Do you shrug when managers ask what impact your content efforts have on the bottom line? Are you tired of fighting about who does what with your content? Do you have too much content and need a better way to manage it all?
Sure, everyone knows that content is (or should be) a business asset. But how do you make it so – and prove it?
Everything in this article comes from the Content Marketing World talk, What You Are Doing Wrong with Digital Governance and How to Fix It, which was co-presented by Lisa Welchman, author of Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design, and Scott Rosenberg, director of Intel’s digital governance and operations group. (I’ve tossed in a few updates that Lisa and Scott shared with me.)
The secret to getting content – and its business impact – under control
To get control of your digital content, you need digital governance. People who govern digital content establish rules and norms that keep a company’s content consistent, on brand, efficient, and effective – and that keep the company out of trouble.
Along the way, digital governance can also snag CEO-level appreciation for the financial impact, as Intel discovered within a year of implementing its new practices. (See details below.)
Governance enables content professionals throughout the company and even outside the company “to work together and do whatever job they’re supposed to do the way they’re supposed to do it,” Lisa says.
Digital governance keeps content consistent & efficient, says @lwelchman.
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She points out that most organizations have no clear digital-governance framework. As a result, people end up fighting – project after project – over who gets to make content decisions. “When an organization puts governance in place, people spend less time fighting because “everyone knows who the content decision makers are.”
The Basics of Digital Governance: What Content Marketers Need to Know
How digital governance is evolving at Intel
Scott is charged with nothing less than protecting Intel’s brand across all online channels: web, social media, mobile apps, and paid-advertising platforms. He answers for the content generated by over 100,000 employees worldwide in this company that grossed $59.4 billion last year.
Two years ago, looking for help, Scott searched for “digital governance” on Google. He found Lisa, read her book, and brought in her team.
Since then, Intel’s digital governance has been evolving. Where its governance teams used to focus on downstream tasks geared toward ensuring content approval – legal, security, privacy, IT, and branding – they are now involving themselves further upstream in the company’s processes, creating ways that content can enable marketing to achieve its strategic goals.
Here’s how the evolution got started. In January 2015, with help from Lisa and her team, Intel reviewed its customers’ digital-content experiences. Given the quantity of content being generated, no one was surprised to learn that there was room for improvement.
- Intel had 12,500 U.S. web pages, 715 microsites, and 324 social media handles.
- Intel web portals proliferated. In one customer segment, customers had to go to more than 20 portals to get the information and support they needed.
- 85% of Intel’s digital resources were owned by people with little or no expertise in digital communication and who spent most of their time on other work.
“We had issues with our content strategy, with our user experience, and with our expertise. No wonder,” Scott says.
Lisa and her team spoke with 60 stakeholders across the company worldwide and determined that the content governed by Intel was governing well. They also discovered the following big issues:
- User journeys could be chaotic and disconnected.
- Experiences of the Intel brand were inconsistent.
- Content was bloated.
- Content teams were underusing their marketing-technology stack.
Any of those issues sound familiar?
Having established this “as-is” reality, the Intel governance team members envisioned a future in which digital governance would positively affect the company’s performance. In each of the four problem areas detailed above, they aimed for the opposite. And, instead of focusing downstream across all those areas, they wanted to push governance upstream, positioning their team to serve as digital consultants who would guide Intel’s content teams in more impactful ways.
This is how they envisioned that future:
The small blue rectangles represent goals that the governance team put in place to transform itself into a force that would contribute, in a big way, not merely to compliance but to enterprise performance.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these goals that were intended to transform the team into a strategic force:
- Provide central oversight of strategy: The governance team must align every digital experience – social media, websites, microsites, mobile apps, etc. – not only with Intel’s digital strategy but also with the product and business-unit strategies.
- Unify the brand experience: Customers must experience “one Intel” even while consuming content from across organizational silos.
- Manage the content experience: Rather than focus on content production, the governance team must serve as digital-strategy advisers for the marketing team across the company, providing early input on how to shape the content experience. For example, if a marketing group was creating an event, the governance team might say, “Here are some guidelines for planning the digital part of that experience.” Or if a marketing group was creating a portal for partners, the governance team might say, “Here’s how to do that.”
- Use marketing-technology capabilities effectively: The governance team must support Intel’s marketers around the world in taking advantage of more of Intel’s robust marketing-technology stack.
To align their efforts with these four goals, the governance team had to take some lessons to heart. The rest of this article sums up those lessons.
Figure out what content to govern, and establish your authority to govern it
Intel’s governance team started with this question: What content should we govern? And then asked: What’s within our authority to govern? “In the past,” Scott says, “the extent of our authority had not been clear to us or to the people who worked with our team.”
Several years ago (when they were focused on the downstream part of the process), to begin to address this confusion, the governance team implemented some controls over the way Intel digital experiences were launched. For example, today when people want to create something with content – a new social media handle, an Intel mobile app for iOS or Android storefronts, a domain name, or a web experience – they go through the governance team.
