Is there anything worse for a content marketing team than having a great piece of content get tied up in the approval process?
Yeah, I’ve been there. It’s frustrating, bordering on maddening. I had a batch of content collecting dust while waiting to be approved, and I pulled out all the stops to get things moving.
First, I tried email. After finishing a batch of assignments, I sent a long, detailed message to our content SMEs and stakeholders outlining each piece of content. I asked them to pretty please use the “track changes” feature in Word when making their edits.
That email had a deadline, and I sent a reminder email as the deadline approached. And another. And another after the deadline had passed.
I tried urgency tactics like “I’m going on vacation and would really, really like to get this content approved by the time I leave” and “the sales team is really eager to get this content out there.” Still, no luck.
Slack messages didn’t work either.
Then I went old school and printed hard copies – surely those couldn’t be ignored as easily as an email! But they were.
Finally, I resorted to public ridicule: somewhat sarcastically calling out an SME in a team meeting to ask how that content review was coming along. (Note: I don’t recommend you resort to that).
Question The Approval Process
Our company likes to move quickly, so our content team had a quick chat to remind ourselves that the approval process was taking too long. It didn’t even occur to us why it was taking so long in the first place (you can read more on that here). Once we talked through that, we began to fix the logjam.
Before you can begin to streamline, first you should document your existing approval process. Type it out step-by-step and see if there are any steps you can eliminate right off the bat.
Then, ask these five questions to all of the stakeholders involved in the content approval process:
- Who needs to approve content?
- Why do those people really need to approve content? Can each stakeholder give a fully justified reason why he/she needs to be involved? Do those stakeholders even want to be involved?
- If those stakeholders are given an agreed-upon timeframe to review content, and they don’t respond within that timeframe, can we move forward?
- What do the stakeholder revisions do to improve a piece of content? Are content stakeholders nitpicking over stylistic elements or are they materially changing the content?
- If we published this today and had to make revisions later, would we lose any business because of it?
Don’t expect to send a single email with these questions and get immediate responses. You’ll have to track people down just like you already have to track them down to get their content revisions.
Ideally, you might eliminate a step in your approval process just by asking these questions. Chances are someone might not even want to be involved in the first place and can be cut out right away.
Show Them The Data
Realistically, you’re going to run into roadblocks – colleagues who will still insist on delaying the process. When that happens, you’ll need to be armed with data. Here are two ways to make your case:
- Find a piece of content that took too long to get approved. Highlight for stakeholders what was changed between the first and final draft – which will likely be minor edits that didn’t offer drastic improvement. Or worse, you’ll be able to show that the content quality decreased with rounds of revisions because it became too long, too complicated, and had too many voices in it.
- Coordinate with your sales team to understand the value of your marketing team delivering a new prospect. Show your stakeholders the amount of content in your queue that is being delayed and multiply that by the value of a new prospect. Put a dollar amount on it and see if the stakeholders think their input is more valuable than that amount.
Streamlining your content approval process may seem mundane in the grand scheme of things you’d like to improve from a marketing standpoint. But remember, the faster you can approve good content* the faster you can start influencing prospects early in the buyer’s journeys.
*Good content builds trust by truly educating your customers and helping them solve problems/challenges. Good content does not focus on telling the customer about what you do. Writing good content is hard. Writing content that only talks about the features and benefits of your products/services is not-so-hard.
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