Building Successful Teams for Website Governance

Posted: March 4, 2015

We talk a lot about the importance of website governance. We’ve made conference presentations, conducted governance workshops for clients and provided consultation to help implement a governance plan on campus. In this blog, we’ll dig a little deeper into the teams that are ultimately responsible for the successful governance of your institution’s website. As we’ve said before, your website is a big investment and serves as your primary marketing tool. You want to be sure that you’ve got your best, brightest and most qualified team making decisions for the future of your site.

“Creating governance organizations helps in several ways. It facilitates development and enforcement of guidelines and best practices, of course. But also builds ownership and provides continuity for the necessary ongoing work of web communications.”

– Richard McDevitt, Director of Marketing at UNC Charlotte

For a governance plan to be successful, we recommend the following teams to help inform and enforce decisions across your web presence. From visual design to content creation and publishing, effective governance will ensure that your website stays on strategy and accomplishes the goals of your institution.

Web Management Team (WMT)

The Web Management Team handles the day-to-day management of the website. They are ultimately responsible for the administration and overall success of the website. This team should consist of marketing and communications resources, content creators, graphic designers, webmasters and information technology. The WMT are the boots on the ground. They are finding and telling the stories that will reach your target audiences.

This group is typically broken into four types of roles:

  • Unit Leaders are responsible for driving the overall content strategy including positioning, messaging, tone and voice.
  • Content Owners determine what type of content gets published, how frequently it gets published and who publishes it.
  • Content Editors are responsible for reviewing and editing content for grammar, content standards, tone and voice before it is published.
  • Content Contributors are experts in specific types of content and are responsible for creating content in their area of specialization.

An essential part of a governance plan are the guidelines that drive content creation. The WMT is responsible for ensuring that all content adheres to institutional guidelines (policies, procedures, etc.). If content does not meet the set guidelines, the Web Advisory Committee will take action.

Web Advisory Committee (WAC)

The Web Advisory Committee provides broad-based input on all website issues. They are responsible for overseeing the strategic vision for your institution’s website and providing broad-based input on web issues to the WMT.

The WAC should include representatives from across your institution. Ideally, you’d want to include the most influential people from each unit who ‘get’ what you are trying to accomplish. Members of this WAC will serve as website evangelists to build support for your website goals across campus.

Below is a list of units that should usually be included on this committee:

  • Marketing and Communications
  • Information Technology
  • Undergraduate Admissions
  • Graduate Admissions
  • Specific Colleges and Programs
  • Athletics
  • Advancement / Giving / Alumni Relations

While the WAC is a extremely valuable in gaining consensus on website decisions across campus, all major decisions are ultimately finalized (and funding approved) by the institution’s Executive Leadership.

Executive Leadership

It is critical to have Executive Leadership present at key milestones throughout the creation and implementation of your governance plan. By simply being visible at meetings and presentations, they will assist with building credibility and encourage compliance with your governance rules.

If certain contributors are not adhering to the governance plan, Executive Leadership has the authority to take action and enforce the rules and policies. One way to help ensure that the content being produced is of the highest quality possible is to encourage collaboration across campus to build a strong community of contributors.

Informal Groups

We suggest that informal groups of website contributors meet on a regular basis. This allows for collaboration and generation of new and creative content ideas. Some examples of informal groups could include content creators, student bloggers, etc. This presents an opportunity for individuals to share experiences, lessons learned and best practices. Meeting on a monthly basis usually works well, but these groups should be flexible and work with the schedules of those involved to be most effective.

What’s Next?

A successful governance plan can take years to successfully implement. It typically involves a cultural shift that can be painful at times. Building a solid support system of teams to enforce the plan is an essential first step. As always, feel free to reach out with questions. We’re happy to chat.