Content marketing teams love to focus on two key parts of the content creation process, the beginning and the end. The enthusiasm of creating content and the accomplishment of sharing that content overshadow the third part right in the middle… the content review process.

Because an entire team is behind this content, there are times during content reviews when the process flows — people feel happy about their work and the work is done well and on-time. Simultaneously, there are bottlenecks and inefficiencies that cause people to feel frustrated and burnt out. Their work and the entire organization feel that impact.

To foster harmony during the content review process, it takes collaboration and empathy. Here are some ideas to help you keep the peace and keep your content marketing team productive.

The role of empathy in the content review process.

The role of empathy in the content review process

Since 2017, empathy’s value in the workplace has been steadily on the rise. Ninety percent of employees, HR professionals, and CEOs said empathy is important in Businesssolver’s 2020 State of Workplace Empathy study.

Empathy was already essential for organizations before — now with the workplace challenges of 2020, from remote content collaboration to restrictive marketing budgets — empathy is even more critical for content marketing teams.

The business impact of empathy cannot be ignored. Also revealed in the 2020 Workplace Empathy study:

  • 76 percent feel empathy results in increased productivity
  • 78 percent say empathy leads to increased motivation

In looking at the content review process, productivity and motivation are necessary for ensuring high-quality, factual content passes through to the finalization and approval stage. When content gatekeepers are productive and motivated, they feel inspired and engaged. Being that content is what drives brand awareness, lead generation, and customer loyalty… the last thing you want is for your process and people to feel disconnected and disheartened.

The CEO, CMO, and director of content must lead with empathy so content collaboration is achieved from the beginning of the content creation process. This means having open and authentic conversations with a content marketing team that is clear about their role and how their work is instrumental in achieving the organization’s vision.

Clarifying content creation resources and roles.

Clarifying content creation resources and roles

Disconnected content reviews are the result of a disconnect between individuals and teams, and a disconnect with the organization itself. By clarifying your content creation resources and roles upfront, everyone is clear about their involvement in this leg of the process.

Generally, these teams will be involved in the content review cycle:

  • Content marketing team – People inside the organization who provide proofreading, copyediting, or edit the structure.
  • Subject matter experts – People outside of marketing who fact-check content about specific products or services.
  • Teamlancers – People outside the organization who support the internal team with a number of services, such as content creation, content strategy, design, and editing.

This is what people do in the content review process, but it’s not why they are here. To connect the dots, this is an opportunity to lead with empathy.

This means:

  • Sharing the content vision, what the organization hopes to achieve from this collective effort so each person has more clarity about their purpose and time investment.
  • Acknowledging that each person has other priorities and tasks, so checking in to make sure they have dedicated time — and enough time — to complete content reviews.
  • Celebrating victories, both big and small, rewarding the team for their hard work rather than continually pushing forward onto the next content project without recognition.
  • Having consistent and open conversations with internal and external content marketing teams to find and improve any content review process bottlenecks.

Content review process do’s, don’ts, and dialogue.

Content review process do’s, don’ts, and dialogue

We all live and learn during the content review process, and it’s often the hard way. What if we had listened more? What if we had thought through our feedback before blurting it out? What if we had shown additional support instead of leaving someone high and dry?

Content reviews can be touchy because content involves a significant time and energy investment. Your writer poured their creative energy into the piece. Your busy subject matter expert volunteered a precious hour they didn’t have to spare, so they could fact-check the piece. And your marketing team is juggling 78 other pieces of content, in addition to this one.

Having an open dialogue is a practice of empathy, but sometimes it’s difficult to know what to say in various scenarios when emotions run high. These do’s and don’ts will help you find and improve your process bottlenecks and the suggested dialogue will help you lead with empathy.

Do make sure your subject matter experts feel heard.

Your subject matter experts (SMEs) are key resources who hold a wealth of company knowledge. Bring them into the content creation process and your reviews will be easier on them, because their expertise comes in sooner. They have ideas for content and they make great thought leaders… get buy-in from them instead of summoning them for content fact-checks.

Say to your SME:

“You recently mentioned that we’re missing content around this topic. We’d like to fill this gap and interview you so you can author an upcoming content series. And, if the timeline is challenging, perhaps you can help our team with the outlines to make sure we’re hitting the right points?”

Don’t rush the content review process.

The content review process is absolutely impacted by what happens before and during content creation. Inefficiencies lead to rushing content out the door, something you obviously don’t want when so much of your organization’s momentum depends on sharing the best possible content with your audience.

Say to your content team:

“I would feel anxious too if I didn’t have the time to really look at the content I need to review. Let’s get together and figure out a way to create this next batch of content more efficiently, so we can bump up the creation deadline and give all of the reviewers more time to spend with the piece.”

Do involve the right mix of reviewers.

If two content reviewers only review the content for grammar and structure, the piece may be factually incorrect if those reviewers are not subject matter experts. Very often, this is the case as content marketers and creators specialize in content, but not necessarily the topics themselves.

Say to your content team:

“I think our content will be much stronger if we focus on the educational components more. Would you like to bring in John from sales and Rita from the product marketing team? They’ve both expressed interest in helping us with the product specifics that we don’t know as well as they do.”

Content reviews: Don’t set up the content for revision failure.

Don’t set up the content for revision failure.

It’s all in the set-up. If you’re working with external content creators like teamlancers, overshare so they have the care package they need to achieve brand alignment from the start.

  • New writers should have clear brand guidelines and messaging foundations, like personas and brand statements.
  • Supplementary assets and content examples should accompany every new content project as well.

Say to your content team:

“For the upcoming piece about marketing director challenges, let’s get thought leader quotes from a few of our partners to include in the piece. The persona doc is solid, but I think sharing these real-world challenges will help the writer nail this one.”

Do remember that people have control issues.

Funny things happen when non-marketing team members try to exert their control over the content. People get really attached to content, especially if their name is on it. Your content team understands the give and take of content — that you never reach perfection, but you do aim to achieve the messaging goal.

Say to your SME:

“We really appreciate all of your feedback on the ebook. If you were to pick your top three pieces of feedback, what would they be? That will help me convey to the team what messaging needs to be focused on the most, so we can make the content accurate and still release the asset on schedule.”

Don’t forget that content creators are artists.

Artists are more sensitive by nature. That’s what makes them artists… not accountants. Content creators are artists — many of them are bloggers, authors, and creatives across various mediums. Their sensitivity makes them great at what they do, but it also means they will get hurt if they feel their creative work is being ripped to shreds or if they feel they are being treated like a content factory that just churns out content all day.

Say to your content creator:

“I love the way you weaved in the analogy into the intro. For this section, we were missing the mark just slightly with what we were hoping to achieve. I attached audio from a Q&A with one of our subject matter experts to help you here. After those changes, we’re good to go. Also… here is a link to a new case study page we built for our client. Feel free to use this URL in your portfolio since you did such amazing work on these case studies.”

Reviewing content is the grit behind the glamour, where content collaboration either supports or hinders the content production workflow. Is your team’s content review process harmonious or hurtful? It’s likely a little bit of both.

The general urgency of the content creation process means we rush past empathy. But, between all of the deadlines and guidelines are the people trying their best to make things happen. Without empathy, this process — and the people behind that process — feel disconnected and disheartened.

By leading your content marketing team with empathy, you foster harmony in your content review process. A productive and motivated team means better content is delivered efficiently. An empathetic way of working is one where everyone moves past challenges to sustain and grow the organization together.