Imagine how different newspapers would be if the editor-in-chief didn’t have editorial control over his own paper. What would the Guardian newspaper be like if the head of subscriptions could tell the editor to feature a large subscription advert on the front page of the newspaper? Or what about if the person in charge of advertising out-ranked the editor-in-chief? We would quickly find most newspapers completely overwhelmed with advertising.
Unfortunately, this is a scenario that is all too common for websites. The web team are seen as nothing more than technicians who implement the ideas of others. If the head of sales, or the CFO want something featured on the homepage, the web team has no authority to say otherwise.
This is why all too many websites lack a cohesiveness and communicate mixed messages to its readers. For your website to be truly successful, this needs to change.
Fixing the problem
I believe that web teams should have the final say about what appears on the website. They should have the authority to reject content, remove out of date content and maintain editorial control.
There needs to be policies in place that set this down in writing, and outline ways to resolve any conflicts that arise. Your website is just too important to be left to the whims of departmental heads.
Getting outside help
I know that putting together such a policy may prove difficult, but that is where outside help can often make a difference. Having an outside, paid consultant to present this approach to management, can come across as more impartial and with more authority than an internal web team asking for more power.
These are issues that you need to be thinking about now, if you are not already.
If you are, how have you resolved them? I would love to hear in the comments. If you haven’t succeeded yet, please feel free to use the comments as a therapy tool to share your pain :-)
Update: The lovely people at .net magazine have picked up on this post and asked me to expand on it for their site. To read what I had to say visit their post on the topic.