Tips on Refining Your Marketing Content Approval Process

By Jodie Byass


This year, marketers plan to ramp up their marketing output to maintain a competitive edge. But even so, the area of content creation remains a challenge for many.

According to Curata, one of the top five content marketing challenges for B2B marketers is producing content consistently. The fact that only 30% of marketers believe their content marketing is successful might also say something about their challenges at an operational level.

And while an effective marketing strategy is critical to delivering a return for brands, marketers need to dig a little deeper. Without a steadfast content approval workflow process to oversee content production, it's difficult to achieve the consistent output and quality required to keep up with big marketing competitors. But first let's take a closer look at approval workflow.


What is approval workflow?
While "workflow" relates to any process that maps out how a task should be completed, "approval workflow" pertains to the approval process that marketers follow when creating marketing content/collateral. Approval workflow is typically made up of a network of touch points that interconnect stakeholders, resources and tasks. These touch points include briefing a project, creating artwork, gathering feedback and approvals, and saving final assets.

Recommended reading: Track and measure approval workflow

Tips on how to refine & improve your marketing content approval processes 
We flex our muscles to build body strength, so think of refining your approval process as doing much the same. The result for marketers is a stronger, more agile way of producing content. That said, it's also important to document your process' not only does this offer clarity for you and your team, it acts as an official marketing document that holds clout.

If you think your usual ways to manage approval workflow require some improvements (or you're creating one from scratch), the following tips will set you in good stead.

1. Collaboration brings the best approval workflow processes to fruition.
Firstly, gather your team together to review your current approval process (if this is a first time documenting your process, then make notes on a blank sheet of paper or whiteboard). The reason it's important to get your team's input is because no one has insight into a role quite like the person doing it and you don't want to miss any critical steps. You also need to understand how each role flows into the next and fits with the overall approval process. If you have an old document, you can mark it up as you put your heads together to review the process.

2. Make sure you outline the who, what and how of the briefing stage.
When a job is briefed into marketing, this typically kicks off the approval workflow process. Make sure you document which stakeholders brief jobs, the types of jobs they brief and whether they need to fill out the same or a different brief template. (Brief templates are a great way to eliminate repetitive admin!)

The completed brief then needs to be given/emailed to the same person or logged in the same location. It's vital that all briefs enter into the production cycle from the same touchpoint otherwise information can be overlooked or mislaid.

3. The planning and scheduling of project tasks should be overseen by one role.
Now it's time to review how you schedule project work and document it. Do you currently have more than one person scheduling tasks? To maintain control over your approval workflow, it's recommended that just one person plans and schedules tasks. It also needs to be the right person, meaning someone who oversees creative projects or content production. At this stage in your process, you also should note how the work is scheduled i.e. on a spreadsheet and/or a shared work calendar.

4. Map out your approval pathways strategically.
The approval stage of content creation remains one of the key challenges for marketers today. And now is as good a time as any to refine it. With this, eliminate stakeholders that don't absolutely need to be involved in your approvals. You also need to ensure that artwork gets sent to the right stakeholder in the right sequence. For example, there's no point sending an item for Legal approval too early in the process if there's a good chance it will change. In addition, think about how you're going to collate and send feedback to your design team, it's best to batch feedback where possible to avoid too much back and forth, so keep your touch points to a minimum.

If your approvals are fairly straightforward, you can map out a general approval pathway. Otherwise, if the creatives and approvers change depending on the type of project, it's best to create specific approval pathways for each. When artwork is finally approved, there's still one more critical step you need to document in your approval workflow.

5. Document how to store your final files to avoid confusion.
With nearly a third of marketers known to repurpose marketing content it's essential that you document where and how your final, approved files are saved. If you're saving artwork on a server, for example, make sure that everyone follows the same process i.e. artwork is saved in it's project folder under another folder named 'FINAL ARTWORK' with the file also citing these words. Make it clear that no other file names are permissible to eliminate any confusion about which is the correct file later on.

Once you've reviewed your content approval processes, you need to update (or create) your document. Approval workflow documents are generally easier to understand if they are visually represented, so take some care in how you finesse the final document.

Recommended reading: 10 Great Benefits of Approval Workflow Software

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