So, your organization has honed an approach to content that is working well.  You want to keep it that way–and achieve even more content success. As you plan your content operations, consider establishing a center of content excellence. Let’s take a closer look at what it is and how it can help your organization succeed with content at scale.

Definition of Center of Content Excellence

A center of content excellence (CCE) is a hub (virtual or physical) that concentrates expertise and resources to achieve world-class content capability.

In our experience, a CCE addresses content governance, content education / empowerment, and content technology to some degree.

A CCE brings together people, tools, knowledge, and other kinds of resources around content, focusing and directing them to maximize value. Particularly in larger organizations, content professionals may be embedded throughout teams and departments, but never really connect with each other. A centralized hub can help mitigate that fragmentation.

 center of content excellence diagram
A CCE can serve as the go-to resource on content governance, guiding principles, and standards; provide training and educational resources; and facilitate technology selection and adoption.

 

For starters, a CCE can help bridge silos and foster collaboration in mid to large organizations, as well as provide a forum to facilitate peer review. It’s the ideal hub to manage adherence and changes to style and standards for higher quality and more consistency in best practices. 

It can serve as a space to share knowledge, expertise, and strategy to upskill and empower, including when it comes to onboarding new team members or partners. In addition, a CCE is well placed to set and track KPIs and share lessons learned as a result. And it can assist in securing resources, such as content technology, and using them effectively. 

Why Care About a Center of Content Excellence?

In our most recent study of content operations, we identified certain shared factors that set apart top performing organizations. For example, 100% of thriving organizations regularly evaluate content impact and success. And they all say their team has a clear content vision that has buy-in.  None of these companies struggled with inconsistent content strategies, lack of training, alignment of content to priorities, or technology. 

In contrast, some common challenges were seen across the board. More than half of participants said that communication across silos is problematic. Almost half reported problems dealing with red tape and bureaucracy. And nearly 4 in 10 reported not having the tools, technology, resources, and organizational support to succeed.

The beauty of a CCE? It addresses many of these content operations success factors. Let me walk you through how.

Communicating Content Vision, Strategy, and Standards

We’ve established the importance of a well-communicated content vision. A CCE, by its very design, can help remind people of the vision and reinforce the strategy as well as supporting standards. And it can help break down barriers and aid communication across enterprise silos. 

Empowering the Right Content Roles

Modern content roles call for a variety of skills, and content-specific training is offered by the most successful organizations. What better way to deliver that training than through a dedicated CCE?

Evaluating or Measuring Content Impact

When it comes to evaluating content impact, the most effective organizations consider return on investment, a metric that a CCE can assist with defining and reporting on. Whatever measures you use, however, a CCE can prove a valuable resource: acting as a source of knowledge, lessons learned, research, results of experiments and testing.  These are insights that can be valuable to the organization beyond the single content project or team that originally delivered them.

Giving Attention to Content Technology

Finally, you can call on the expertise found within a CCE to facilitate effective use of advanced tools and make the most of the resources at your disposal. You can form a committee with a CCE to inform decisions about content tools and technology. You also can encourage wide adoption of selected content tools or technology by adding training resources and sharing tips or best practices to get the most out of them.

Now that we’ve established the benefits of a CCE, let’s turn our attention to implementation. 

Implementing a Center of Content Excellence

Ready to get started building out a CCE? Here are a few of the steps to plan for.

  • Pitching and winning support for your CCE. It might be as simple as asking your supervisor for their blessing. Or you may need to build a business case for the time and resources setting it up will take.
  • Sourcing and / or creating materials, documentation, and training resources. If there are content specialists already across the organization, odds are you won’t have to create everything from scratch. But there will likely be gaps to fill.
  • Recruiting ambassadors, volunteers, and / or staff.  A CCE is a collective effort. It takes a team to pull one together and manage it on an ongoing basis.
  • Identifying a tool / location for the virtual hub. You’ll need a digital hub, whether it’s on an intranet, employee portal, Sharepoint, Teams, or even a community on Slack.
  • Developing a communication and activity / engagement plan. Before you get going, create a plan to get the word out internally. You might be able to gain support from a leader or executive who can amplify the message and raise awareness. At the grassroots level, you might host lunch and learns or create buzz through engaging launch content. 
  • Determining a process / approach for changes and updates to standards, materials, etc. Good governance practices apply to the CCE itself, too!

A CCE could be a relatively informal community of practice, driven by volunteers, with an emphasis on connecting and collaborating. Or at the other end of the spectrum, it could be a formal business unit with its own dedicated team and resources, cross cutting across functions (such as marketing, support, product, and customer success). The size and maturity of your organization will largely direct the approach you start with.

Related: How to Build a Content Operation

When I was head of content at Mailchimp, we created a whole pitch for a CCE, and then a series of activities to plan it. A lot of work had gone into evolving and maturing the voice and documenting these changes. We conducted a series of trainings and working sessions around how to apply the new voice to content, packed with before and after examples to ensure everyone across Mailchimp involved in content felt comfortable with the shift.

On that note, when rolling out a new CCE, give particular thought to the types of materials that will get the most use, like playbooks.

Creating Content Playbooks for Your CCE

Consider what kinds of playbooks your CCE will need. These could cover everything from producing and maintaining content in various contexts to standards and guidelines; experimenting and evaluation through to content delivery, automation, and personalization. 

Playbooks work well in a variety of situations. As part of our work with Home Depot, we set up a playbook containing a comprehensive breakdown of specific content templates, outlining requirements, key elements, etc. This was hugely effective in erms of helping optimize content performance. Reminders about the value of quality content to search visibility fed into larger goals around growing organic search and reaching more customers.

We’ve put together 5 top tips for a winning content playbook, and a comprehensive resource center to guide you through the process. 

Whether you choose to begin with an organic community of practice and scale up from there as needed, or establish a formal CCE from the get-go, start by defining your goals. Which aspects of a CCE are most important for your organization? Will alignment on governance, education, or technology–or a mix–be most crucial to success? Are connection and collaboration what’s missing, or are consistent standards and documentation the biggest gap? The foundations you start to put in place now will serve you well as your content operations mature over time. Good luck!

The Author

Colleen Jones is the author of The Content Advantage and founder of Content Science, an end-to-end content company that turns content insight into impact. She has advised or trained hundreds of leading brands and organizations as they close the content gap in their digital transformations. A passionate entrepreneur, Colleen has led Content Science to develop the content intelligence software ContentWRX, publish the online magazine Content Science Review, and offer online certifications through Content Science Academy.

Colleen has earned recognition as a top instructor on LinkedIn Learning, one of the Top 50 Most Influential Women in Content Marketing, a Content Change Agent by Society of Technical Communication’s Intercom Magazine, and one of the Top 50 Most Influential Content Strategists by multiple organizations.

Follow Colleen on Twitter at @leenjones or on LinkedIn.

Last Updated: June 9, 2022

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