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The ultimate guide to content strategy and content governance

The ultimate guide to content strategy and content governance

Mike HarrisCampaign manager
19 min read
Since the introduction of the internet, the way consumers shop has changed. Consumers compare and contrast the information available to them online before making a buying decision, and as a result, traditional marketing methods are becoming less effective. Yeah we’re talking about you, outbound marketing! But hope isn’t all lost for modern marketers. Luckily with the change in buying behaviour, there has also been a change in marketing strategies. That is where content marketing comes into play.

 

Skip to Chapter 1: Why content is key to your digital marketing strategy

Skip to Chapter 2: What is content governance?

Content marketing isn’t a new concept; it is a mature tool essential in every digital marketer's toolbox. In fact, 82% of marketers will actively use content marketing as part of their marketing strategy in 2022.

Content marketing fits within inbound marketing strategies, which aim to attract users with valuable and educational content. A stark contrast to outbound marketing, whose core purpose is to interrupt customers and push their service onto them.

In this eBook, we’ll cover the benefits you can reap from content marketing, why content governance should work with your content strategy, not against it, and how to implement an efficient content creation process with the help of your CMS.

Executed correctly, content governance can stop destructive content from making headlines. Because nothing says Merry Christmas like spiking your best friend's eggnog, right? Wrong! If you raised your eyebrow at that caption, read on and be sure not to fall victim to more marketing faux pas due to poor content governance.

Chapter 1: Why content is key to your digital marketing strategy

People are now online more than ever. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic, along with increased connectivity, has contributed to exponential growth in internet usage. This combination of factors has seen the contribution of UK internet sales to total retail sales grow from 19% in February 2020 to 26% in September 2021, peaking at 37% in January 2021.

The internet has undoubtedly changed the way we shop. Consumers now use all the information available online, researching and comparing choices before buying. Google has recognised this change in behaviour as the Zero Moment of Truth or ZMOT.

What does this have to do with content creation, you might ask? Content works in tandem with the ZMOT. Providing the right content at the right time can help answer consumers' questions and get your brand in front of them while researching.

Answering the right questions – whether they are “what will make my white bedding whiter and brighter?” or “what are the best ways to get fit?” – with your content provides an opportunity to reach your target audience when they are most engaged. As Google says, “A brand that answers these questions at just the right time scores a double win: It helps improve a consumer's life and stands to gain a competitive advantage over brands that don't.”

“A brand that answers these questions at just the right time scores a double win: It helps improve a consumer's life and stands to gain a competitive advantage over brands that don't.” - Google

Buying behaviour has changed; with this in mind, marketing has had to adapt to the shift in consumer behaviour and go digital too. Businesses have to go to where the customers are. 

There are over 4.9 billion global internet users who on average use the internet for 7 hours per day - Datareportal

Traditional marketing promotion once consisted of billboards, newspapers and TV advertising. For most marketers, these activities are now secondary to digital tools such as pay-per-click programmatic and social media advertising that provide far greater reach and value for money.

Digital and traditional marketing platforms may be drastically different, but there’s one common bond between them – content.

What is content creation?

As the saying goes, content is king. Without content, it wouldn’t be possible to advertise, and generate interest and awareness of brands, products and services.

In an age where people are overwhelmed with information, businesses need to find new ways to stand out amidst all the noise. The best and most effective way to do that is through creating new, frequent and useful content that interests and engages our target audiences.

With all this being said, what is content creation?

Definition: Content creation is the process of creating information and distributing it to a target audience over the most effective communications channels. The process usually involves identifying a topic that is of high value to your target audience, deciding on the type of content (written or visual) then producing and delivering it.

Why quality content is key to your digital marketing strategy

Quality content helps meet company goals

Before creating content or even developing your strategy, you need to determine what you want to achieve with your content. Do you want to generate leads or raise brand awareness? Are you trying to introduce a new product category to customers, or do you need to differentiate your product in an already crowded market? Your marketing goals should align with your company’s goals for maximum effectiveness and impact.

Depending on your company’s objectives, your marketing goals could include increasing social media followers and generating more website leads. One thing is for sure; your goals need to be SMART. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. The acronym acts as a prompt to ensure goals are clear and attainable. For example, a SMART goal could be to increase website sales by 18% by September 2023.

Once you've set your marketing goals, every piece of content you create must align with one or more of your goals. After all, if the content isn't contributing to your marketing strategy, why are you creating it in the first place?

Quality content helps establish brand, expertise and builds trust within the market.

Trust is the foundation of all relationships. Customers' trust in businesses comes from the value they get from buying or using products and services. Making helpful content available for free allows you to provide value to potential customers before using your products or services.

