Get Copy Approved, Without the Drama

Written by Chris Tapley

You’ve done the research, written the piece and polished it. Now you just need approval from the gatekeepers. For some copywriting projects, this is where the headaches begin. But getting everyone to agree that you’ve nailed the brand voice and that it’s ready for the web or for print doesn’t have to be painful.

Most of the challenges are caused by the same old snags in the sign-off process. We’ve outlined four of the most common and what you can do to minimise disruption.

1. People comment on anything and everything

You pass the copy to a subject matter expert to check the technical details, and suddenly they’re trying to redefine the brand’s whole tone of voice. This comes up a lot, particularly in larger organisations. 

What to do: Include a note with the document explaining what the content is, how to use it, and what specifically to comment on. Something along the lines of, “at this stage, we just need to check the technical detail is correct.”

Another way to avoid this is by involving people early in the process – get input from across the business when you develop the messaging and tone of voice. When people feel they’ve had a part in building something, they’ll be less critical.

2. Multiple documents in circulation

Keeping track of amends becomes near-impossible when there are emails flying back and forth between seven people, with some commenting on version 3.5 and others on version 6. You need to stay on top of what’s being adjusted. Which means keeping control of who has which document. 

What to do: Use a collaborative platform such as Google Docs, Basecamp, Sharepoint or One Drive if you expect more than one person to be involved in editing. An online doc is always up to date; you can even see live edits. Version control lets you roll things back if someone changes something they shouldn’t.

3. Too many people in the process  

Passing the copy through ten people is guaranteed to slow down the sign-off process, and dilute the quality of the result. Especially if those people weren't involved in earlier discussions, might not understand what the project is aiming to achieve, or even why there is a project in the first place.

What to do: If you ask for an opinion from everyone, you’ll get exactly that. But provided everything's factual, people are unlikely to question things once the copy is live. So appoint just two or three experts whose opinion you trust and set them free to approve. They can manage, we promise. 

4. The final copy doesn’t do what they thought it would

It’s gone through countless variations, tweaks, re-writes and amends. And, when you hand over the finished product, it isn’t quite what the higher-ups had in mind. 

What to do: Clarify the objectives at every turn. Reiterate them. Then check them again. The copy can be as perfect as it will ever be, but if it doesn’t achieve the objectives, it’s back to the keyboard.  

Next steps in content operations

Whatever it is that's holding your written content back, we'll find it and show you how to overcome it through our content operations consultancy.