When you think about what makes up an effective content marketing program, a lot of moving pieces come to mind:
- Blog posts
- Video and animation
- Branded graphics
- Social media
- eBooks, case studies, and other premium content
…And so on. The workflow goes like this: get a great idea, create content around it, and publish. You get your content finished and you’re good to go, right? Not so much.
There’s a very important step missing above that can slow down even the most incredible content marketing: the approval process. Before your shiny new content can go live and start attracting eyeballs and leads, it needs to be approved by your stakeholders. This can be challenging sometimes. Larger companies sometimes need to get everyone from Marketing to Sales, IT, PR and even Legal teams involved, depending on what’s being created.
The content approval process can be a major barrier to executing world-class content marketing. Without timely approval, your content marketing program can suffer in many ways:
- With many pieces of content, timing is everything. Is your “Happy Holidays” post going to work in January?
- Content that’s sitting isn’t working for you. Every day that goes by means your organization is missing out on traffic and leads.
- When you don’t publish regularly, your audience can lose interest.
We’ve seen companies of all sizes struggle with developing an efficient internal review process, and with a new content marketing program some teething issues are to be expected. That said, there are six key recommendations we’ve found that streamline your content review and approval workflows across internal departments and teams.
1. HAVE ONLY ONE INTERNAL PROCESS OWNER
Ownership of the review and approval process is critical for moving it forward. That’s why one individual needs to oversee the project of content review inside your organization. By naming one key person as the contact and manager for content, you’ll free them to push new work through internal review and keep an eye on its current status. If everyone’s responsible, then no one’s responsible.
2. ELIMINATE SILOS BETWEEN TEAMS
Occasionally we’ve seen new content get “stuck” in a particular department and stay there for a while. Yes, everyone is busy but if your content is never seen as important enough, it may never get reviewed. It might be nice to think of your blog post on a nice vacation with Sales (hey they get to go to all the cool places!), but… no. Let’s not go there. Lines of communication must stay open between Marketing and all other responsible teams, and your content needs to be prioritized. At first, this may take cooperation at the executive level to enforce.
3. INVOLVE ONLY CRITICAL REVIEWERS
If everyone on every team wants to see content before it goes out, put your foot down. Solve the “too many cooks” problem by setting one, or at most two, people to be involved in review from each team or department involved. As the official representatives, they need to be empowered to resolve any issues that pertain to their team’s expertise. Keeping your review team as lean as possible is a critical way to move content through your organization.
“Too many brands operate under the assumption that an increase in reviewers proportionately increases the content’s quality. To build a security blanket around the project, teams pull in people who are often unqualified, un-invested, or unavailable to review the content. These superfluous reviewers can not only bog down the process but may take the content on pointless or even destructive tangents.” – Marcus Varner
At the same time, however, each reviewer needs to have a backup who can take the reins and finish reviewing when the primary person is out sick or on vacation. There’s no need for your content to languish for a few days while someone is out of the office.
4. GET EVERYONE TRAINED TO REVIEW
Create an internal document that “reviews the review,” and sets out standards for each piece of the process. Everyone on the approval team should be educated in the overall process and what they specifically should be looking for when it’s their turn. No, it’s not OK for your legal team to specify a different shade of blue in your header, but they do need to look for incorrect trademarks or accidental releases of proprietary information.
Part of the review instructions need to specify the time allotted for each team’s review, and sets out how many rounds they are allowed to circulate and item for changes. Inertia can set in very quickly when questions arise, but at some point, you have to say “enough” and move your content towards publishing.
5. ADJUST WORKFLOWS FOR DIFFERENT TYPES OF CONTENT
Review time should vary depending on the content type and channel. Taking two weeks to review an eBook is just fine and highly appropriate for a high-value piece. Taking two weeks to approve a timely tweet or Facebook post isn’t, because you’ll miss the moment and diminish its effectiveness.
Accordingly, your review process and timeframes need to be flexible for variable scenarios. Where possible, set a schedule to review content several weeks in advance of when it is actually needed. Even seasonal social content can be planned ahead.
6. STICK WITH IT!
Like any new effort, optimizing your content review workflow can be a challenge at first. By following the tips above, your internal processes should get better and better over time.