How to Create a Content Approval Workflow

Are you frustrated with how long it takes to get content approved? Wondering how a successful content approval workflow should look like and how to create one for your organization?

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You probably know how it feels. You get a new content brief. You feel excited about what you and the marketing team will be creating together. You create a project brief, assign tasks, and… you immediately begin thinking about all the challenges you’re going to face when trying to get it approved. 

You can picture it all clearly – trying to organize the content creation so that the process runs smoothly. Or the long email chains you’ll have to endure just to get every stakeholder to chip in with their feedback. Not to mention the frustration with trying to get final approval on time.

Could you avoid it all? You face these challenges pretty much every single time, after all…

Well, yes, and that’s what you’re going to learn in this guide. You’ll discover what a solid content approval workflow looks like. You’ll also learn how to define a content approval process for your organization to streamline the content review process. 

It’s a lot to cover, so let’s get right to it. 

What is a Content Approval Workflow?

The easiest way to define content approval workflow is as a roadmap for the entire review and approval process. 

The purpose of the workflow is to lay out exactly the process of taking content from concept to final approval. Because of that, content approval workflow focuses not only on getting the final sign-off but defines how to review and approve content at each stage of the production. 

This is actually an overlooked aspect of the workflow. 

Often, organizations will define the process for securing final approvals. Their process will outline who needs to sign off on the final artwork, and so on. But they fail to outline actions various stakeholders need to perform to approve all the other stages of the content production:

  • Accepting a new content request
  • Managing drafts and revisions during the content creation process
  • Reviewing feedback and approving revisions, and then,
  • The final approval, sign-off, and approving files for publication.

A complete content approval process, however, will define content reviews for the entire project stages. 

Content workflow setup in CELUM showing task owners and responsibilities

But why having a content approval workflow is so critical?

We covered the challenges you face with getting content approval already – long email chains, delays, miscommunication… A content approval process will eliminate them all. 

But having it will transform your content production process in other ways too:

  • Consistency of output: With the workflow in place, everyone follows the same process, and they adhere to the same standards with every project. The result? Consistent quality across all projects. In fact, it does matter whether you create an image for the website, an advertising banner, a short product video, the quality of content remains the same. 
  • Faster production: For the same reasons, thanks to having a solid marketing approval workflow, projects get completed on time, and often ahead of time.
  • Less chaos in the process: Without the workflow, projects often end up as disorganized collections of tasks and activities, with little to no correlation between them. Content creators work off their internal processes or conduct work ad hoc. Reviewers and other team members provide feedback when they feel like it (or you pressure them hard enough to do it.) And no one really knows what needs to be done next. Content approval workflow will eliminate that chaos completely. Having it will mean instilling a clearly defined process that everyone must follow and adhere to. 
  • Less to no stress to you and other team members: This goes without saying. When you replace chaos with a clear process, frustration, and chaos that would usually accompany content projects disappear completely. 

How a Typical Content Approval Workflow Looks Like?

We’ve talked a lot about the workflow already, and you’re, most likely, wondering how it all works in practice. 

So, let us show you an example of a typical approval process and the steps involved. 

Note: This is a more generic example. It features steps in a typical workflow for anything from a content marketing project, social media post creation, video production workflow, etc. Further in this guide, we’ll show you what a typical image approval workflow and video approval workflow look like. 

So, without further ado, a typical content approval process includes four steps:

Content request

Any content-related project typically begins with a client or another department requesting a particular type of content. Often, such requests arrive in different formats. Some clients send an email with a brief. The marketing department might drop you a note with a particular asset request, or a new task that will suddenly appear on your list of projects.

The approval workflow will standardize the way you process those requests. It will define actions to verify the project, assess its importance, and add it to the production queue. 

This step of the workflow concludes when the new request is formally assigned as a new project. 

New workroom setup in CELUM

Content production

At this stage, the new project is in the production queue already, awaiting teams to get started on it. 

