Illustration of documents going through a cycleWhen it comes to getting a great piece of content out the door, there are plenty of challenges. But perhaps one of the toughest hurdles is the content review process.

After spending all that time planning, researching keywords, interviewing subject matter experts (SMEs), writing and editing, there’s nothing worse than tripping on a shoelace at the finish line. In other words, having your content held up in an endless cycle of reviews. In healthcare especially, the review process can be rigorous and time-consuming.

Why do we need a content review, anyway?

On the surface, your marketing review process helps you look good. You don’t want a blog post, web page or brochure going out into the world loaded with typos and incorrect information. Massive writer ego aside, I love my editors and understand that content editing is the secret ingredient to a great piece of writing.

Beyond grammatical errors, the review process helps ensure your content:

  • Follows your brand voice and style guide
  • Provides accurate and helpful information (this is especially important for patient-facing content)
  • Clearly states your organization’s value

Keep in mind that checking for these three areas may require more than one person in your review approval process. I can hear the groaning now. But with the right preparation and a few best practices, the additional reviewers shouldn’t add too much to your project timeline.

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Five ways to improve your content review process

If you’ve found yourself in a content review purgatory, try these tips with your next project to ensure the approval process goes smoothly.

1. Break out that RACI chart

Remember that old phrase, “there are too many cooks in the kitchen”? For some marketers, every day can feel like a crowded kitchen with five Gordon Ramsays telling you what ingredient to sauté — too many people are weighing in on a project and slowing down its progress.

To avoid this slowdown, decide early on who needs to review a piece of content. I mean, who really needs to review it.

Before you start your review process — or the project altogether — make sure you fill out your old friend, the RACI chart. If you haven’t worked with one before, it could make your project management life a whole lot easier.

Here’s what the acronym stands for:

  • Responsible – Who is in charge of completing the task or deliverable?
  • Accountable – Who is in charge of assigning tasks and marking them as complete? This person may also be the last and final review before the content goes out the door. In some cases, the accountable person may also be the person responsible for the task or deliverable.
  • Consulted – These are the people who need to review a piece of content before it’s considered complete. Think your editors, subject matter experts (SMEs), key stakeholders, legal, etc.
  • Informed – These individuals don’t need to review a piece of content, but you’ll want to keep them posted about project progress.

With a completed RACI chart, you can clearly see who needs to review a piece of content (those under “consulted”). Deciding on these roles at the start of your project can help avoid confusion or excess, time-consuming reviews.

2. Outline expectations from the beginning

So, you’ve determined who needs to review the content. Great! Now, make sure you’re setting the right expectations. When the reviewer knows what to expect, they’re more likely to respond promptly and with the feedback you need.

Even if it’s just a quick email, give them a heads up in advance that you’ll need them to look at the content. Include a rough timeline as to when you’ll need their feedback. If you’re interviewing an SME, for example, you may want to explain the review process to them before wrapping up the conversation.

Make sure the reviewers understand:

  • The goal of the project and primary audience
  • The type of content and where it will be available once completed (website, blog, brochure, etc.)
  • The type of review you need (more on that below!)
  • Project timeline and deadlines (also, more on that below!)
  • Who will be sending the content to them for review (Will it be you, the writer, their admin, or someone else?)

3. Explain what type of review you need

Stating clearly what you need from the reviewer can help avoid unnecessary edits or irrelevant feedback. It’ll save everyone time in the end — your reviewer sticks to the task at hand and your project stays on schedule.

When sending something out for review, let the reviewer know what type of review you need. For some, you may want them to look for factual inaccuracies in the content. Others may be proofreading for grammar and spelling mistakes.

I’m a big fan of clarifying when someone only needs to review for content accuracy. I’ll send a message saying something like:

Dear Dr. Smith,

Thank you for taking the time to talk with us for the new webpage on breast cancer screenings. I have attached a draft for your review. Please let me know if you have any factual corrections to the content on the page. We’ll handle the proofreading (grammar and spelling) on our end.

4. Use version control

When you have multiple people in your content review process, it’s critical to have version control. “Version control” also sounds like a great prog-rock band name. But I digress.

Some platforms (Google Docs) have a built-in version control that will allow you to see any edits or changes made to the document. But if you’re using a program like Microsoft Word, a file naming convention can be helpful. For example, reviewers can add initials to the end of the file name to indicate they’ve edited the document.

At WriterGirl, we tag a “V1” at the end of a first draft and “V1.1” after an initial edit or review. It might turn into “V1.2” if there are two reviewers. Once those edits are incorporated, we can rename it as a “V2.”

Tracking changes is also incredibly helpful in your marketing review process. You can clearly see who made what edits and when. Locking your tracking can also help ensure every reviewer uses the track changes function. And it will avoid those reviewers who like to sneak in edits without you knowing (Is that even a thing?).

5. Set deadlines and stick to them

Boy, do I love deadlines. Sometimes, I want to shout from the top of a mountain about how much I love deadlines.

Deadlines can cause stress, but they can also be your friend — especially in the content review process. When sending something out for review, make sure you clearly state when you need edits and feedback. You may even want to highlight or bold the deadline in your email to the reviewer.

I like sending reminders along the way, too. If your reviewer’s deadline is approaching and you haven’t heard anything, try nudging them via email and ask if they have any questions about the document. For busy SMEs especially, these reminders can help keep the review process on track. I like to send my reminders 2-3 days after my initial request if I didn’t hear anything back right away.

A subject line with words like “FOR REVIEW” or “REVIEW NEEDED” can also help make sure the reviewer sees the message and adds it to their to-do list. Caps lock is optional, though. Not everyone likes to get shouty with their email.

Don’t dread the content review process

The review process is arguably the most challenging part of any healthcare marketing project, even if you’re a seasoned content pro. But with careful organization and a healthy dose of preparation, you can avoid many of the roadblocks and get a great campaign out the door on time.

Need a hand with your next healthcare marketing project? WriterGirl’s healthcare writing and project management pros can handle the hard tasks for you. We’ll help you complete your projects on time so you can start seeing results faster.