Companies crave content—high-quality, timely, and accurate content that is brand supportive and designed to connect and compel target audiences to some desired action. To achieve these goals content providers, publishers, and organizations must establish content review processes. These processes generally involve multiple touchpoints, and many eyeballs, reviewing content for a wide array of reasons—from grammar, spelling, and style compliance, to SEO, content accuracy, and more. Content marketers working for organizations in regulated industries will find themselves subject to even more scrutiny.
Unfortunately, more reviews required means more costs and sometimes what some would argue is a process designed to squeeze the life out of content that has been carefully crafted.
Is your content review process out of control? If so, the following key points can help you streamline your process without giving up on quality, accuracy, and timeliness.
A Shared, Clearly Communicated Vision
Steve Kurniawan is responsible for content marketing and growth strategy for Nine Peaks Media, a performance-based digital marketing agency. As a freelance writer, he says he has encountered many different forms of review processes. Based on his experiences Kurniawan believes that the most important part of content creation is the briefing process. “The more detailed the briefing is, the easier for me to produce the content, and the easier the review process will be as we can always go back to the initial brief—and I can also use the brief to defend my work.”
Importantly that brief should be agreed upon by all of the principles who will be involved in content review—it is, in essence, a shared vision of what success looks like.
Each reviewer must also fully understand their role in the process—what it is and what it isn’t. In addition, it should be clear whether input is being sought “under advisement” (meaning the project manager will take it into consideration but will make a determination of whether/not to incorporate the feedback or recommendations) or “as direction” (meaning the feedback is intended as “you must do this”).
An important role in an efficient content review process is that of project manager. This is the point person who will be charged with gathering and considering inputs, determining which inputs are relevant and required and keeping the lines of communication open between all of those involved in the content review and creation process.
A Review Process That Makes Sense
Too often review processes become circuitous, with changes upon changes being made until the final, edited copy is, at best, bland—at worst, incomprehensible. Consider for instance the following process:
- Copy goes to a copy editor to review for grammar/spelling/adherence to style—and possibly through a program like Yoast to address readability issues
- Copy through SEO review as the writer painstakingly ensures that the right numbers of words/phrases have been used the right number of times
- Copy goes to an internal subject matter expert (SME)
- Copy goes to the head of marketing
- Copy goes to representatives from legal and/or compliance
- Copy comes back to the writer for revisions
Seems like a logical process. But think about this: what are the odds that over a series of 4+ reviews, that occur after readability and SEO review, that the same—or new—readability and SEO issues have been reintroduced? Quite high, actually. And so another round of reviews ensues and the vicious cycle continues.
What if we were to turn this review process on its head, starting with legal, marketing, and subject matter experts to provide a high-level review to answer the questions of:
- Is this information accurate? (SME)
- Is this information of potential interest to our audience? Does it serve to help us achieve our goals/objectives? Is it aligned with our brand? (Marketing)
- Does this information represent any legal or regulatory risk? (Legal/Compliance)
Marie Parks is co-CEO of North Star Messaging + Strategy, a messaging strategy and copywriting agency serving successful business owners. “The biggest danger in setting up a content review process is having too many cooks in the kitchen,” says Parks. “It can be tempting to give every stakeholder a chance to give content their check of approval. But there’s a fine line between constructive criticism and subjective back-and-forth.”
Subjective back-and-forth eats up time and can ratchet up tension between various factions involved in content creation, review, and approval.
At North Star, Parks says: “Each project has a content creator and an editor who serves as brand quality control. We limit the number of rounds of revisions to keep the project timeline from spiraling.” As long as the content creator and editor are both “immersed in the brand,” she says, the process works well. To aid in this, she says, “we create custom guides to make sure the content creator knows how to leverage the brand’s voice.”
Goals and Benchmarks
How much does it cost to submit a piece of content through a multi-level review process? It can cost a lot. Documenting those costs to establish a benchmark that can be used to evaluate potential process improvements can clearly demonstrate to all involved the incremental costs of sending the content through yet one more review.
It’s not necessary to give up quality by streamlining your content review process to include the required checkpoints while minimizing round after round of edits. The effort expended here will be well worth it in terms of cost, quality, and results.