Content marketing is a critical engine of growth in the digital age. It’s arguably the single most effective means of growing your brand presence, building credibility or trust by establishing yourself as an authority, fueling audience engagement, and driving sales.
Don’t believe us? Here are some numbers to demonstrate the value of content marketing:
With this in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the vast majority of marketers today use content marketing — 91% of B2B marketers and 86% of B2C marketers.
Content management is an unavoidable part of consistently getting high-quality content published. And yet, so many organizations are getting it wrong by underestimating the importance of having an effective content approval workflow.
Some of the top content-related challenges reported by respondents in a 2021 Content Marketing Institute study, included:
And yet, only 59% of respondents say that their organization has formal content development workflow processes in place.
This means that most of these organizations are making it up as they go. Which is… not great for productivity, efficiency, or content quality and consistency. Not to mention actual results.
For content marketing to be effective, you need to be able to measure how your content is performing against your marketing strategy, but it’s hard to be strategic when you’re being reactive instead of proactive.
So it’s hardly surprising that 68% of respondents in the same study named “lack of processes” as the top reason their organization doesn’t take a strategic approach to managing content.
Whether you’re producing content using your in-house marketing team or outsourcing to freelancers or agencies, having robust content approval workflows in place is crucial to consistently producing high-quality content assets.
Keep reading to learn
Simply put, a content approval workflow is a documented and repeatable process for reviewing content to ensure it meets the organization’s quality standards.
A content approval workflow outlines not only at which stage(s) of content production the content is reviewed but also which roles are responsible for each step of the content production and review process.
An effective content approval workflow involves more than simply proofing or editing the content just before it gets published.
Instead, content quality assurance starts at the beginning of the content production cycle, with a strategic content calendar, detailed briefs, standard operating procedures, clearly-defined roles and responsibilities, and robust resources and guidelines documenting important information like brand messaging and style preferences.
When you don’t have a solid content approval workflow in place, it’s hard to consistently produce content that’s on-brand and lives up to your quality standards.
Without standardized processes, it can be difficult to keep track of a large number of content projects, which means content that hasn’t been approved can slip through the cracks and get published prematurely.
On the other hand, without proper communication, it’s easy to get mired in half-finished, half-forgotten pieces of content — or for content to hit approval bottlenecks that cause delays.
When tasks, roles, and content handover procedures aren’t clearly defined, content team members might be uncertain about their responsibilities, when it’s their “turn” in the content development process, or what to do (or who to talk to) if they run into obstacles.
Having a clearly defined and standardized content production workflow allows you to:
TLDR: Standardized content workflows or standard operating procedures (SOPs) mean your content production engine runs like a well-oiled content machine.
Content approval workflows don’t have to be complicated. Below, we’ve broken down how to build an efficient content production process and optimize your approval workflow in five simple steps.
The first step to building efficient, repeatable “standard operating procedures” (or SOPs) is defining what your workflow typically looks like. What are the — often unspoken — rules that govern your content creation and approval processes? And what are the exceptions to these “rules”?
The exception often proves the rule, so looking at projects that went totally off the rails can be helpful in defining what the standard workflow should look like.
Start by mapping out what your content production workflow looks like for each type of content you produce — e.g. blog posts, infographics, pitch decks, website landing pages, social media campaigns, videos, etc.
For each type of content asset, answer these questions:
Draw it all out on a whiteboard or notebook until you’re sure you’ve covered all the steps.
Next, get specific about your “typical operating procedures.” Refine your content production workflow by focusing on the specific details that keep things moving.
For each step you’ve outlined, add the following information:
Identify and mark all the steps in each content asset’s production workflow where someone needs to review content, provide feedback, or sign off.
Again, pay attention to the people, processes, and tools involved.
Once you’ve highlighted the content approval steps in your workflow, look for ways to make your content approvals more efficient and your feedback more effective.
To find those squeaky wheels that need some oil, ask yourself the following questions:
Identifying the pain points in your content management processes and finding ways to make your approval workflows run more efficiently can save a ton of time and energy — not to mention money.
