Reviews & Approvals: What Marketers Are Secretly Saying

September 12, 2016 Heather Hurst

Not all marketers can agree on which metrics to track, how much content to produce, or even which influencers are most impactful to their brand. But there is one thing that they can all rally around: the review and approval process is the worst.

We polled content marketers at last year’s Content Marketing World on this topic, and only 8% of the respondents said that approvals did not hold up their timelines (and 19% were delayed over a week). It’s a year later. Nothing has changed.

We still hate the review/ approval process. Why? Mostly because it’s time consuming, harder than it should be, and often results in significant babysitting of stakeholders. The problem is in the reviewers themselves, and the time they take to “get around” to reviews.

I asked a few people how they keep their stakeholders accountable to the review process to move things along more smoothly. The approaches are varied. You know this is a touchy subject when most asked to keep their names out of it. Here’s what they said.


Set a Date and Publish

A friend who works at a non-profit said that she works with stakeholders to set a publish date in stone ahead of time. When materials are sent out for review, she includes a cut-off date, and sticks to it.

“I’ll send out the materials with a note along the lines of, ‘here is X for your review. We are publishing on Tuesday, so please reply by Monday or we will move forward without your approval’."

This is her approach on content where she conducted an interview or received extensive background information on the subject and feels confident that she has her facts straight. If she’s creating content that includes new messaging, or covers a new topic, she’ll typically have a more stringent review process.


Avoid Your Stakeholders

Another friend has worked for an online retailer for a decade. He’s built most of their messaging and direction on the topics for which he creates content. So he avoids stakeholders and approvals as much as possible.

“Stakeholders in my organization are uniquely disinterested in being a part of the approval process, until they find something they have a concern over. When they are involved, it’s usually two days too late.”


Get in Your Stakeholders' Faces

A brand manager working for a healthcare company usually goes right to the stakeholders for their approval.

“I often use the old fashioned approach: I physically put myself and the said marketing material in front of the person, kindly insisting on their time and attention to review and approve. Although it can be time prohibitive/consuming, it can also be effective because I can explain strategy and approach—and answer questions real time. Plus, I enjoy the face-to-face time to build relationships.”


Hold Ongoing Retrospectives

A marketing director in B2B technology finds that ongoing retrospectives on work they have completed has really helped to rally the team to work together toward a common goal. They will review campaigns, goal attainment and timelines. If the group identifies a miss at any point, they discuss how they can be better the next time.

“Then we hold everyone responsible for how well the project moved the needle against the company goals. Accountability is a group effort.”


So, Now What?

The bottom line is to find what works for you and your organization. Talk to your stakeholders and find a way to make them feel as invested in the project as you are. While you’re at it, whittle down the number of “critical” stakeholders you have on every project. And if you really want to change your life for the better, invest in an online proofing tool. Little by little, the percentage of people who say that the approval process doesn’t impact their timelines will grow.


About the Author

Heather Hurst

Heather has enjoyed playing the game of marketing for the past 15 years, at the agency and corporate level, in both B2C and B2B companies. She's run PR campaigns that took her from the MTV Beach House to NASDAQ and many media outlets and content channels in between. She is currently the Corporate Marketing Director at Workfront.

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