Content is king, however don’t forget governance

There are some great articles out there recognising it takes skill and professionalism to consistently publish high quality, customer-focused content for local government websites.

Indeed the Government Digital Service (GDS) have produced helpful guidance to help relevant digital professionals achieve this. However, one area that is often overlooked is governance; empowering those website professionals to publish content that drives channel shift and demonstrably improves the customer experience.

In my role as digital customer experience manager in Capita local government, I’ve seen first-hand numerous fantastic web teams in various local authorities effectively disabled because they don’t have the necessary organisational support to continuously improve their web content. Worse still, these teams often know from first-hand experience, through customer website testing and analysing website analytics, what ‘works’ and, crucially, ‘what doesn’t work’. Content that doesn’t work will very likely result in a call to the organisation’s call centre or a visit to the council in person.

Time and time again I’ve observed how these web professionals’ voices are drowned out by powerful organisational stakeholders who have competing interests to publish ‘vanity’ content to impress internal stakeholders (usually their own senior managers and relevant elected members).

These issues were powerfully demonstrated in one local authority my team supports. For years there was insufficient governance in place to enable our content designers and web editors to robustly challenge content created by council services. Eventually the council recognised things had to change.

The website technology was dated and the content bloated. As part of the subsequent Capita-led project that delivered the council a new website, my team were empowered through special project governance to rewrite the entire website. The result was transformational. Our digital team rewrote thousands of web pages into a few hundred high quality pages based around identified customer user needs. The anxieties around removing such a vast amount of content never materialised. The benefits of enabling customers to find information through uncluttered search results and to understand how to access council services through clean, simple content were evident.

Over the following two years, calls to the organisation’s contact centre reduced significantly, as did other administrative overheads around maintaining such a vast amount of content, analysis of which showed most customers weren’t reading.

If local authorities want to achieve significant channel shift and improve the customer experience, they need to invest in both their digital content management capability and the governance that empowers them.

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