Before you send a piece of content—any content—to a client, you want to make sure it’s the best it can be. Even something as simple as a spelling error—or, God forbid, using the wrong ‘your’—could cause a client to question your professionalism and your attention to detail. The best way to avoid having to explain silly mistakes to a client is by not letting them see any, and the best way to do that is by having a strong internal approval process.
But what does that mean in practice? An approval process is a workflow that lays out the steps by which stakeholders should review and approve project deliverables in a clear, organized way. For a company who regularly works with external clients and customers, you may be eager to jump right to that point in the approval process when you can share your hard work with the external decision makers. That’s where an internal approval process steps in and makes you slow your roll.
While the finer points of what will work best for any given company will, of course, differ depending on your internal structure and priorities, there are some basic practices you can implement to ensure your organization’s internal approval process is the best it can be.
Internal Approval Process Best Practices
Make a Checklist
First things first: What are you looking for from your internal approval process? Figure out what your reviewers and proofers should be looking for and write that down! Your colleagues will benefit from having a written-out checklist of criteria they should be looking for, whether that be spelling mistakes, grammar errors, or factual accuracy (or, hopefully, all three!)
Make sure this checklist is readily available and accessible to all participants in the approval process even before any work is sent out for proof. Later, when content is being looked over for approval, make sure all reviewers acknowledge the checklist items before anything is actually approved. Creating an easy-to-reference list of musts for anyone in the approval process will keep your approvers’ review sessions on track, create accountability, and make it less likely for little errors to slip through the cracks.
Define Approval Stages and Roles
It’s a tale as old as time; you’ve sent something through your company’s internal approval process, it’s all set to get the green light from reviewers so it can be sent off to your client, and then…whoops! Here comes another company stakeholder who wasn’t consulted in the approval process who wants input on the work under review, delaying approval.
Put a kibosh on that before it happens by clearly defining who in your team is approving what, and when. You won’t need all stakeholders within your company to give the OK on everything all the time, but you do want to identify exactly who needs to review work for approval before you get started. If the approval process has multiple stages, define who will approve which aspects of the work being reviewed at each step in the process. You might want to set up separate feedback workflows for different types of reviewers, as well.
Don’t Let Review Drag On
Remember: The final goal of any internal approval process is APPROVAL. It’s even in the name, so you don’t forget! And, really internal approval is just the first hurdle; the second (bigger) hurdle being client approval. While your agency obviously strives for perfection, you don’t want to lose sight of your final goal and get too bogged down in review.
The last thing you want to be doing is wasting time chasing people down for their feedback, either. You have better things to do! Setting a clear deadline for every review step will help reviewers prioritize the projects that need more immediate attention. This will also prevent annoying backlogs and pileups.
If you’re using an automated workflow system, automatic reminders and notifications about the status of content pending approval could help expedite the process. Content that needs to go through multiple rounds of edits or review before approval will also benefit from automatic notifications, so that approval stays on track and everyone in the process is aware of a project’s progress.
Keep a Log
As mentioned above, it’s always a good idea to have exactly what you need and expect from the approval process written down. It’s also a good idea to write down exactly what occurred in the internal review process for a project, including who was involved, what they said, and when they said it. Keeping a thorough log or timeline of all steps in your internal approval process will not only ensure consistency and increase transparency, it will also provide insight on who signed off on something when, increasing accountability. When your internal approvers know they could potentially be implicated should a mistake make it to a client’s eyes, they’ll take their reviewing responsibilities much more seriously.
If the process your company utilizes for proofing and approval is automated, choose a solution that offers the ability to see user history, and the ability to see what edits were made when, on the content being approved.
When you’re sending something out for review to multiple people in multiple stages, things can get confusing fast if you’re not careful! Having multiple versions of the same file circulating throughout your team can overcomplicate the process for you and for them.
Not only do you want to make sure that all feedback is given on the same version of a proof, but if you have multiple versions, you want to keep them in the same place. That way, if somebody in the internal approval process points out an issue and you need to correct it and upload a new version, the older one will still be there as a point of reference.
Ashore Makes a Stronger Internal Approval Process
Your company wants to provide clients with the best work possible, and a strong internal approval process will make sure that happens. And when it comes to optimizing the approval process for the unique needs of your business, Ashore is here to help!
Our platform was designed by creatives who were sick of getting bogged down in every step of the proofing process on every project. Ashore centralizes proofing feedback in one place, saving your inbox from getting inundated with messages from all over. With features including customizable checklists, workflow staging, automated reminders, version control and comparison, and proofing timelines, Ashore was literally designed to make sure that your organization’s approval process is the best it can be. If you’re ready to get started, sign up for a free account with Ashore today!