Content educates your audience and is your ticket to attracting new customers and retaining existing ones. Providing your audience with consistently helpful and insightful content will keep them returning for more. In turn, they’ll be getting to know and trust you as your content establishes your position as an expert in your industry.

Quality content improves SEO and website views.

Where’s the first place they tend to go whenever people have a question? Search engines.

It’s estimated that in Google Search alone there are 63,000 searches a second - HubSpot

It’s estimated that there are 63,000 searches a second in Google Search alone. That equates to 5.6 billion daily searches – or approximately 2 trillion per year.

For those thousands of searches, hundreds of billions of web pages could be displayed as results. With all that choice, Google has to quickly determine what is worthy of the top spot for that query. It does that with the help of its algorithms.

Google’s algorithms value quality content. Among other factors, the quality of your content plays a significant role in where your page ranks. Suppose you are writing content that Google considers to be authoritative, trustworthy, and from an expert source. In that case, you’ll be viewed as a quality source of information and will reap the SEO benefits.

Quality content and SEO go hand in hand – especially if you want your content to be shown to the relevant audience right when they’re asking their questions in search engines.

The ideal position to be within search engine results is first, with a 39.6% click-through rate (CTR). After the first position, the click-through rate drops dramatically, with second and third getting 18.4% and 10.1% of clicks. By tenth place, results only average a meagre 2.1%.

Over 39% of users click on the first search result - First page sage

Ensure your content is optimised and relevant, and you should soon see your page climbing the search engine listings and increasing website visitors.

Quality content generates ROI.

Alongside improving SEO, providing valuable and engaging content is a great way to capture your audience’s attention, drive website visits and generate leads.

And the more relevant and valuable your content is, the more likely the visitor will return.

Did you know?

Content marketing generates 3x as many leads as traditional marketing whilst costing 62% less - Demand Metric

Small to medium enterprises that use content marketing get 126% more leads than those who don’t - Impact Plus

High-quality and relevant content with calls-to-action, such as a sales promotion advert that captures your audience's attention, compels visitors to dig a little deeper and visit your shop window – your website. Once they are on your website, you've immediately increased the chances of a sale, as these visitors have a clear interest in your business and are ready to discover more about what your company offers.

All that is left to do is offer them some incentive to provide their contact details and enter them into your sales funnel.

Quality content improves social media presence.

Social media is one of the most effective channels for connecting with your target audience. As of January 2022, there were over 4.62 billion active users on social media – almost half of the world’s population. According to Hootsuite, those users spend an average of 2 hours and 27 minutes on social every day.

Social media enables your business to directly build relationships with your target audience, be a part of the conversations on those platforms and drive visits to your website. However – more than any other platform – this is only possible with timely, relevant and compelling content.

Producing the right content on the right platforms is a sure way to get in front of those users you want the attention from the most. It encourages them to become engaged and learn more about your company by visiting your social media page and website. However, as always, your content has to be valuable and exciting to gain engagement from your audience. Social media is a great way to discover your audience's interest. Use it wisely and reap the benefits.

In this chapter, we’ve explained why content is important and why it is worth investing in – digital content creation is the foundation of any great marketing strategy. Now let us explore ways to produce more compelling content more efficiently.

Governing content

Chapter 2: What is content governance?

We've seen why content is so vital to your marketing activities. And you're probably excited to scale up your content marketing so you can reap the benefits. But how will you create all this content, ensure it is high quality, and keep it up to date? That's where content governance comes in.

What is content governance?

Content governance is a collective term for the systems, processes and overall framework that oversee the lifecycle of all the content your business creates. A content governance model is a set of rules and guidelines to be followed by all stakeholders across your business. These rules and guidelines provide everyone with a thorough plan of action for your content – a place that can be referred to again and again by all contributors in the content process. It’s how to ensure you publish high-quality content on time, every time.

A good content governance model helps you get the most return on your investment in creating content. It does this by ensuring that you have systems in place to help you:

  • Plan and create content in the most efficient way possible.
  • Store content in a central system and in a format that ensures it’s available to stakeholders and other systems.
  • Publish content on time, for the right audiences and on the best platforms to reach those audiences.
  • Maintain content to remain accurate and relevant for as long as possible.
  • Analyse why content is or isn’t working and why.
  • Unpublish or replace content once it is no longer needed.

Why is it important?

If your whole team vanished tomorrow, a content governance plan would ensure that you could still create and maintain the content required by your marketing strategy. Although it sounds drastic, you could hire a new team and still carry on creating great content because your content governance systems would remain in place. It also means you don’t rely on one person that knows your content process.

