Vigilante content is all the content created (and often distributed) by people who are not tasked with creating content. It’s the content that someone thinks up and then writes. And then publishes or emails or prints to hand out at a conference. In essence, it is unauthorized content.

Vigilante content gets created most often out of dire need. Someone needs content for a purpose, and the process of requesting it and waiting for it (if the request is even approved) is too inconvenient. It’s much easier to simply sit down and start typing.

This means that the intention of the content comes from a good place. And the person creating the content is doing something heroic. After all, they just saved you from having to approve, queue, and ultimately create more content.

Intentions aside, though, commandeering this content can be time-consuming and frustrating. Simply locating the unapproved content can take quite a bit of work. And by the time you find out about it, it is quite possible that something has gone wrong.

The most common example of vigilante content gone bad has to do with branding and messaging. People who are not tasked with creating content most likely do not know the current branding and messaging campaigns. They may create something that is out of date in look and feel. Or they may create something that is completely different from the decisions the organization made for the brand.

The Problem with Vigilante Content

The potential for content problems grows exponentially with the size of the enterprise. The larger the enterprise, the more problematic vigilante content can be and the more likely people are creating and distributing their own content, outside of what is planned and approved.

The problems with free-for-all content creation are many:

  • The topic may not be appropriate.
  • The person writing the content may not be a good writer.
  • The tone of voice, style, and even grammar may not be consistent with the corporate brand.
  • Where a given piece of content fits in the overall content landscape may be unclear.
  • Managing unapproved content can be cumbersome or impossible.
  • Translation may or may not happen.

One of the most common ways unauthorized content gets written and distributed is in-country content that is created without anyone’s knowledge. Often, people in other regions need to create content that is specific to their customer base. After all, even the best localization and translation can only go so far. Transcreating content is creating content in a specific language, for a specific place or culture. It is not localized or translated English content. And transcreated content usually does not exist in any other language that the one used to create it.

I am a big fan of in-country transcreation. After all, who knows the nuances of a particular language and culture better than the people who live there? This is particularly true for content that tends to use jargon and idioms. What works in one language likely does not work in another. Transcreation, while not scalable, is the best solution for jargon and idioms.

The Solution: Content Management Best Practices

So how do you juxtapose vigilante content creation with content management best practices?

The first thing to do is acknowledge that the content is out there. Invite people who have created content on their own to send it to you. Equally important is to try not to get angry about it – remember, vigilante content is well-intentioned to fill a need.

Next, create a plan for governing the vigilante content creation processes. If people are going to create content, it works best if you provide them with the tools they need to be successful and a workflow they can use. For example, make sure your corporate style guide is easily available and that everyone knows how to find it. Lastly, be flexible to content needs for different groups. A little flexibility will go a long way towards satisfying the needs of various countries and departments. Acknowledging that certain regions will be better served creating their own content and offering to help will provide much better results than trying to eradicate vigilante content and prevent it from being created.

Content Rules has decades of experience helping customers govern and manage their content so they can provide the right information at the right time. If you are considering breaking free of the document paradigm, contact us. We can help you avoid the pitfalls and achieve success in your journey to content management.

Val Swisher
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