Whether you work with external consultants or not, something that is a universal issue in work settings is developing an approval process that works for all parties involved. If an approval process is too long or complicated, it can fully block content from going out in a timely manner. If an approval process is too short or inadequate, it can cause materials to go public in a way that catches leadership off guard. How do you find a happy medium? If you skip the step of developing a thoughtful approval process, you may find yourself struggling to get content approved and miss deadlines. When developing an approval process, there are several vital things to consider.
1. Examine Your Priorities
If one of your main objectives is to break news stories, then you are going to need a much different approval process than an organization whose goal is to have detailed and precise content. It’s important to know what your organization hopes to achieve with the content you put out when developing an approval process. Social media is best when it’s social, so if three people need to vet every response before a tweet goes live, your brand might not look very social. If your goal for social media is to be responsive and reactive, then you can’t afford to have a long and involved approval process. No one likes a viral meme three weeks after it was popular. Knowing what you intend to get out of your work will help inform who needs to be part of your approval process.
2. Set Clear Expectations
It’s important that every member of the team knows their role in the approval process, and how much time they have to do their part. For social media, does every single word in every single tweet need to be approved before going out, or are there only certain content areas that need to be reviewed? What exactly does the legal team need to see and how much lead time do they require? Do social media posts have to go through the same approval process as an email or press release? Make sure you set clear expectations so you know what needs to happen with each type of content. Create and communicate your guidelines across the team.
3. Enforce Deadlines and Create Calendars
Deadlines are essential for sticking to critical timelines.
Creating a calendar system will allow you and your team to easily keep track of where you are in the approval process and delineate what needs to be approved and by when. We recommend using an application like Asana, which allows you to create custom project calendars and assign tasks to team members.
4. Ensure Your Team Knows Their Roles
It’s vital that all members of the team understand who will be doing what in the approval process. Without that understanding, work may overlap unnecessarily, or an unassigned component might be missed, creating barriers and causing content production to be delayed. A clear process also ensures that every piece of outgoing content is viewed by at least one fresh set of eyes. You don’t want to have three people copyediting and no legal review, so making sure all the roles are covered helps guarantee your process has enough people and time to ensure that quality content continues to get put out and is not held up in an endless review process. We also recommend having a documented backup plan — who has the authority to cover for a team member when they’re on vacation or overwhelmed?
Not everybody has to read every word. Some members of the process may only need to create graphics or verify legal language. Scheduling opportunities like weekly meetings will also keep your team aware of content that is in process but does not require their immediate oversight or approval.
5. Be Ready for Change
Our team has faced times such as family leave and vacations when multiple people involved in our internal approval process were out at the same time. Because of this, we had to change our processes so that they evolved with our organizational needs. It’s important to revisit your approval processes regularly and always make sure you have flexibility in your plan so that even when people are out, things can keep moving forward.
If your organization works in a field like politics where the workload increases around elections, it’s important that you alter your approval processes for efficiency around busy times, as well as to ensure that your team has the capacity to keep up with demands. It’s also important to take a look at approval processes when team roles change or as new members are added to or leave the team.
Every organization works differently, so there’s no one size fits all method when developing your approval process. It’s important for each organization to find what works best for them and continue to streamline processes over time.
If your team is stretched thin with regard to idea generation, writing, editing, and strategy for your organization, we can help. Book a free strategy call with our experts today.