Establishing those downstream controls started the governance team clarifying, across the company, what kind of authority it had over what kinds of content.
Get high-level support for a governance model that impacts the business
Establishing authority in the downstream part of people’s content processes got the governance team off to a good start. At the same time, a bigger opportunity to contribute value remained untapped. To have a more meaningful impact on Intel’s business, the governance team knew that it needed to get involved before content was created.
It needed people throughout the company to invite the governance team into conversations about content planning and strategy.
The team also knew that, on its own, it couldn’t corral people to do that. Senior-level managers would have to get behind this new approach. Scott describes a serendipitous situation that gave the governance team just what it needed:
Fortunately, as we were concluding our evaluation with Lisa, our new CMO was looking to evaluate how marketing was done across this complex, global enterprise. We contributed to that strategic discussion by highlighting some of the key digital-experience issues that we had identified. That raised awareness at our CEO level.
The necessary high-level support materialized quickly. Not only the CMO but also the CEO and the CEO’s direct reports and business-unit leaders jumped on board. They all saw that Intel had a “real business problem.” And they saw that, to reach customers, the company needed to home in on digital experiences.
“This became a priority that we needed to regularly update our CEO on,” Scott says. “The CEO told us, ‘Absolutely there’s a role for the central (digital-governance) team to play in overseeing all this.’ That was music to my ears. The challenge was to implement it responsibly.”
That’s where the framework came in.
Create a digital-governance framework
After securing upper-management support for taking a more active role, the governance team adopted the operational framework that Lisa had introduced them to, including these components:
- Success metrics
Create your governance team
Scott and his colleagues started by identifying their digital-governance team, including these subteams:
- Core team – people who set the rules and standards for the company
- Distributed team – marketers in Intel’s internal business units around the world
- Extended team – agencies and vendor partners
It’s the digital governance team’s job to enable the business units to self-govern, says @kscottr.
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“We’re not content police,” Scott says. “It’s our job to enable the business units to self-govern. We need to scale. A small group like ours in a central marketing organization is never going to be able to handle looking at hundreds of thousands of web pages, reviewing every mobile app, and so forth.”
The governance team identified single points of contact that now act as the company’s governance and strategy champions.
If your organization isn’t ready to create a governance team, Lisa suggests doing two things:
- Find a high-level advocate. Locate an executive who can create strategic alignment, someone who will advocate for the needed controls and lead the conversation at the highest levels. You don’t need to hire this person; you just have to find him or her.
- Identify a standards steward. Policy is important, too, but you need to have someone in charge of thinking about standards across content projects. If you don’t have documented standards – a resource where people can go to find out “how it’s done here” – then every time people do a content project, at each milestone, they get into debates. Find somebody to take on the responsibility of creating whatever standards you need and then communicate them. “That is a job,” Lisa says. “It’s not a side gig that can be piled on top of another job.”
Create your governance strategy
Next, Intel’s governance team took a deeper look at the strategy. “Let me be clear,” Scott says. “If there’s no strategy, there’s no need for governance. You can’t have governance without strategy. You’ve got to have a reason to govern.”
If there’s no #contentstrategy, there’s no need for governance, says @kscottr.
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As the team looked at the range of projects and digital experiences Intel offered, members saw inconsistencies that they wanted to focus on. For example, they looked at the content created to support company events. Some events were getting social presence; some were not. Some were getting mobile apps; some were not. Some were getting websites; some were not. There was no consensus as to what content to create for an Intel event.
“Right now our organization is facilitating a discussion about pulling those stakeholders together, people who have common needs,” Scott says.
We want to get to a common platform and a common strategy. By taking that central oversight role, we’re bringing people together who haven’t come together before.
A Content Strategy Starter Kit for Marketers
Create your governance process
As of March 2016, Scott and his governance colleagues have a weekly decision-making forum called the Digital Experience Management Review Committee. That meeting is chaired by Scott’s boss, the vice president for digital content. Every week, this committee reviews the Intel digital experience by addressing three questions:
- Is our digital content aligned with our business strategy?
- Are we using our capabilities appropriately and as much as possible?
- Is our digital content going through all the reviews that protect our brand: governance reviews, including security, privacy, and legal?
“We don’t want it to be like a court of law,” Scott says. “We don’t want people to feel burdened by it. It’s a conversation. We want to understand what people are trying to do so that we can help them go about it in the most efficient way in alignment with our strategy.”
Create your policies and standards
Included in the framework that Scott’s governance team adopted are policies and standards – things that few people get excited about. Without policies and standards, though, content can’t be governed.
Here’s how Lisa explains their importance:
Large digital teams that try to continue to improvise around digital development will inevitably make a mess online, sounding more like noise than music. Modern digital teams need to follow standards just as an orchestra needs to follow sheet music … Standards provide the structure needed for people to prepare and deliver content on a large scale while still allowing for creativity and a beautiful outcome.
