June 29th, 2016
Has your organization ever had a press release go out with a crucial piece of information missing? A blog post making a timely announcement sit on someone’s desk past the relevant date?
If so, you may need to review your approval process. Without one, it’s easier for deadlines to be missed and confusion to reign. Who has authority to approve company content? Who is supposed to edit and review content? What are the steps to take before content can be sent out into the world?
A clear, agreed-upon approval process provides the answers to these questions and makes it less stressful to get good content out the door. Here’s how to establish an approval process for your organization.
Your content team is like a sports team. Everyone needs to know their position and play it well.
This requires mapping how content moves through your team and organization, from the idea stage to the time someone hits the publish button. Depending on your organization, developing a blog post could involve steps such as:
This is a simple blog post that has involved five people. Many content passes through other hands, too. A proofreader, department heads, or clients could also be involved, making the process significantly more complicated.
Map out your workflow as it currently is. Then look for trouble spots. Are there others who should be seeing the content but aren’t? Is there a particular link in the chain where it takes a long time to get content back? Consider who, ideally, would provide input and approve content. Then map out what that would look like.
Voila! You have your workflow.
Without clearly stated expectations around deadlines, you will set yourself up for a lot of stress. It may be as simple as setting standards for turnaround times – perhaps three days is good for a 600-word blog post, while the standard for a 1000-word post is five days – or it may mean prioritizing certain pieces of content and assigning deadlines accordingly.
As you look at your workflow, consider where people need more time to respond. A legal team will probably need more time than a proofreader. Work back your deadlines keeping others workload in mind.
If you don’t have a style guide, you need one. You can borrow from others’ style guides if you don’t want to develop a fresh guide in-house (here’s Buzzfeed’s style guide if you’re looking for one) but it is important to have one.
Having a style guide will reduce the back-and-forth on whether or not to use an Oxford comma, or if it should be “bestselling” or “best-selling”. It will make your content process simpler and more straightforward.
For small teams, a spreadsheet and review at a weekly meeting can be enough to keep track of who is working on what and what approvals are still needed.
However, if you’re working on a large team or a team that is geographically dispersed, you may need a more sophisticated system to keep track of what is going on, and to manage your workflow.
Content management systems like WordPress give you the ability to set different user roles. For WordPress, a contributor can add new posts and edit their own, but they cannot publish posts, not even their own. An editor, however, can add, edit, publish and delete any posts, whether written by them or others. Consult your workflow document and assign WordPress roles that align with the tasks each member of your content team performs.
At Main Path, we use Trello to keep track of our content assignments and reduce the number of emails sent between content managers and writers. You can assign cards to people, note deadlines, and attach drafts directly to the cards themselves. Trello helps us stay organized and manage our workflow.
Keep in mind that whatever process you establish for your approval process, it will only work if all the members of your team understand and follow it. When you establish your approval process, be sure to get your team involved so you can come up with a system that works well for everyone.
Do you have any tips for a hassle-free approval process? Share them in the comments below.
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