4 Takeaways from Last Week’s Website Governance Webinar

Posted: June 4, 2013

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Thanks to everyone who attended our webinar, How the 5 R’s of Governance Protect You from the ‘Frankensteining’ of Your Website. Just in case you missed it, here are 4 things you need to know:

1. What is ‘Website Governance’ and why is it important?

Website governance is your institution’s system of people, process and policies to maintain and manage your website over time. It’s important because a website is not static. It’s something that morphs, changes and grows over time. Just like any other living thing, your website needs care. Without governance, you’ll likely find yourself experiencing the following challenges:

  • Rogue websites and non-approved sub-sections
  • Poor content quality (bad grammar, photos, video, etc.)
  • Content and designs becoming off-brand
  • One group or person becoming a bottleneck for content publishing

2. How do I lay the groundwork?

There are four steps to laying the foundation for your governance plan:

  1. Define your goals: the first step is defining your vision for the future. Spend some time thinking about what you (as an institution) want to communicate about yourself.
  2. Conduct a current-state analysis: While you’re at it, take a look at your internal culture and define which roles and which people need to be involved. What resources exist? Do you have a large team or a small team? What types of guidelines are in place? Is your current content publishing model centralized or decentralized? Does your existing CMS handle a robust workflow?
  3. Get executive level support: It’s important for leadership to understand the value of the web. For those that don’t get it,  plenty of statistics exist to demonstrate that value. When selling the concept, remember to speak their language and use terms they care about like ROI, cost savings, culture, fundraising, etc.
  4. Build your teams: Consider a Web Management Team that includes a content developer, a technology representative and a designer. Larger institutions may also benefit from a wider Web Advisory Committee (made up of influential people across the organization) to provide status updates and act as evangelists within their units.

3. How Do I Create the Plan?

While the details will be unique to your institution, the structure of your plan should contain the 5 R’s:

  • Roles: Identify all the people who are involved in producing content for the web. This may include the ‘hands on’ people (content owners and editors), the oversight and advisory people (web communications, Information Technology) as well as executive leadership within your institution.
  • Responsibilities: Next, you’ll need to define what each of the Roles ‘do.’ For example, Deans and VPs are typically responsible for driving the overall content strategy of a particular campus unit; Content Owners are typically communications specialists and mid-level managers. They determine what type of content gets published, how frequently it gets published and who publishes it.
  • Relationships: Once you have your Roles and Responsibilities, you’ll need to define how they interact with each other. This is essentially a system of checks and balances. Who trumps who?
  • Rules: A set of documents that support the institution and keep everyone on the same page. Rules typically include tools like content standards, brand and style guidelines, social media policies, etc.
  • Review: The final R is all about ensuring people are actually following the rules and that the website is ultimately achieving its goals. You’ll need to address People (how do you make sure people do what they’re supposed to do), Process (how do you make sure you have the right processes in place) and Performance (how is the overall quality of the website?)

4. How do I put this into Action?

Implementing this type of plan will be tough. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Start with friendlies: Roll it out little by little. Find some people who really understand the value of what you’re doing and test the plan on them first.
  • Build the community: You can’t do this alone; everyone should take pride in supporting the website. In order to get everyone to support the overall goal, you need to provide training (face to face if possible), celebrate successes and encourage participation and small groups.
  • Create a home: Put all your tools (policies, standards, guidelines, resources, etc.) in one place so the content community can access them on their own.
  • Be patient: Understand that this sort of thing takes time to truly ingrain itself in your culture. You’re asking people to change, which is often difficult. In the meantime, play your part, stick to your guns and most importantly, be consistent.
  • Make it stick: Have leadership involved from the the beginning so that people see that high level of support. Stick to your policies, but be considerate of others and how this culture shift is impacting their day-to-day activities.

Thanks to everyone who attended last week’s webinar and please feel free to reach out with any questions or comments regarding this post or the website governance process.