As Scott says, “Policies keep us out of legal trouble. Standards help keep our content good.” For both policies and standards, business units need documentation that they can easily access. For this, Intel uses an online communications hub called the Digital Resource Center, which Intel marketers everywhere can use.
Policies keep us out of legal trouble. Standards help keep our #content good, says @kscottr. @Intel
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Digital Governance: A Primer for Content Marketers
Create success metrics
The final framework component is success metrics: measurements of the impact of everything you’re doing across teams, strategies, processes, policies, and standards.
For example, at the end of 2016, one year after putting its new governance framework in place, having trained over 13,000 employees on the new digital-governance processes, Intel came up with the following success metrics:
- The number of web pages on Intel.com dropped from 12,500 to 10,800.
- The number of microsites dropped from 715 to 494.
- The number of Intel social media handles dropped from 324 to 123.
- The number of mobile apps dropped from 38 to 22.
- Upstream engagement with content teams increased 250%.
- ROI was “significant,” according to Scott.
As to the explosion of “upstream engagement” – marketers across the company approaching the central governance team regarding all kinds of digital experiences (web, social media, mobile apps) before they get into production – Scott clarifies:
We started in late Q1 at approximately 20% upstream and ended Q4 with 70%+. Our target in 2017 is 90%+ and we’re well on our way. This is significant because it tells us (1) marketers across the globe are aware of our governance framework and process, (2) marketers are following the governance framework, and (3) marketers are starting to see the value through repeat early engagements.
While the ROI details are proprietary, Scott says his team “developed a model with finance (team) that quantifies cost savings and cost avoidance for our governance efforts. This ‘calculator’ is immensely helpful in demonstrating the business value of governance efforts focused on content synergizing and reduction (one focus area for governance).”
[email protected]’s digital governance is yielding significant ROI, says @kscottr. #contentstrategy
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Success metrics like those listed above are proving to content teams and executives throughout Intel that following their digital-governance framework pays off.
Decide on your deciders
As Lisa says, “Most digital-governance challenges come from not knowing who’s supposed to decide things. We’re not talking about micromanaging. We’re talking about supporting people in doing their jobs.”
Most digital-governance challenges come from not knowing who’s supposed to decide things, says @lwelchman.
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Since Intel’s CEO holds the central digital-governance organization responsible for digital experiences, Intel’s decider is the vice president for digital content. “That doesn’t mean that she can answer every question,” Scott says. “She relies on our business-unit leaders to say what aligns to our business strategy, and then she figures out what aligns to digital strategy, which she owns.”
This shared ownership has been helpful; in many cases, the business-unit leaders don’t even know that a certain content project is in the works. “They love that we’re going back to them and validating” their content plans, Scott says.
Communicate your governance framework
Once Intel’s governance team defined its operating framework and decided on its deciders, the team had to get the word out. They did that from both the top down and from the bottom up.
The vice president for digital content met with every business-unit leader and explained the new operating framework, that it was a collaboration, and that expertise exists both in the business unit and in the central governance team. The business unit has deep expertise about its audiences and products; the governance team has deep expertise in digital content.
Together there was a win-win and a formal partnership. Every business unit has been very supportive of this approach. This was mind-blowing to us because we were expecting push-back. But since we started by stating a business problem, and since we had the CEO’s support, it helped things happen quickly.
Since top-down communication doesn’t necessarily trickle down to every individual doing the work, Scott’s team sent a lot of emails to those who produce digital content across the company. The emails laid out things like what the recipients needed to know about the new decision-making forum, how to engage with the digital-governance team, and how to succeed with the content the employees care about.
Position governance as an enabler
When you think about governance, you can’t help thinking “control” – including the kind of control that keeps you from doing the things you want to do. Scott understands this well: “I know first-hand that resistance to centralized control. When I was a business-unit marketer for Intel, the last organization I wanted to deal with was the organization that I’m now part of.
“We have been tested a few times,” Scott says. Once, a business unit went against a decision that came out of the weekly Digital Experience Management Review Committee forum and was about to launch something at Intel’s largest conference of the year. Scott got word of it and let the business unit know that it was unacceptable. The business unit didn’t launch that content.
Ideally, though, business units see the governance team as an ally. Scott compares digital governance to air-traffic control. Air-traffic controllers create order in what could be a dangerous, chaotic environment. As Scott says:
We are collaborative partners. Throughout every engagement, we demonstrate the value. For example, we’re bringing together people from various business units that have never spoken to each other before. We’re helping them avoid having to invest in separate capabilities and tools that we’ve already invested in centrally. That type of central oversight enables people to do high-quality marketing.
In a large enterprise, business units must not only follow the central framework but also develop their own frameworks within it. “I’m excited that Intel’s business units are now governing themselves and acting as partners with us,” Scott says. “Otherwise, we could never scale governance to the level we need to.”
How Do You Connect Content Silos? Crosswalks!
Scott considers digital governance sexy, and he has the numbers to prove it. How about you? Has your governance framework turned your CEO’s head? If so, how? Let us know in a comment.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
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