We’ve had some interesting discussions this afternoon and now I am a-pondering.
We’re reaching the end of a project to upgrade our content management system (sort of). We’ve sailed on choppy seas throughout this project and now we’re looking to chart a course in calmer waters. Talk turned to that most vague of things – the medium- to long-term future.
Since bringing web work in-house and into the CMS around five years ago we have worked a devolved authorship model. Once trained authors throughout the organisation were responsible for creating and publishing web content through our CMS. For some of our sites the content passed through workflow to our team for a final approval on house style and accessibility / usability before actually being live.
The question has been raised today about whether this model is working out for us or not. If not, why not. Having personally trained the majority of our authors, often on more than one occasion; classroom style with practical exercises and one to one with bespoke guidance; on writing for the web and on our CMS; and provided support (drop in sessions, online, telephone, in person) I have a whole raft of views on what the answer to the question might be.
But I wonder:

  • What experience does anyone else have?
  • Do others implement devolved authorship?
  • What is the ratio of authors to size of organisation / website?
  • What skills do those authors have? Why were they chosen as authors? Is it a dedicated web author role or part of A N Other job?
  • What training is provided? What is the incidence of retraining?
  • What level of support is needed / provided?
  • Is content ‘let free’ by authors or is there an approval system in place?
  • Has anyone gone from devolved authorship to centralisation of publishing or ‘super users’ (sort of extension of the web team)? How was any change to the process received?
  • If you run more than one website do you have different levels of devolvement / approval? For example, do you approve web content but not intranet content?

I’d like to take the discussion further and if anyone is willing to share their thoughts or experience on authoring web content in an organisation I’d be really interested to hear this. Or if anyone wants to grab me at localgovcamp this Saturday (or maybe have a short session on this) this would also be great.

8 thoughts on “Power to the people

  1. Sounds like a great idea for a session at LocalGovCamp. One of those issues that lots of people grapple with!

  2. Hi Sarah – I cant speak from an organisational standpoint rather a supplier to organisations.
    That said a high percentage of our clients do use devolved authors, with a wide variety of technical skill sets and ostensibly it is (and I believe it should be) part of their day job. Given the variety of users most have workflows in place, some more stringent than others. Indeed as you implied some devolved authorship environments are run in a more centralised fashion I am on twitter @sdcsmith2000 and happy to chat or put you in touch with some of our client base if you would like?
    An interesting post, thanks

  3. Hi Sarah, IMO it touches the line between official (controlled) brand image and the trend to personal voice emerging from social media.

    Taking this further I could imaging various personal voices under one brand umbrella. There is a team of different people/ personalities/ individuals that work together towards a commonly shared goal. Some quality control regarding accuracy and accessibility might be needed. These are the voices that might engage on third party websites on behalf of the organisation so it would contribute to continuity in style and tone.

    Is there an incentive or a sense of competition for delivering excellent content? I believe that an "personal voice" approach would lead to more sense of ownership and accountability by the authors, and interest in becoming better at doing web stuff.

    Good luck

  4. Thanks for all the comments so far. You may also be interested not only in Simon's blog post which he shares above but in one from Dan on his experience and thoughts – you can find it here: http://gecko84.blogspot.com/2009/06/cms-control-who-does-what-rant-inspired.html

    Sus – interesting point and I see where you're coming from. I think, for me, it comes back to devolved authorship being good in theory. However in reality it seems that when authors are tasked with web content on top of an unrelated job role even those who are enthusiastic struggle to produce relevant / good web content which is useful and understandable to the visitor.
    I deliberately didn't go into too much detail about what our set up is and how we feel it works because I (cheekily) wanted to gather feedback without influencing others. Perhaps a later post will reveal more about our situation!
    Thanks for the comments – great to have different view points in the discussion 🙂

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