Blood, sweat and tears are shed through the planning and execution phases of content marketing. Sometimes it feels like you’re scaling mountains, slaying dragons, and jumping through hoops to check off tasks, coordinate the workload and hit milestones. Everything should be going according to plan. The summit is in sight. But before you are crowned victorious and can celebrate, you find your artfully created content sitting for what feels like an eternity in your client’s review and approval pile.
Now the goals and deadlines that were scheduled suddenly have to be rescheduled. While you monitor and nudge the approval process along, the project that should already be completed just sits there, occupying precious real estate in your mind. It’s tough to see your efforts sitting idle while your content collects dust.
Here at Curve Communications, we understand it can be disheartening to wait in limbo, so we have amassed seven foolproof tips for getting your content through reviews and approvals FASTER. Read along to streamline your process and reach the summit.
1. Adapt to your various clients’ internal workflow
Your clients’ processes and workflow can vary depending on the teams involved and their chosen work tools. Do they use Google Docs or Asana? Wrike or Microsoft Teams?
Whatever their workflow may be, you need to adapt to it, like a chameleon camouflaging to its surroundings. If you and your team adapt to your client’s processes, then you can ensure you are all on the same page.
Here are a few questions to ask your client during your project onboarding process to set yourself up to succeed:
- What is your current approval process?
- Do you use any project management software?
- What organizational tools do you use?
- Who are the stakeholders involved?
Only by asking, will you find out what is needed for success. You may uncover a steep mountain to climb or a clear road ahead.
2. Draft a template
With your client’s workflow in mind, you can draft an internal template curated to their specific needs. This structure will identify potential bottlenecks and help streamline the process.
Here at Curve Communications, we use Asana to create templates that ensure the team marches along towards approval.
Our typical review and approval template usually looks something like this:
- Notify clients: Get in touch with reviewers and approvers to let them know when they should be expecting your content.
- Coordinate internally: Divide work among your team members based on individual strengths. Once everything is proofed you can move to the next step.
- Round one – reviews: Deal out the first version of your content to your client. Keep in mind they will most likely have comments about it. Give them a heads-up about the asset’s goal and its deadline.
- Round one – proofs: Based on your client’s feedback, update the content while improving on it.
- Round two – reviews: With your new and improved version complete, send it for reviews.
- Round two – proofs: Draft a final version based on round two comments (if any).
- Distribution: Send and give access to the final version of the content created to the relevant stakeholders.
Launch: Assets are live! You and all parties involved can give each other pats on the back. Go out for drinks or treat yourself to your favourite burger joint.
3. Acquaint yourself with your client’s brand guidelines
Before you strap up your boots and start the climb towards approval, you must first get to know your client’s brand as an old friend.
During the onboarding phase, ask your client for materials that define their brand. This guideline or playbook will set guardrails within which your team will base its efforts. The materials they send over should answer the following questions:
How do they want to convey their brand’s tone and language? What is it that sets them apart from the competition? Which colours and feelings do they want the created assets to evoke? Finally, why does your client do what they do?
With the answers to all these questions, you can be sure that you are creating content that best represents the essence of your client’s brand.
4. Familiarize yourself with the approval team
To avoid potential bottlenecks, try to get to know the approval team who will have the fate of your content in their hands. Get to know:
Which departments are involved?
Who does what?
What are their strengths?
Who are the key decision makers?
Who are the influencers? (The person or people who will help move the content along.)
It is as easy as emailing your client with these questions, and introducing yourself to the people involved. Get to know them as they get to know you. Be friendly towards them and be ready to help when needed. Like the saying goes, You win more flies with honey.
If you know your client’s approval and organizational structure, you will have a much easier time with your content and can avoid missing a deadline.
5. Identify your “man on the inside”
Acquainting yourself with the team has the added benefit of establishing or identifying your point person, influencer, “man/woman on the inside.” This person is usually the one who hired you to develop the content, or the one who is most responsive. They care and understand the deadlines and will help you push the approval process along.
Befriend this responsive person and keep things jovial, so that when the need arises (if the process has stalled, for example), this person can go to bat for you. They can talk in person, send internal notifications, text, or call up whoever it is that has the created materials on their approval pile. Your content will either get pushed forward or the person will come back with some information as to why it isn’t moving along.
6. Authenticate yourself with an outstanding first impression
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but first impressions play a key role that sets the tone between you and your client. One mistake during the beginning phases can cause approvers to be biased against you. Maybe they thought you didn’t quite grasp their target audience or industry, or that you didn’t capture the essence of their brand, or perhaps that you simply conveyed the wrong message. Whatever the reason, once approvers lose faith in you, the content you bring forth is not a priority for them.
Spend some time researching your client’s brand, their team, the materials provided during onboarding, and past content they may have created prior to your arrival, so that you can write from their point of view. Aim for your first draft to be your final draft.
Be flexible so that you not only make a great first impression but also a stellar lasting impression.
7. Relate unapproved assets to missed opportunities and extravagance
Content is not like wine. It just doesn’t age well. Instead, it loses relevance and wastes time and money for both you and your client. You could be on a retainer, so the unapproved work means they are paying for nothing. Perhaps your thoughtfully created Labour Day post sat idle and you missed the holiday. No one likes feeling like their efforts are going to waste; and even worse, no one likes wasting money.
To guarantee your client understands where you are coming from, communicate your desire to help them get their money’s worth. They will know you have their best interests at heart, and will thank you for it when a swarm of leads come through the door from the content you developed.
With these seven tips added as tools to your arsenal, you can scale the tremorous peaks of review and approval, finally reach the summit, plant your flag and bring forth something you can all be proud of.