When Content Disappears Into The Black Hole of Approvals
BY John Miller
February 24, 2022

Who’s in charge of content marketing at your company?

Is it you?

Awesome! Congrats! Sure, it’s a lot of responsibility and there’s plenty of pressure, but this is what you signed up for—a chance to shape and deliver a program that draws customers into a trust-based relationship to achieve business goals.

But, hold on a sec—are you really in charge of content marketing? Or are you required to get approval from upstairs for Every. Damn. Thing? In short, does the CEO and whoever else in the C-suite trust you? Or do they insist on reviewing every piece of content before it gets published, emailed or posted?

The problem with needing approval from above is not one of control; it’s one of efficacy. The people at the top of any organization are busy. Approving content is never going to be their top priority because they have so many other weighty things on their plate. Their approval might only take 15 minutes of their time, but if that 15 minutes is two weeks away, that’s a problem. 

Because the world outside your company’s walls is moving pretty damn fast. They’re not sitting around waiting for your next nugget of wisdom. While you wait for that latest blog post to get approved, they’re busy forgetting about you. A sloggy approval process can leave you flopping around aimlessly.

Not good.

This is the black hole of approvals. It’s a place where content goes to die and content marketing initiatives wither. This is bad for your company, and it’s also bad for your career. If content marketing doesn’t work, even if it isn’t your fault, it’s your fault. 

Designing a B2B Content Marketing Approval Process

So let’s head off this potential slow-moving disaster. What you need to do is set up an approval process before you ever start creating content. The purpose of the content approval process is to protect the organization while maximizing your chances of success—i.e., creating great content that your customers love.

Start at the beginning. Before you ever start tap-tap-tapping out content, you should have an agreed-upon approval process in place. You don’t want to have to make this up on the fly. 

Worse yet, if you have no approval system in place, you’re inviting chaos—well-intentioned colleagues offering their two cents, the CEO getting honked off if you leave her out because you just assumed she’s too busy … you get it. Not a great way to start this exciting new program.

Your goal is to create an efficient, repeatable process that’s good for content marketing and good for business. Brands that embrace content marketing need to trust their content creators. Create a RACI chart, detailing who’s responsible, who’s accountable, who’s consulted and who’s informed. If every word you write needs to be examined by a team of lawyers, your organization is doing it wrong and will fail. Promise.

Write it all down and get it approved. Once the approval process is mapped out and you have the necessary buy-in all the way up the chain, put it in writing. Have company leaders sign it—yes, actually put their signatures on it. Make sure it includes a Service Level Agreement (SLA). Your colleagues are almost certainly familiar with an SLA. A basic SLA details how much time each person in the chain has to approve or modify the content. Writing this down establishes it as The Rules, and gives you a tool to prod that uber-busy exec to review the damn blog post.

Here’s a simple example:

To ensure a steady flow of content to the end audience in order to create heightened levels of engagement and drive marketing success, the content team will deliver a draft of each deliverable (blog post, article, social media posts, etc.) within five (5) business days of interview or agreement with the subject matter expert (SME). SME will provide feedback and edits within three (3) business days of receipt of the initial draft. Content team will adjust, finalize and publish within two (2) business days.

Be a team player. Just because you designed an efficient approval process, don’t hide behind it. Remember that a content marketing effort exists to benefit the organization—this isn’t about your writer’s ego (a real thing!), it’s about doing what’s right for the company.

That means that sometimes it’s smart business to over-communicate. 

If you produce content you think is going to be provocative, or that will stir significant industry conversation, at least give the top dogs a heads up. Nothing makes the CEO angrier than being at an event when someone asks her about something you wrote that she isn’t aware of. On occasions when the subject matter could be sensitive, it’s not a bad idea to seek a greater level of approval. 

This will help to build trust in your editorial and business judgment with those higher-ups, and give you freer reign as they become accustomed.

Trust the process. Once the approval workflow is established, follow it. 

If you know that it’s going to take two weeks to get the necessary approvals, then you have to work ahead. Magazines with long lead times have been doing this forever, and so can you.

Establishing an efficient approval process is a critical step in designing your content workflows. Many content efforts have bogged down because there was an assumption that content would somehow magically be approved.

Designing an agreed-upon content approval process is good governance for your marketing team. It establishes expectations and boundaries and prevents food fights over what responsibility belongs to who. It invites collaboration but keeps people in their lane

It allows the experts to be experts. And it’ll help keep your blood pressure under control.

Let’s talk about growing your company.

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