The content approval workflow, therefore, will outline how you and all relevant stakeholders will review it at various stages of the production cycle:

  • Project set up and brief
  • Organizing project-relevant assets into folders, lists, and libraries
  • Defining all stakeholders involved, as well as their roles and responsibilities
  • Setting up a project workflow to define what needs to be done, when, and by whom, etc. 
Project workflow setup in CELUM

Review process

The review process often resembles a cycle of revisions and approvals. 

In most cases, it works like this: Once creative teams complete initial drafts, they forward those assets to relevant stakeholders. Stakeholders review the content, provide feedback, and often suggest changes and revisions. Creative teams, then, implement those changes, and files come back to stakeholders for another round of revisions. 

Once there is no more feedback, files go for the final review and approval. After that, they are ready for distribution to relevant channels. 

In the review process, the approval workflow defines:

  • Who should be involved in providing feedback
  • How to provide that feedback
  • Timelines for providing feedback and suggestions to ensure that projects get completed on time, and more. 


Mark annotation tool in CELUM

Distribution

Finally, completed projects get routed to their final destinations – social media queue, website, or to be used in other marketing initiatives. 

The workflow should outline who is responsible for accepting files for each of those channels, and the formal process of reviewing and ensuring that files match the channels’ standards. 

Distribution and conversion of content across different channels with CELUM

2 Examples of Content Approval Workflows

From the overview above you know what are the elements of a typical content approval process. 

But let us show you how it works in practice, using two particular project types – image and video production.

#1. Image approval workflow

This workflow example shows the approval process of a simple image. 

For the purpose of this example, let’s imagine that a creative team received a request to provide the website team with a specific product image to be used on a product page.

Here’s how the approval workflow would look like for them, then.

Task

Stakeholder

Actions

Task:

Project request review

Stakeholder:

Project manager

Actions:

  • Review the project
  • Assess whether the project fits the departments’ capabilities
  • Confirm project specification and deadline

Task:

Project workflow set up and briefing

Stakeholder:

Project manager

Actions:

  • Set up project in a project management tool
  • Use image workflow template when creating the project
  • Add complete brief for designer
  • Set up other stakeholders, due dates, and notify the designer about the new project

Task:

Asset collection

Stakeholder:

Project manager

Actions:

  • Set up project folders
  • Collect additional assets, if missing

Task:

Image creation

Stakeholder:

Graphic designer

Actions:

  • Create the image to specifications, 
  • Mark the project as ready for review

Task:

Initial review + feedback

Stakeholder:

Project manager + designer (revisions)

Actions:

  • Create the image to specifications, 
  • Mark the project as ready for review
  • Review if the draft meets the brief (format, size, content, etc.)
  • Send feedback to the designer, if any
  • Designer to implement revisions, if any

Task:

Marketing team review + feedback

Stakeholder:

Marketing team leader + designer (revisions)

Actions:

  • Review the project against the brief
  • Review if the content meets the requirements
  • Suggest revisions, if any
  • Designer to implement revisions, if any

Task:

Final approval

Stakeholder:

Marketing team leader

Actions:

  • Final review and mark design as completed
  • Notify the web team that the image is ready for upload

Task:

Web team

Stakeholder:

Marketing team leader

Actions:

  • Upload the image on the website, and mark the project as completed

#2. Video approval workflow

In this example, the video team is tasked with creating a short explainer video for the homepage. 

Here’s what the approval process could look like in this case.

Task

Stakeholder

Actions

Task:

Project request review

Stakeholder:

Project manager

Actions:

  • Review the project
  • Assess the scope of work
  • Confirm project specification and deadline

Task:

Project workflow set up and briefing

Stakeholder:

Project manager

Actions:

  • Set up the project in a project management tool
  • Use video workflow template when creating the project
  • Notify all stakeholders about the new project

Task:

Asset collection

Stakeholder:

Project manager

Actions:

  • Collect all necessary assets and brief
  • Create internal video brief for the creative team
  • Add the brief to the project management tool

Task:

Script development

Stakeholder:

