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You can have all of the structure and organization in the world when it comes to your own creative process. None of that matters if you’re stuck in a complicated approval process.
Before launching Slope, a workflow tool built for teams producing visual content, we started out as a creative agency. We worked with marketing teams to produce visual content for hundreds of projects and campaigns.
Whether working with clients or talking on sales calls, one of the biggest weak spots we see in content marketers’ workflows is getting their content approved. We want to share five best practices that we’ve found will correct a lot of common mistakes that are costing marketing teams time and efficiency.
One of the keys to effective feedback is timing. Everyone knows the risk of reviewing work too far along in the creative process - getting things wrong without enough time to change them. It’s basically self-evident. But an equally damaging, and commonly made mistake is combatting that by reviewing too early in the creative process.
As a stakeholder, you want to make sure the content you’re responsible for is meeting its requirements and that often translates to checking in with your content creators early and often. But reviewing too early can interrupt the creative process, and disrupt the cohesion necessary to make content compelling.
It’s better to be clear about your expectations up front and give feedback on a rough version than to micromanage a piece of content’s creation. Otherwise, you’re spending time working on a piece of content that could be better spent elsewhere.
Once a piece of content is ready for review,, giving insight into the specific type of feedback that a team is looking for will save a lot of time and frustration. Asking vague questions like “what do you think?” or “how could this improve?” is going to yield equally vague feedback. Instead, be specific in the areas in which you’re looking for feedback (and the areas you’re not).
Let’s say your team is producing a video testimonial, for example, and you want to collect feedback on the first version. By letting your reviewers know that all you’re looking for feedback on is the video’s story (and not the color correction or audio mixing), you won’t get requests to do work that’s meant for further along in the process.
Instead, contextualizing your feedback requests allows the reviewers to focus in on what actually needs reviewing, allowing for higher quality input.
The purpose of sending a piece of content through the review process is to make it better, not highlight the shortcomings of the project or the person who made it. Great feedback should always suggest practical ways to move forward.
One way to make sure your feedback is actionable is to make sure it’s specific to an issue that needs to be resolved before the content is ready for its next step. If you find you don’t like something, ask yourself why and what you would do to improve it.
When offering ways to move forward, make sure your suggestions stay within the original scope of the project. It isn’t fair to complain about something missing that wasn’t addressed in the creative brief, or that is a result of limited resources.
If your feedback doesn’t offer up a solution that can be acted on within the necessary timeframe, you might want to reconsider giving it.
Requesting feedback is different from requesting approval, and one way to practice healthy reviewing habits is to separate the two into their own processes.
Not everybody who needs to review has the power to approve, and not everybody who does have that power needs to be involved in reviewing at earlier stages in the process. Crossing those paths results in a messy situation that negates all of the best practices we’ve talked about so far!
Instead, keep the review process tailored to specific stages of the creative process and only once it’s ready to be approved should the final stakeholders be brought to weigh in with their opinion.
Reviewing should be about changing and shaping the content; approvals should be about if the content in question is good enough to be published (or whatever the next stage is).
You’ve been following the best practices lined up above, and have collected some great, insightful feedback that has lead you to the final approval stage. The last thing you need is to collect approvals from six different stakeholders at this point in the process. If you’ve thoughtfully separated your reviewing and approving processes, then you won’t have to.
Instead of having a committee of content gatekeepers, try involving some of those stakeholders earlier on in the process. Have the brand department chime in while reviewing the overall message or story; have legal chime in after you’ve drafted in copy. By the time the content gets to the one or two approvals needed to published, it will be in better shape, they will be more aware of it, and more likely to say yes. You also leave less room for dialoguing that should have happened earlier in the feedback process.
Use these best practices to boost your review and approval efficiency, regardless of what type of content you’re creating. Make sure to share your favorite, and tell us below in the comments!