As I noted in my post defining ‘content strategy’, words and pictures are messy things, and organising and approving them is often a tricky process to navigate. In any project there will be many different opinions of what is ‘right’.
Content strategists, web editors and copywriters must all deal with the challenges of getting content accepted by reviewers. Here are five tips for making the process smooth and painless…
1. Reduce the number of reviewers
Every content reviewer should have a purpose, and not all content reviewers should review all of the content. So assign specialists to focus on their specialist area of the content. Don’t let Bob from supply chain review copy that is under the auspices of the sales team. Bob would only ruin it.
2. Structure the review process
Give reviewers instructions. Tell them what to look for, what kind of feedback is required, how to provide that feedback and when to provide it. Don’t let reviewers go off piste.
3. Separate style and content
This is my favourite technique for getting copy past reviewers (especially in large organisations).
The trick is to split the content from the style. So before you produce the content, you define the content with an outline. You can simply produce an outline of the content (whether it’s a page, a video, picture or audio clip) in rough form or bullet points. The outline simply details:
- the information to be included in the content
- the purpose of the content
- the intended audience of the content
- next steps – where does the content lead people?
You then give the content outlines to your nominated reviewers, along with instructions for reviewing it.
By doing this you allow people to reflect on the bare-bones content, without distracting them with matters of style or tone.
Once the outlines are approved, you can create content, using your outline as the foundation. Because your reviewers have been involved with the content already, they will be more likely to approve the finished content. And the final content reviews will focus purely on details of style and tone, because the information has been approved (by them!).
Okay, so you might think that creating outlines of every page will take too much time, but these outlines are more than a great device for approving content; they’re great to work from. Content outlines are useful if you’re producing your own content, and invaluable if the content production is being done by others, because it tells them precisely what is required.
4. Stay strong
Reviewers can be wrong. And if they’re wrong, and are requesting or demanding changes to the content that deviate from the style guide or project objectives, then tell them.
5. Have a client-side champion
If you’re producing content as an external supplier, it helps to have someone on the client’s side that believes in, and supports, your work. Your champion will need to dissuade doubters and gently convert dissenters (or crush them!).
Do you have any other ideas for making the content approval process easy and efficient? Share them!