Video script writer

Actions:

  • Draft the video script
  • Create storyboard

Task:

Script review

Stakeholder:

Project manager

Actions:

  • Review whether script meets the brief 
  • Send feedback to the scriptwriter, if any

Task:

Script and storyboard review

Stakeholder:

Marketing team

Project manager

Actions:

  • Present the storyboard to the marketing team
  • Script review and revisions

Task:

Script approval

Stakeholder:

Marketing team

Actions:

  • Final script review and approval

Task:

Video production

Stakeholder:

Creative and video teams

Actions:

  • Produce the first draft of the video to the brief and the script

Task:

Video review

Stakeholder:

Project manager

Actions:

  • Review whether the video file meets the brief requirements (format, file type, etc.)
  • Review whether the video follows the brief

Task:

Video review

Stakeholder:

Marketing team

Actions:

  • Review the project against the brief
  • Review if the video content meets the requirements
  • Suggest revisions, if any
  • Video team to implement revisions, if any

Task:

Final approval

Stakeholder:

Marketing team leader

Actions:

  • Final review and mark creative as completed
  • Notify the web team that the video is ready for upload

Task:

Video upload

Stakeholder:

Web team

Actions:

  • Upload video on the homepage, and mark the project as completed

Common Issues with Content Approval Workflows

We’ve covered the benefits of using content approval processes already. 

But, these processes can go wrong too. So, below, we’ve listed the most common issues companies face with their approval workflows. 

#1. Lack of repeatable and scalable workflows

You could create approval workflows for practically any type of project and its variation, and that is a problem. 

That problem is how easy it is to get bogged down with devising variations and iterations for every potential project scenario. Unfortunately, in doing so, you eliminate one of the most critical aspects of an approval workflow – its scalability. 

A scalable and repeatable process will help you speed up content production and review processes. Coming up with customer content approval workflow every time you receive a new project, however, will only consume time, and confuse everyone involved. 

#2. Too many approvers

Another common mistake is inviting too many people to approve different stages of projects. 

The result? Chaos, too many opinions leading to an inability to move the project forward. 

For a workflow to work smoothly, you need to invite only the most critical people to review and approve its various stages. 

These people might consult their teams in the process, of course. But the feedback will come from only the reviewers you invited to the project. That will greatly reduce chaos and miscommunication. 

#3. Lack of clarity regarding timelines and deadlines

Isn’t it amazing when everyone comes together, collaborate, and completes their tasks on time? 

Unfortunately, that can happen only if team members know when they should be completing their work, and what are the deadlines for feedback or reviews.

Coincidentally, this is common issue organizations face with their approval processes. They define steps in the process but fail to specify exact deadlines and timelines for completion. 

The result? Team members sit on their tasks only because they think there’s still time to do it. 

#4. Too rigid workflow that does not allow for external factors

Sometimes projects get held up not because of flaws in the process but because of an external factor. A team member getting sick, equipment failure or even a last-minute pivot in the brief can throw even the most well-defined workflow upside down. 

And if your processes do not make provisions for unplanned circumstances affecting the project, the work is bound to suffer. 

Your workflow should be as strict as possible. However, do not create too strict dependencies between all tasks. Allow teams to complete some actions, even if the project gets held up at a particular stage.

This way, you’ll ensure that work will continue moving forward, even if at a slightly slower pace. 

How Dedicated Content Approval Software Helps to Streamline the Workflow

The main purpose of content approval software is to help teams manage feedback, review, and sign-off processes, and get projects completed on time and on budget. 

Such platforms: 

  • Streamline requests for feedback and approvals, 
  • Allow you to keep all information relating to a project, including various project revisions in a single location for easy access and review,
  • Provide automations to help ensure that everyone involved follows the relevant workflow, 
  • Templates and workflows to ensure that all projects follow the process,
  • Communication and review capabilities to allow stakeholders to share their feedback on time, and more. 
 

Want to experience a content approval platform in practice?

Try out CELUM – the complete content production management and approval software. 

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