Increase your return on investment with content governance

How does content governance save you time?

Content governance makes it easier for teams and stakeholders to collaborate. Working with clear guidelines provides fewer headaches for marketing teams and an easy-to-follow workflow for contributors. Think about it like making a cake. If you’re working with multiple bakers, having instructions to follow makes it easier for everyone to get involved because everyone can refer to the same plan. Whether baking a cake or creating content, following directions removes ambiguity.

With the right CMS, you can create on-brand content once and publish it everywhere. Having one central place to manage and update content makes your team more efficient, as you no longer have to copy and paste content between multiple platforms.

How does content governance save you money?

As the saying goes, time is money. Cutting down the time it takes to create great content will save you money. One of the many benefits of a content governance plan is that your content should always be high-quality and on-brand from when it's published until the moment you archive it.

Poor quality and badly written content, on the other hand, costs you money. It damages your brand reputation, harms your credibility and can overshadow your best marketing efforts. Don’t just take our word for it – these marketing mishaps show why good governance can save your blushes.

Marketing mishap #1. Peloton Christmas advert.

In 2019 Peloton’s company worth dropped by $1.5bn due to a Christmas advert fail. The advert shows a slim woman receiving a Peloton exercise bike from her partner at Christmas. The present inspires her to record a daily exercise diary where she proudly says: “A year ago, I didn’t realise how much this would change me.”. Although the advert had good intentions, the delivery did not resonate with the target audience, with Twitter users comparing it to an episode of Black Mirror. The backlash to the advert, which was called “cringe, old fashioned and tone deaf”, inspired spoof video remakes. It was an expensive mistake for Peloton.

Marketing mishap #2. Burger King IWD advert.

A recent content fail from Burger King on International Women’s Day in 2021. The fast food giant tweeted that “Women belong in the kitchen” with the intention of being a light-hearted conversation starter and a way to encourage more women to take up chef roles in restaurants. Unsurprisingly, their tweet had the opposite effect and created viral Twitter content for all the wrong reasons.

Marketing mishap #3. Bloomingdale’s Christmas catalogue.

“Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking” is what the catalogue copy read in Bloomingdale’s 2015 Christmas catalogue. Yes, you read that right. The advert, which has a smartly dressed male staring at a woman looking away laughing, caused outrage online and rightly so. The creepy and bizarre ad copy alludes to encouraging date rape, which created a stir on Twitter, with people commenting, “How many people were involved in developing and approving the #Bloomingdales ad?” clearly not enough.

The moral of all these stories? Content governance can stop big mistakes from making headlines. Each of the companies involved in the cases outlined above would have had to spend valuable time and resources putting out the “fire” they started. Following a content governance plan may take longer initially, but it saves a lot of money in the long run. After all, fixing a PR crisis is unlikely to come cheap.

The savings you make with content governance are levelled up when you introduce your CMS into the equation. First, removing the need for the arduous tasks involved in duplicating your content between platforms saves your team time. By letting your CMS do the legwork and publishing the content across the channels that matter most to you, your team can move on to more valuable work, like producing new content. Secondly, a streamlined content production process requires fewer team resources, saving the money you spend per piece of content.

Collaborate On Content Illustration

How can content governance increase your ROI?

Content governance creates better quality and richer content because it makes it easier to involve multiple contributors throughout the governance process. After all, two heads are better than one. Thorough, concise and knowledgeable content equates to better content. And better quality content is more likely to be shared and consumed. The more it is shared and consumed, the better your return on investment is expected to be.

Governance is particularly helpful when you scale up content creation. When multiple team members are working on many pieces of content, it's easy for mistakes to slip through. But, when you implement a content governance plan, everyone clearly understands what's expected at every stage of the content production process. With more people involved in the content team, you don't have to worry about too many chefs spoiling the broth. You can get more content out without having to compromise on control and quality.

The upfront cost of implementing any new system is time. Content governance offers a significant return because you plan it once and follow it forever. Think of it as an investment that, once made, will pay itself off for years to come.

How do you put a content governance process in place?

So, where do you start putting a process like this in place?

Who is involved?

Begin by thinking about who is currently involved in your content creation process. They will be directly affected by the content governance process and therefore need to be accounted for. You’ll probably need to consider your:

  • Content writers – The people who propose and write content for your organisation.
  • Subject matter experts – These people might not be writers by profession, but they provide knowledgeable contributions to subject-specific content.
  • Editors – Editors make changes, check against guidelines, and ensure best practices are being followed.
  • Translation team – If you publish content in different languages, you’ll have a team, either internal or external, who help translate content into multiple languages.
  • Approvers – To keep content quality high, it’s important that you have designated people to provide feedback, make updates, submit change requests and do the top-level strategic thinking.
  • External stakeholders – Depending on the size of your team, you might have outsourced work to a PR agency, thought leaders or influencers.
  • Legal team –- Larger organisations often have a team that provides legal advice and ensures content isn’t damaging or offensive.

