How to create a content approval workflow

In 1996, Bill Gates wrote that “Content is King.” Over two decades later, he’s still right. People around the world consume more content than ever, in the form of TV shows and movies, articles and blogs, online videos, and social media. People even create their own content with platforms like TikTok and Instagram, propelling themselves into a new kind of digital stardom.

Of course, marketers at small businesses or content agencies are behind much of the content that people consume daily, as content is one of the most effective ways to showcase new ideas and products. In fact, Google reports that 49 percent of their users leverage search to learn about new items.

However, as consumers’ lives become saturated with content, it’s more challenging to create content that drives engagement and converts to sales — especially when clunky approval processes impede good content creation.

Still, it’s critical that clients, creative directors, and other stakeholders review all content before publication to prevent mistakes and ensure it’s effective and on brand. That’s where an effective content approval workflow comes in.

What’s a content approval workflow?

A content approval workflow is the procedure a piece of content goes through — from ideation to publication and distribution. It essentially outlines which stakeholders need to approve content at various stages and when more input is necessary.

Content approval workflows streamline content creation and approvals by clarifying ahead of time exactly what team members need to do at each stage of development and creation. A workflow formalizes these processes so content creators never second guess what to do next or miss steps, which may lead to publishing content before it’s ready.

Why content approval workflows are important

In 2020, HubSpot reported that 70 percent of marketers have an active content marketing program. The most common key performance indicator (KPI) these marketers judge their performance by is total sales. That means content marketing initiatives are under a lot of pressure to produce results and convert content into revenue.

However, a Content Marketing Institute study found that only 42 percent of content marketers have a formal content workflow in place. So the majority of these professionals are operating without a plan, which can reduce productivity, cause mistakes and miscommunication, and hurt overall results.

General steps in a content approval workflow

Content comes in every form imaginable — blogs, articles, e-books, videos, social media posts, and disappearing stories. If you can imagine it now, before long, it may be a type of content that marketers create to promote products or brands.

No matter what kind of collateral you’re creating, you’ll generally follow this process:

  1. Request. A client, media outlet, or other end user requests a specific piece of content or solicits proposals.
  2. Create. Creatives build and execute the content according to required specs.
  3. Review. Key stakeholders review the work and provide feedback.
  4. Publish. Once the author or editor makes changes and the content gets final approval, the marketing team publishes and distributes it according to plan, often what’s on a content calendar.

How to build an efficient content approval workflow

Ideal content approval workflows will automate notifications, allow for iterative and developmental tasks, use tools to collect employees’ notes, and be incredibly detailed to avoid mistakes. Here’s where to start.

Clarify all stakeholders

A workflow will only be effective if it includes all the necessary stakeholders. Who they are depends on the type of content you’re producing and what type of organization you’re creating it for.

Don’t just think of stakeholders as the executives who will ultimately sign off on collateral — they are also SEO strategists, editors, social media consultants, and other specialists. Confirm their responsibilities in content creation and approval.

Create a visual workflow

Once you’ve identified all the stakeholders that should be involved, you can map out the workflow. Making it visual is the best way to conceptualize all the processes that will go into creating and approving content, getting it from concept to finished product.

Make a flowchart or diagram to better illustrate the various stages content will follow. Create conditions for when stakeholders reject content at any stage. For example, who reviews content if an executive doesn’t approve it because they have feedback that needs to be implemented?

Use this time to figure out all the “what ifs” that can happen. Pay special attention to the steps involved when someone gives final approval for the content.

Include resources

Every stakeholder’s standards will determine whether or not they approve a piece of content. Budget and brand guidelines are just a few of the potential conditions they use to measure content. Wherever possible, include information about these conditions in content briefs to avoid revisions or rejection. This will streamline the approval process.

Refine over time

Once you’ve built and deployed the workflow, pay attention to where bottlenecks develop so that you can make adjustments over time. Perhaps one phase of approvals always takes longer than the others, so maybe content creators need better resources or more training to reduce revisions.

Automate your workflow with Jotform

One of the most common ways to communicate within a content approval workflow is with forms. Jotform offers a number of pre-built and customizable forms that can save you time by automating each step of your workflow. Jotform even offers a number of content solutions that go beyond approvals, such as a content calendar template and other table templates.

Specialized templates, such as website and SEO content request forms, quickly gather information about what your customers need so your creatives can do their best work. Approval request forms facilitate stakeholder sign-offs and feedback. These forms can even collect electronic signatures. However many forms you need, you can use them as the building blocks of your workflow in the Jotform Approvals drag-and-drop interface.

Content marketing has never been more challenging than it is right now, but you can make it easier with comprehensive and intuitive marketing approval templates from Jotform.

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