Five Key Ways An Association Can Safeguard Its Website

By Guest Blogger Tony Poilluci

The majority of people today learn about your organization initially online. That usually means you must have a website presence to clearly articulate who you are and what services and products you provide. The challenge is that as you develop and maintain that website, many members of your association will want to add, modify and delete content to keep it up to date or meet their needs. If that process occurs haphazardly, the result will make your website hard to read and navigate and discourage visitors – who include potential members, customers and partners – from wanting to discover more about you.

You need to maintain the integrity of your website with a web governance policy that safeguards the integrity of your website. A governance policy that clearly establishes rules and procedures around how your organization manages and publishes content to your website will make its establishment and any future changes occur smoothly and sensibly so that anyone coming to your website can understand where he or she needs to go to find information on it.

Developing the Policy

Many considerations and decisions must be thoroughly reviewed, analyzed and agreed upon by a number of different stakeholder groups when creating a governance policy. Roles and responsibilities need to be established, job descriptions may change, technology will play a big factor and the overall culture of your organization may need to shift during this period. Therefore, you will want to be prepared to address the following tasks:

Map out your current content publishing workflow.

Understand the current content creation, approval and publishing processes your association has in place. With a content publishing audit, you will gain an understanding of who is involved (roles), what they perform (responsibilities) and who they work with (relationships). Roles may include content contributors, content owners, unit leaders, web management teams, web advisory groups and leadership positions.

Include as many stakeholders as you can at this point, and ask what is working and what needs improvement. Their input will provide you with everything you need to hear and probably inspire you with a few good new ideas.

Afterward, document your management structure. By understanding your current workflow, you can leverage its efficiencies and address its deficiencies.

Plan out your ideal-state approach to publishing content on your website.

With a map of the current system drawn out, decide whether your current management approach will work for the website in the future. Expect to make some modifications or improvements, because you will be considering many critical questions.

For example, how centralized will your approach be to creating, approving and publishing content? Will one person or department create and publish all content, or will there be a number of content publishers from different divisions? Will the workflow have one designated reviewer to accept, edit, reject, send back for revision and publish content, or will there be a governing body that is ultimately responsible for the quality of content on the website? If so, how will this group function and what will be its role? Will a hands-on web team report to them or simply pull them in on a periodic basis for guidance?

Additionally, will all content need to be published on the website, or can stakeholders publish to their own social media channels? If so, how will those social media channels leverage the website and vice versa? These need to be answered upfront – otherwise, you will have constant turf battles in your association over what belong on your website and where it should be located.

Choose the right content management system (CMS) for your institution.

When picking which technology to manage your website, consider whether an enterprise or open source option will work best for you. The major differences between the two choices are workflow management and cost. Open source CMSs typically lack robust workflow management and cost less, while enterprise options have stronger workflow management at a higher price.

Additionally, discuss what types of content can be edited on the website (text, images, videos, etc.), what platform will your IT services team (or outside vendor) will be best be able to support and how much customer support you think you will need. Going with these responses can help you avoid headaches when you find your CMS is inadequate for handling your present and future needs.

Develop content creation standards and best practices.

These standards will help save writers and editors time by creating a uniform system of rules to follow with content. Determine what sort of writing style would you like to incorporate in your content (MLA, APA, AP and Chicago are commonly used ones), whether you will write in first, second or third person, and what brand guidelines you have to incorporate in your approach to content. For example, if there are certain terms your organization has banned due to their negative connotations, make sure the same rules apply to all your website content.

Determine how success will be measured.

To help decide on proposed changes to your site in the future, establish how you will evaluate the performance of the website and the people involved with it. Conduct periodic tests to assess your website’s usability and success. Consider having a web advisory group or similar body review content occasionally to make sure all topics are presented appropriately.

An organization’s website can deteriorate because it lacks the proper governance policies and review guidelines, resulting in contradictory writing styles, content arrangement and tone of voice. This eventually forces a website redesign, which is an expensive and time-consuming process. By developing and following a governance model tailored to your needs and structure, you can prevent that development and ensure your website will serve its audience and maintain its integrity well into the future by presenting a consistent voice and organizational structure at all times.

Tony Poilluci is vice president, strategy and creative for VisionPoint Marketing. VisionPoint Marketing provides strategic consulting, development, and execution of online marketing solutions for mid-sized organizations. Recognized as a leader in integrated marketing programs, VisionPoint specializes in web design, search marketing, branding, social media, email marketing and web statistics analysis.