Depending on the size and structure of your operation, you may have some or all of these people involved in your content process.

How are they involved?

Define your content workflow by deciding who does what. Your stakeholders may already have well-established roles, but it’s worth evaluating how well these work and whether they could be improved. Get together with your team and establish:

  • Who is writing the content – is it one person or multiple people?
  • When will they be involved in the process?
  • How will subject matter experts give their input?
  • Who will proofread and edit the content?
  • Who will approve the content?
  • What is the benchmarked standard timescale and expectation for creating content?

Outline who has authority and accountability for the authoring, approving, publishing, archiving and disposal of content. Set priorities, deadlines and goals so everyone works together for the same outcome.

What does it sound like?

The next step is to establish your content and style guidelines, ensuring that your content is consistent and aligned with your brand identity. This can be a standalone document, but it can also be integrated into your CMS, as we’ll see later.

A style guide defines what your brand sounds like and why. It sets the tone and personality of the brand. For example, are you a fun and quirky drinks brand? Or are you a serious and corporate pharmaceutical brand? Documenting how authors should create content will protect your content investment. By outlining how content should look, sound, and interact with customers, your content will remain consistent and – most importantly – not confuse or alienate your audience.

How do you implement it?

Your content governance plan should be concise and easy to find. Whether you use a word document, PDF or intranet page as a basis for your plan, it should be shared with all stakeholders. There are also tools and automated systems that can help with content governance.

For example, Trello is a project management tool that helps to automate tasks and collaborate with team members. But there are plenty of alternative tools that track project progress, keep teams on track and encourage collaboration, like Asana or Monday.

Or, as mentioned above, you can implement your content style guidelines via your CMS, with your CMS effectively acting as your content governance system.

Governing your content in your CMS

Implementing your content governance plan is easier if it is enforced at the point where team members are creating digital content. This way, it won’t be forgotten, and those who are part of the content creation process can contribute without any consequences.

We can all remember an occasion when a department outside of marketing accessed the CMS and published content that didn't follow brand guidelines. It causes chaos and is a headache we’d all like to live without. Enforcing content governance in your CMS helps prevent those mistakes and gives freedom to contributors without the risk of damaging your brand.

For example – without content governance.

Julie works in finance; she’s relatively new to the company and has written a guest blog post for the company website. Julie pastes it into the blog template in the CMS and adds a branded image. She does not add alt-text because she is not reminded to do so. Julie publishes the blog without any restriction and carries on with her day. Unintentionally, Julie creates extra work for the marketing team, who now have to fix her errors.

For example – with content governance.

Julie pastes her content into the CMS blog template and adds a branded image. But with content governance rules enforced in the CMS, Julie is reminded to add alt-text with a validation message. Once Julie is ready to publish, she sends the blog off for approval before releasing it into the wild. During the approval process, the marketing team checks for errors and requests changes from Julie. Crisis averted.

Govern content with ease using standard features that are present in your CMS. In our opinion, the most helpful governance attributes in your CMS are:

  • Content guidelines
  • Content modelling
  • Roles, permissions and responsibilities
  • Workflow

Content guidelines

With built-in content guidelines, you can keep content on-brand by prompting authors to use the right style, voice and tone—no need to worry about rogue content damaging your brand's reputation. For example, adding brand and company-specific grammar into your CMS.

The style guidelines will give you peace of mind that your content is consistent with multiple contributors.

Content modelling

A natural step from content guidelines is creating modelled content in your CMS. This makes a standard, logical template for different content types, set at an admin level to ensure your content is always presented correctly. 

By modelling content, it breaks up your content into smaller chunks that are reusable assets in your CMS. Whether it’s a hero banner, definition or Author information. These chunks can then be displayed across multiple devices and platforms, knowing they are free from rendering errors.

Roles, permissions and responsibilities

Stay on top of governance with review and ownership controls. Set boundaries on who can do what and where with a publishing workflow that gets your content out fast. Define who creates content and who approves it. Set responsibilities to make your process more efficient.

Whilst all CMSs offer a varying degree of control and content governance, the features available vary from platform to platform. If you’re looking to create all your content in one place and not have it tied to just a website, then a headless CMS may be for you.

