Here at the Content Bureau, we really like efficiency. We include a detailed project methodology in every proposal, and work very hard to hold our clients to that process during every project. We do this for one simple reason: our methodology helps us to create the highest-quality marketing content quickly, cost-effectively, and with the least amount of drama. Every single client wants this outcome. There is no reason to want anything different. Cost overruns? Delays? Tears of frustration? Not if we can help it!
Check out our four-step process. Looks easy, right? Here are the absolutely critical behind-the-scenes elements that help our clients to ensure this process runs smoothly:
Before the project starts, appoint two key stakeholders:
- A single decision-maker on content—AKA, subject-matter expert (SME). This person must raise his or her hand in front of everyone who will be involved in the project and say, “I own this content. I know our target audience and the information we need to share in this piece. If this project goes well, it will be career-enhancing for me. So I’m going to give this project my time and attention.” In tech companies, this person is often a product marketing or industry marketing manager, or a thought leader responsible for developing the company’s point of view on a hot topic. Everyone on the review team understands that while their feedback may be included, this person is the ultimate decision-maker.
- A consolidator of feedback (COF). This person is rarely the same as #1, but his or her role is equally important. The COF is organized, persuasive, and politically astute—and is a good writer who respects and is respected by the SME. The COF has enough of a grasp of the content we’re presenting that she or he can consolidate feedback from all reviewers using Track Changes, arbitrating disputes behind the scenes if necessary. The COF opens the PO for us, and needs the asset for a specific reason by a specific date. We consider the COF to be our client, and we will do ANYTHING to help him or her achieve success on the project. The COF cracks the whip, and when the project succeeds—which it will if you follow our simple methodology—she or he absolutely deserves the credit . . . and graciously shares it with the SME.
Secure feedback from all stakeholders on the first draft. In 99% of our projects, we plan to deliver three edited drafts in Word. When clients agree to three drafts, and then request additional drafts (usually because they waited to show the piece to key stakeholders when it was nearly finished, at which point stakeholders want to make changes), we will charge more, the project will take longer to complete, and you are likely to experience some frustration and drama. To achieve the optimal outcome—the best quality content, delivered as quickly and cost-effectively as possible—secure feedback from all stakeholders on the first draft, with your SME as the ultimate decision-maker on content.
Avoid copy changes in layout. We write this into every proposal for a very good reason: while it’s easy to change copy in Word, it’s inefficient and expensive to do so once we’ve flowed copy into layout. When your stakeholders are reviewing the first draft, tell them that they will have only two opportunities to provide feedback on the copy—first draft and second draft. The third approved draft is flowed into layout, where you will focus on small design-only changes, such as swapping out an image. The copy should be locked once we go into layout—and you can portray us as the bad guys on this! We encourage our clients to tell their stakeholders, “to ensure we finish on time and on budget, our agency won’t allow any changes except error fixes in layout.” One exception: legal review. Most of our clients run the second draft of copy in Word past legal, then send them the first draft in layout.
Call us if you’re worried that something is going wrong. If you have a feeling your project is going off the rails for any reason, let us know so we can help you. Delays are our first red flag. They often indicate a change in priorities, a change in messaging, lack of stakeholder engagement, or some other internal issue—usually outside your control. Sometimes it’s best to kill the current project and divert remaining budget to a higher-priority project. The sooner we do that, the more budget you’ll have for the new project, and the happier we’ll all be. We promise we won’t mind—we just want to help you to be successful! If your priorities change, we want to help you focus on the most important ones.
Some of these suggestions may feel like overkill if you haven’t worked this way in the past. Some might feel downright painful while we’re in the middle of a project. Please—trust us! After creating thousands of high-quality marketing assets during our fifteen years in business, we can tell you with great confidence that this is the best way to achieve the optimal outcome on your project.