For content creators, the review and approval process is all too often inefficient and ineffective.
It takes more time and effort than it needs to, and can leave teams vulnerable to mistakes and chasing content for longer than necessary. All of which can impede on deadlines and budgets.
In fact, 49% of people say “waiting for other people’s action” is their biggest productivity roadblock at work.
If you empower people with your tools and processes, there’s a way out of the woods. Whether you’re an organisation that needs to manage content internally, or an agency needing client approval, here are some common problems around content reviews and how to overcome them.
Too many cooks or not enough: Clear roles and responsibilities
With both internal and external stakeholders involved, content review and approval can get confusing – fast. Sometimes, people get involved that don’t need to, or they have conflicting priorities and agendas, so it’s vital only those need to be involved are. There can be lots of people involved at different stages of a project as this diagram from our book, Collaborate, demonstrates:
Here are some common problems people run into:
- Different content review cycles going on at the same time for legal, brand, spelling and grammar.
- Getting stuck in feedback loops which can be the real source of delayed delivery.
- Scrambling for last-minute edits because there aren’t enough people reviewing, or people don’t have clear roles.
Think about how many people will be involved in the content approval process, and what roles and responsibilities they will take.
Spend the time initially mapping out a content creation workflow and define in detail what tasks each role requires. Who is approving what at what stage, and who gets the final say? Are approval stages well documented?
Version control and visibility: Limit your channels
It’s easy to get confused with versions when multiple versions of a document are flying around and uploaded to different email threads or worse—printed. All it takes is one wrong version at one point in the workflow to cause a negative domino effect in the entire approval process. Or, you get to final approval and realise it’s an old document, and it’s a nightmare finding the right one which can cause delays.
If you’re using Google Docs and spreadsheets, things can get confusing as time if there are too many documents on the go. You might have multiple email and instant messaging threads which can slow the sign-off process down.
Try to stick to one or two channels of communication with content. (Editor’s note: GatherContent is perfect for this) Real-time editing and revisions are easier, as you can simply @ people in the group and have a collaborative conversation around the document, keeping everyone on the same page.
Communication: Keep everyone updated throughout the lifecycle
A lack of communication can cause delays and mistakes in content. Have you heard these before?
- “Why didn’t that email go out? It was urgent.”
- “When did that go out? It wasn’t ready.”
- “That part is off-brand and sends out the wrong message.”
- “The copy is all wrong.”
Maybe people are ignoring requests, or there’s that one executive who is really difficult to get hold of? So, you get a delay, or worse, someone else signs it off before it’s really ready.
Keep clients and colleagues engaged throughout the lifecycle and process of content creation. If you involve them and get them excited about your content from the start, and set expectations, they’ll feel a sense of ownership and that makes them more likely to review documents when the time comes. This also allows them to spot problems early on and stay on top of things.
That said, like most things, content briefs, deadlines, and sign-offs can always be subject to change. This is another reason why it’s important to communicate constantly with stakeholders to ease the process.
Status of work: Create a sign-off form or checklist
Never assume that clients or colleagues know what we want from them. We need to be clear and precise with what is needed. Sometimes people are unwilling to participate or have too much to say, other times they are just busy or confused. Make it easy for them to be involved and do what’s needed, and keep them focused.
Create a sign-off form or checklist to ask them the right questions. Focus on problems, not their own solutions, and don’t ask open questions like “what do you think?” Instead, ask things like:
- “Does it meet business goals?”
- “Is it right for the audience? Is it useful?”
- “Does it adhere to our brand guidelines?”
Questions like these will nudge them in the right direction and avoid too much haphazard input.
Pushback: Be collaborative and open to their feedback
Don’t be afraid to push back on people’s requests, or you may be prone to scope-creep. But, push back in a way that’s collaborative; explain your decisions rationally in their language, focused on the business needs.
You should be expressing concerns about the project (from either side) with the intent on overcoming challenges together. So, listen. Listen to requests and concerns. Honor the changes they’d like to be made where necessary; understand where they are coming from. Leave your ego at the door.
Also, try to educate your clients and colleagues about the decisions you are making. If they understand the reasoning behind decisions, they are more likely to get on board.
Empowering people is essential for fast approvals and better content
Content creation is a collaborative effort and also an exercise in building relationships; helping each other reach goals. You have to think about the person on the other end of the computer.
Empowering your clients and colleagues from the start is the only way you’ll get them engaged enough to stay with you throughout the content creation lifecycle, so you can stay on time and budget.
As we’ve said before, “ASAP” isn’t a deadline, and “yesterday” is never a good response. But, if you have aligned people and processes, defined and assigned approval roles, a good content production workflow, and the right tools to empower people, then you’re good to go.