progress and ROI to sell the success of your content governance process.
Every institution is different. Some will have dedicated online content teams, most will not. Some will have student forums and digital learning environments built in to their websites, others will not. Time, resources, goals and agendas vary widely, and content governance in higher education is necessary to ensure that each individual institution is using their resources in a way that most benefits their audience. Along with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, it’s also necessary to determine and manage tools, training and the process of publishing itself. Without clear governance, you end up with too many cooks, too few resources and a confusing online presence.
While it may only be one facet of your institutions online presence, marketing is a deciding factor in what is published and when.
Most content requires news, facts and information, and members of different departments won’t always be aware enough of the dynamics of the web content team to fulfill their roles adequately without management. Papers can arrive too late for publication, reports can go missing; you end up in a situation where everyone thinks everyone else is responsible for something until it doesn’t happen and you then discover that no one is.
Owing to the general freedom of the internet itself, coupled with the decentralized organization of higher education institutions where many different departments have autonomy, content governance in higher education can be seen as a restrictive, even repressive, measure. In reality it’s about optimizing your use of an increasingly vital resource. Tone, language and the objective of published content need to be considered alongside the content itself, and unified within a framework of good practice. An effective strategy is really the only way to make sure that results are measurable, and governance is the only way to make sure that good results are repeatable.
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