Establishing Governance

When investing in a new website, it’s important to have a plan for what happens after launch. For Wilkes, that meant developing a governance policy that could help us manage the website going forward.

What is Digital Governance? 

“Digital governance is a framework for establishing accountability, roles, and decision-making authority for an organization’s digital presence—which means its websites, mobile sites, social channels, and any other Internet and Web-enabled products and services.”

From Lisa Welchman, “The Basics of Digital Governance” in Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design (New York: Rosenfield Media, 2015), 11-18

Simply put, digital governance is the guidance we’ve put into place to manage our website in the future so that our new design can serve our audiences and function at its best.

What Does Digital Governance Entail?

Digital governance outlines processes, standards and decision-making authority for these areas: 

  • Digital strategy: the organization’s approach to leveraging the capabilities of the internet and other emerging technologies
  • Digital policy: guidance put into place to manage risk and ensure the organization’s core interests are served as it operates online
  • Digital standards: the exact nature of an organization’s digital portfolio, including websites, social media profiles, branding, and content and its related distribution channels

At Wilkes, we’ve put work into developing a governance guide that will be shared with all content editors once the new site is ready for launch. It outlines the overall digital strategy for the site, key audiences, policies, and standards that will help everyone in our campus community understand what we hope to achieve.

Why Does Digital Governance Matter? 

Digital governance: 

  • Enables organizations to grow and mature digitally by having consistent and clear guidance
  • Reduces uncertainty around the development, maintenance and implementation of digital strategies
  • Minimizes tactical debates around the nature and management of an organization’s digital presence
  • Makes clear who has decision-making authority in relation to digital properties
  • Establishes accountability for all matters digital
  • Is flexible to the changing needs of the organization

Without governance: 

  • Content editors can’t contribute effectively
  • Content and design is off brand
  • Investments into new web designs or technology can be wasted
  • Content and experiences are “cobbled together” and inconsistent
  • Bottlenecks exist for getting things done
  • Poor content quality is likely (e.g., inaccessibly, poorly rendered photos, typos)

While Wilkes has always had informal policies around website updates and managing our digital presence, the time has come for us to step into the next phase of maturity for our brand and develop governance standards that can help us meet our strategic goals as a University.

Best Practices in Digital Governance

Modern Campus, the creator of Omni CMS, our content management system, provides an excellent resource that discusses website governance best practices. In general, organizations that implement web governance have found that it’s critical to: 

Distribute contributor responsibilities: Developing and maintaining a website of great size and scope is quite an undertaking. To be successful, it’s helpful to have multiple contributors with appropriate training and clear brand policies everyone can follow. At Wilkes, we’ve established a hierarchy that includes multiple contributors to ensure Wilkes.edu is accurate, engaging and current. 

Designate publishers: When assembling teams to work on web properties, it’s critical to decide who can publish new or revised pages. At Wilkes, we’ve determined that content editors are able to make edits to existing pages. But ultimately, Web Services must approve and publish any new or revised pages to ensure compliance with best practices. And of course, any content editor is able to provide feedback or draft copy to Web Services to assist. 

Document guidelines: Editorial style, image standards, accessibility practices and brand guidelines should be documented and easily accessible. At Wilkes, we’ve developed this policy, as well as an editorial style guide and brand guidelines, that can assist any collaborator. Marketing Communications updates and maintains all guidelines and can answer questions regarding how we handle content, images or the University’s identity. 

Determine a final decision-maker: Occasional disagreements will happen regarding content: whether it meets guidelines, where it should be placed, etc. With this in mind, an authority should be designated to make final decisions. 

At Wilkes, Marketing Communications owns and is responsible for all web properties to ensure they align with the University’s strategic goals. Ultimately, final approval will rest with this team in the event of a disagreement. However, Marketing Communications is open to feedback and will work toward mutual understanding with all stakeholders. 

Leverage tools to manage governance: When building a University website on a content management system, it’s important to review the tools and features available to see how they may support governance. At Wilkes, we leverage user and group permissions as well as review and quality assurance tools within our content management system, OU Campus. 

Develop editorial calendars: Content calendars with regular intervals for updates can keep websites current. These calendars should include any occasions or moments when major site features (e.g., homepage hero image) might be updated, the review process for existing content, and who’s responsible for new content development or routine reviews. At Wilkes, Marketing Communications has content calendars in place for key University events, student story features, recruitment deadlines, and other milestones, as well as general website maintenance.

Looking Forward to the Future

Governance is a field that is ever-changing with the needs of web users and there are many ways to develop a policy that can support a website’s strategic goals. But in general, we’ve found that there are principles that hold true regardless of what technologies may develop or user behaviors may change.  

According to VisionPoint Marketing, a solid policy rests on developing the five Rs: 

  1. Roles – Who is involved and what roles do they play?
  2. Responsibilities – Each role should have defined responsibilities so everyone is clear on who is in charge of what.
  3. Relationships – How do these roles interact with each other and what is the hierarchy?
  4. Rules – Are there written instructions and procedures for content, branding or other functions? 
  5. Review – Who is accountable and in control of final changes? 

We have developed our digital governance policy with these best practices in mind and are excited to roll out our policy in the coming months as the new website takes shape.

Questions or comments regarding the redesign may be directed to:

Brittany Terpstra
Associate Director of Web Services
brittany.terpstra@wilkes.edu

Kim Bower-Spence
Executive Director of Marketing
kimberly.bowerspence@wilkes.edu