Creating a digital communications governance plan can be a lot of work – probably too much for one person alone – and the decisions that need to be made in crafting its policies, guidelines, and practices are almost certainly not going to be made by one person alone. In most organizations, these decisions are made through consensus by a representative group of stakeholders (or their assignees).
The process for defining, documenting, and enacting such governance decisions requires (at minimum) three components:
- a team to make decisions
- a document to capture decisions
- a process to make changes
Digital Communications Governance Review Board, Committee, or Group
The first component is assembling a team that is representative of the necessary stakeholders, who are empowered to make decisions about governance. We’ll call this the Digital Communications Governance Committee, but you can call it anything you like.
The Digital Communications Governance Committee should be an advisory group to help inform policy and governance of the organization’s digital communication properties. Ideally it is led by a Chair who is well-informed about digital governance issues at your organization. The group should meet once or twice a quarter to give input on new issues and policies, as well as maintenance of existing policies. And the Committee should have representation from the main administrative areas of the organization, preferably those with knowledge of the modern web and current technologies.
These recommendations are something of a best-case scenario. In other words, it may not be feasible for your organization to convene such a group or meet as often as prescribed. That is fine.
What is important is to have an empowered team who can meet and make decisions when needed.
It’s better to do what works for your organization than to try and fail to meet an ideal.
Digital Communications Governance Document
The second component is drafting a document that captures the decisions of the Digital Communications Governance Committee. This document should describe the policies, practices, and procedures that will guide your organization’s decisions with regard to governing public digital communications.
Given that circumstances and technologies change rapidly, this should be viewed as a living document in need of regular maintenance and updating to best reflect and address the needs of the organization moving forward. This maintenance explains the need for regular assembly of and discussion within the Digital Communications Governance Committee.
Lastly, the document needs to be shared with and always accessible to the users of the digital communications systems covered by these guidelines. Adherence to the policies and guidelines diminishes considerably if they are not shared with or readily accessible by the people who need to know them. Changes to policies also need to be communicated explicitly to all who are impacted by the changes. Updating the document itself does not qualify as being clearly communicated.
Digital Communications Governance Amendments
Finally, the third component is a process for making changes to your governance policies. You will need mechanisms for making additions and alterations to your governance plans, as your organization changes, as technology changes, and as circumstances change.
Any issues regarding the policies, practices, or procedures in your Digital Communications Governance Document – or those not considered under your document – should be settled by the Digital Communications Governance Committee, and the results of which should be amended within or added to the document. That makes fairly obvious sense.
You will also need to determine how changes are recommended, how those changes are introduced, debated and decided. Can people outside of the Digital Communications Governance Committee request changes or additions? Along those same lines, there may be instances in which it is beneficial to survey staff on their use of certain tools and properties in order for the Committee to make sound choices.
Digital communications work best when their governance considers the needs of its users balanced with the interests of its primary stakeholders. Open, honest, and respectful dialogue is key to reaching the best outcomes for everyone. Add to that clear ownership, responsibility, and accountability, and your organization will be well on its way to healthy and productive digital communications.
This post is part of a larger series of posts, which make up a Guide to Digital Governance Planning. The sections follow a specific order intended to help you start at a high-level of thinking and then focus on greater and greater levels of detail. The sections of the guide are as follows:
- Starting at the 10,000ft View – Define the digital ecosystem your governance planning will encompass.
- Properties and Platforms – Define all the sites, applications and tools that live in your digital ecosystem.
- Ownership – Consider who ultimately owns and is responsible for each site, application and tool.
- Intended Use – Establish the fundamental purpose for the use of each site, application and tool.
- Roles and Permissions – Define who should be able to do what in each system.
- Content – Understand how ownership and permissions should apply to content.
- Organization – Establish how the content in your digital properties should be organized and structured.
- URL Naming Conventions – Define how URL patterns should be structured in your websites.
- Design – Determine who owns and is responsible for the many aspects design plays in digital communications and properties.
- Personal Websites – Consider the relationship your organization should have with personal websites of members of your organization.
- Private Websites, Intranets and Portals – Determine the policies that should govern site which are not available to the public.
- Web-Based Applications – Consider use and ownership of web-based tools and applications.
- E-Commerce – Determine the role of e-commerce in your website.
- Broadcast Email – Establish guidelines for the use of broadcast email to constituents and customers.
- Social Media – Set standards for the establishment and use of social media tools within the organization.
- Digital Communications Governance – Keep the guidelines you create updated and relevant.