Once you’ve identified the pain points, silos, and bottlenecks in your content approval processes, it’s time to brainstorm ways to address these obstacles with your content team.
Some obstacles might be overcome by using better tools, whether it’s project management tools with automated handover notifications, content management software with built-in rules and role-restricted permissions or tools that allow you to give detailed and contextualized feedback more effectively.
Other obstacles might be addressed by investing time in creating better briefs, templates, style guides, brand identity documentation, content playbooks, communication protocols, and other resources to ensure that everyone’s playing by the same rules.
Next, test out which solutions work and which ones don’t quite fit into your workflows. Keep iterating and improving until you find a workflow that works for your team.
By this step, you should have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t. Now it’s time to use the knowledge you’ve gained of what your ideal content workflow looks like and create guidelines to standardize your content creation processes from start to finish.
In order to standardize your content workflows, you need to systemize them.
As we mentioned earlier, efficient content approval workflows begin with effective content creation procedures, i.e. detailed briefs, standard operating procedures, clearly-defined roles and responsibilities, and robust resources and guidelines documenting important information like brand messaging and style preferences.
Giving text-based feedback can be time-consuming and communicating complex feedback points can be difficult to pull off without ending up writing half the content yourself.
Plus, it can be pretty disheartening to be on the receiving end of a wall of long and detailed feedback comments.
But on the other hand, simply making edits yourself means the content creator doesn’t necessarily understand why you made the changes you did, which means they don’t learn in the process (and you’ll likely end up making the same edits over and over again).
Using a tool like bubbles — which lets you rapidly create screen recordings and give detailed, contextualized feedback — is a game changer for making your content approval workflows more effective and efficient.
Screen recordings allow you to concisely explain the reasoning behind your edits, so writers learn in the process, so you don’t have to make the same edits time and again.
Below, we’ve provided a walkthrough of how you can use bubbles to give feedback to a writer.
Using bubbles’ free screen recording tool, the reviewer, editor, or content manager records their feedback.
Next, you’ll select “Screen recording,” set up your microphone, and select whether or not you want to also record a video of your face.
Bubbles’ simple user interface makes it quick and easy to get started.
With your settings configured, you can hit “Start recording.”
Next, you’ll quickly pick what you want to share — your entire screen, a window, or a specific Chrome tab — by clicking on it, and then hitting “Share.”
Bubbles lets you control exactly how much of your screen you share.
It’s that easy. Now you’re ready to present your feedback.
You can pause and restart the recording if you need to, or trash it altogether and start over. Pro-tip, it’s good to record (and delete) a test run to help quell any nervousness you might be feeling.
With bubbles, you can elaborate on your suggestions and edits in context, without having to type up a storm.
When you’re done presenting, you’ll simply hit “stop sharing,” and name your bubble something like “Content Approval Blog Feedback.” You’ll be prompted to register, which takes about two seconds — simply provide your name and email address.
The content reviewer can now share the link to the bubble of their feedback with the content creator to review.
The writer can view the bubble at their convenience by clicking on the link (they don’t need to create an account first!) and can annotate comments or questions to the screen recording. These time-stamped comments can be text-based, voice recordings, or screen-recording videos. This enables a two-way feedback conversation that makes it much easier to get everyone on the same page.
Plus, when multiple people review the same piece of content, reviewers can provide all their feedback in one bubble and view and engage with one another’s feedback, reducing redundancy and repetition.
Bubbles makes it possible to have asynchronous discussions and solve creative problems in context, no matter where team members are located or what timezone they’re in.
Once any questions are resolved, the writer can get to work resolving the edits and feedback.
Once they feel that they’ve addressed all the feedback, the writer can record and share a walkthrough of the content piece, pointing out all the changes they’ve made. The reviewer (or team) can leave more comments, etc. until the content received final approval.
Bubbles facilitates seamless asynchronous collaboration, making it a powerful tool for improving your content approval process.
Why not try bubbles? It’s free, forever.