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Photo By Marvin Meyer On Unsplash
Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

A digital/content council is a key element of an organization’s ability to create and implement a successful enterprise-wide content strategy. Here’s everything you need to know to create a smart, sustainable council that will enable your content to thrive.

I was so pleased to talk about this on Larry Swanson‘s Content Strategy Insights podcast.

***Listen to the episode***

I co-led a workshop on the topic with Jackie Pysarchuk at the 2024 ASAE Marketing, Membership, Communications + Technology conference. (NOTE: stay tuned for another opportunity to participate in that workshop!)

What is a digital council?

A digital council is a team made up of leader-level individuals representing the organization’s departments that create and/or facilitate content. In associations, those departments usually include education, meetings, advocacy, publications, marketing, and research/science. IT is sometimes represented, sometimes not.

It’s crucial that digital council members are department/program leaders but not executives. They must be familiar with the daily work involved with the organization’s programs and content while also able to see the value of working across departments. Content and subject-matter experts are fully immersed in the daily work, and executives aren’t close enough to the work to assess what is working and what needs improvement.

And importantly, since the members of a digital council are organizational leaders, when they bring organization-wide decisions to the executives for signoff, indicating that they were created by a cross-functional team, the executives are almost guaranteed to approve them.

Important note: My mental model assumes there is an internal team, often working with an external consultant, that serves as the centerpoint of the organization’s content strategy, drafting strategies and policies, facilitating discussions, communicating decisions, enforcing policies, and evolving strategies and policies.

Organizations of all sizes are adopting the concept of a digital council.

What a digital council does

Organizations engage a digital council in three different ways:

  1. Help creating policies

Good content requires many policies and processes, including:

  • Content planning
  • Publishing permissions
  • Workflows and reviews
  • Voice and tone guidelines
  • Content duplication/collaboration
  • Content lifecycles
  • Audience prioritization

These policies and processes often don’t exist – or the organization may have multiple ways of working, many implicit. Part of content strategy is to create explicit, organization-wide policies. The content strategy team would draft this, and the digital council members discuss it, bringing their individual perspectives and needs. At the end, the policies would reflect and account for the various perspectives.

In time, the list of policies is complete, to be reviewed and revised as necessary.

  1. Review major requests

Once policies are in place, the digital council’s role shifts to primarily one of prioritizing. For example, major requests, such as platform/functionality upgrades, new website sections, or revised navigation affect the existing work of designers, content editors, web production team members, marketing, or IT team. Absent a digital council, organizations often struggle to decide whether an effort is worth doing, and what it might have to “bump” as a result.

The digital council is the ideal body to make decisions like these, based on members’ collective understanding of organizational priorities.

Where policy-setting ideally involves real-time discussions, these reviews can usually happen asychronously through email or another platform. And the content strategy team can call a meeting if necessary.

  1. Serve as an escalation path

One ongoing challenge for any organization is understanding who can say no to any request. For example,

  • If an individual department, wants to use an outside agency to create a separate website for a specific initiative
  • if someone wants to create a new social media profile for an initiative
  • if someone wants to create content using a new format

…who needs to approve this effort? It can’t be just that department’s management, since decisions like this need to be documented and communicated, or it might open the door to more rogue efforts.

Similarly, if someone makes a request that gets turned down, they may want to challenge that decision.

In cases like these, as a director-level, cross-departmental team, the digital council is the ideal entity to determine the right answer.

NOTE: Being part of a digital council is very far from a full-time role for participants – in fact, council members are usually very busy overseeing a large amount of content and people. So their involvement is more like a “surgical strike,” especially after the initial policy-setting period.

How a digital council makes a difference

As a cross-functional, leader-level team, a digital council bridges organizational silos and sets the stage for enterprise-wide information sharing and decision-making.

Specifically, a digital council has a positive effect in five ways, which we abbreviate with the acronym PACTS:



Connection & Collaboration



A digital council sets priorities

A cross-functional, leader-level team is the most effective structure to enable the organization to choose among competing priorities, and also to determine priorities for significant content/digital/web requests on an ongoing basis.

A digital council establishes accountability

The policies that a digital council agrees on and communicates to each council member’s department sets the stage for consistent practices throughout the organization. Further, since council members are department leaders, they can hold the subject-matter experts in their departments accountable for following the agreed-upon policies and practices.

A digital council fosters connection & collaboration

The policies and practices a council advocates for are created collaboratively. This serves to be a model for a new level of connection. From this example, the organization realizes that disconnected or duplicated efforts don’t help the audience discover, understand, and use the organization’s offerings. Rather, effectiveness comes from departments working together to plan and execute the offerings.

A digital council ensures transparency

The nature of a council is to be transparent in its decisions, both in communicating up to executives and down to the individual departments. This sets the stage for greater transparency for each initiative.

A digital council builds sustainability

Organization-wide policies, collaborative decision-making, and transparency are the foundation of audience-centric, effective content.


Is your organization ready for a digital council?

  • The council’s formation and responsibilities should align with the organization’s content strategy maturity level (beginner, intermediate, advanced)
  • For beginners, the council may identify champions and facilitate initial conversations
  • For intermediates, the council may draft policies and frameworks for broader adoption
  • For advanced organizations, the council becomes part of the established way of working, with ongoing governance and decision-making responsibilities


To advance your own journey to content strategy adoption and maturity:


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