Governing content with Contensis

In Contensis, you can create once and publish everywhere. The CMS is a content repository where you can store and manage content for all your systems using the same interface. It is that simple to provide content for your website, apps and internal systems from a single source of truth. Gone are the days of inefficient copy and pasting the same information across multiple channels. Save time and benefit from fewer mistakes and inconsistencies. Contensis makes it easy to get content in and out of other systems through powerful APIs.

The CMS makes it easy to implement your content governance plan with content modelling, content style guidelines and structured content. Catch mistakes before they are published with validation tools to request required information and prevent accessibility issues from going live.

A content type being created in Contensis.

Content modelling with Contensis

In Contensis, you can create a template, also known as a content model, with predefined fields of how content should be displayed, which can be reused across the CMS for consistent content creation. Content modelling saves time by reusing structured content; no need to duplicate effort across platforms.

Within your content models in Contensis, content is defined as either a content type or an entry. These predefined content states help to govern the content and create consistency across your CMS.

For example, a content type is a template. An entry is content created in that content type. For example, to add a blog post (entry), you must choose a blog post (content-type) template.

Implement content guidelines to keep content on-brand by prompting authors to use the right style, voice, and tone. Add them to fields and tabs or use them to provide context for a group of fields. Team members can use standard markdown to style the guidelines or to add links to an external style guide.

Once your content guidelines are in place, enforce them in the CMS with validation rules. These rules help to ensure your content model meets your organisational needs and brings consistency to your content. Validation offers an extra set of eyes in your CMS that applies your content guidelines for on-brand content publishing every time.

Managing multiple languages in Contensis

In Contensis, entries can be created in multiple languages with the multilingual licence key.

Editors working in different regions can create, translate and manage content in multiple languages. With peace of mind that assigned roles and permissions can specify what content and languages can be managed per user.

Distributed teams can work from one interface for multinational websites, apps and services.

Roles and permissions in Contensis

Take control over who can make changes to content in Contensis with sophisticated workflow and user permissions. Whilst using productivity features for content authors such as task lists and reminders.

Keep content consistent and controlled. Govern your content and easily control editing and approval permissions for single or multiple teams of any size with roles and permissions.

For authoring content, roles are set up to define what users can and cannot do with content. These roles are assigned to stakeholders in the content creation process and are based on their function, e.g. author, editor or approver.

Roles work in tandem with the publishing workflow in Contensis, as each entry passes through a workflow before publication. There are two standard workflow types, with the option for custom setups depending on your organisation’s needs.

Your permissions are closely tied to the workflow process, e.g. View, create and save (basic workflow), submit or revoke, approve or decline, publish, unpublish or delete (approval workflow).

The publishing process in Contensis

Return on your content investment

Your CMS will help improve your return on content investment. With handy features that you cannot rely on in the likes of Microsoft Word or a Google document. For example, you can action user permissions to restrict access to publishing or approving content. The CMS will physically not allow the content to escape into the wild until someone has checked it over.

Finally, as mentioned earlier in this eBook, repurposing content is key. With structured content, you have a library with chunks of information that are ready to be re-used for any channel - again and again. Content is time-consuming and expensive to produce. If you update it regularly with new information, using these “chunks”, you stop it from going stale. Another good use of your investment with your CMS and content.

Summary

So what have we learnt here?

It has been proven that inbound marketing strategies are key for lead generation. Consumers are wise to outbound marketing and aren’t interested in being spammed with cold calls, adverts interrupting their daily life or being mass-marketed with topics that aren’t relevant to them.

Inbound marketing strategies and content creation can save your business from wasting time and energy barking up the wrong trees. And instead, you can put your energy and time into something that will bear fruit.

But creating content isn’t a quick or cheap business. It can be a significant time and resource investment for your company that, if you do get right, will create a worthwhile return on investment. Interested in hot leads? This is the way to get them!

However, like most things, good things come to those who are patient and put the right foundations in place.

Content governance is the foundation for getting started with content. It gives all stakeholders a plan to manage the creation, editing, approval and publishing process. It offers guidance and defines the workflow from creation to publishing. It also helps avoid sticky situations and marketing mishaps that will give you sleepless nights.

Don’t dive straight in with content that doesn’t align and isn’t well thought out. It can end in disaster for some brands, as we found out earlier.

The right technology certainly plays its part in content creation and content governance. Your CMS should be at the centre of your marketing operations, and if you choose the right one, it can be the place you create once and use in multiple places.

With Contensis, your team can work smarter, not harder.

Mike HarrisCampaign manager

Mike is a campaign manager in our marketing team. His background is in digital marketing, specialising in search engine optimisation and pay per click advertising.

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