The creative review process is an inescapable part of the Marketing role.

Whether you’re producing hard copy assets like brochures, flyers and sell sheets, or digital ones like webpages, lead nurturing emails or interactive pdfs, reviews are essential.

Getting a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ to look at a document or asset towards the end of the production process can ensure branding is complied with. It can pick up errors that might have been missed when the same team looks at a document one too many times.

And of course, if you’re governed by the FCA or another industry regulator, the approvals process isn’t just best practice from a brand perspective, it’s a regulatory requirement. Getting Compliance team sign off and creating an FCA-compliant audit trail needs to be an in-built part of your production schedule.

The steps you need to follow for best practice creative reviews

If you want to make your approvals process as good as it can be, there are a few steps you can follow. Especially in firms where a number of people – advisers, consultants, lawyers, for instance, as well as the Marketing team – are responsible for producing collateral, it’s all too easy for your financial promotions to run out of control.

But by putting in place a few best practices for digital asset management, you can ensure your creative reviews go smoothly and produce the most engaging, compliant and on-brand results.

Step 1 – make sure the asset you’re reviewing is visible to all

How do you share collateral for review? Do you rely on email and hard copies, with someone (usually a beleaguered member of your team) responsible for collating edits from a range of reviewers?

Or do you use an online approvals system, where edits are instantly visible to all?

Whichever route you take, you need to ensure that the right group is involved in reviewing and approving.

Compliance-wise, this will be dictated by whoever your firm’s approved compliance reviewer/s are.

The other reviewers will be less prescribed, down to the structure of your firm and the specifics of the particular project – different collateral may require different groups of people.

Share the material promptly, giving reviewers as much time as possible to look at it. Think about the most efficient way to do this – is email quickest and most failsafe? An automated workflow tool may allow you to drag and drop or upload files ready for review and approval, which can speed the process and ensure the most up-to-date version of the documents are shared.

Step 2 – find the best way to manage changes during the review process

Once you’ve worked out who needs to be involved, and circulated the asset for review, the next step is tracking the changes.

How do you manage:

  • Adding comments
  • Version control – ensuring the latest file is always used
  • Swapping in new versions when needed
  • Editing the list of reviewers?

Keeping track of edits is one of the hardest aspects of the process. Make sure everyone knows the way you want to receive them: are comments on the pdf best, or emails listing the amendments by page? Will a hard-copy annotated version of the document be a help or a hindrance?

Another of the biggest challenges is prioritising edits. If two comments contradict each other, which takes precedence? If you’re reviewing in real time, in an online system, you can avoid issues here with live edits reducing the potential for contradictory changes.

But in hard copy, or via an email chain, conflicting suggestions can cause a problem.

Step 3 – focus reviewers on the task at hand

Time is of the essence when getting new material out into the market, whether it’s a press release on a product launch or a webpage detailing a new service.

Making the review process a priority for busy colleagues, though, can be tricky.

Make sure everyone involved is aware of the deadline, and the need for timely feedback. Blocking out time in reviewers’ diaries can be an effective tactic.

If you’re working with an automated workflow solution, it can be programmed to send reminders and flag deadlines to the team, reducing the shepherding needed by the Marketing team. The best will enable you to customise workflows to involve only those who need to see each document, and automatically forward it to the next approver when ready.

Step 4 – make sure reviewers follow best practice

For those reviewing, some best practices can make collating and reading of edits easier. Whether you add comments to a pdf, annotate a hard copy, send an email outlining your edits or use an automated solution, you should:

  • Make it clear which part of the content your comment refers to
  • Be clear (but not overly wordy) in your edits – say enough to make your required change unambiguous without writing an essay
  • Review promptly – so that others looking at it see the full range of comments
  • Remember that reviewing isn’t only about regulatory compliance: think about brand and readability as well. Will the document make sense to the intended audience? Does it follow your brand guidelines?

Step 5 – project manage your approvals to keep your task on track

Reviews all too easily run over time, playing havoc with your deadlines. Make sure you keep a tight rein on the process.

Best practice reviewing not only makes the process more robust, but also streamlines marketing campaign management, so following these tips can help get your materials to market faster.

If you want to keep track of your marketing campaigns, online platforms often have configurable dashboards, which can be invaluable in giving you a snapshot of the current situation.

Even when the process is complete and your collateral signed off, your work isn’t quite done. Particularly if you are in a regulated industry (and ideally even if you’re not), you need to capture a compliant audit trail. This will enable you to evidence that the correct process has been followed, in case you ever need to prove, for example to the FCA, that you’ve carried out the necessary checks before issuing a financial promotion.

Save time, increase regulatory compliance and improve the end result

The review process is an inevitable aspect of the Marketing role – although often a less-than-welcome one. Following some best practice tips can make your creative reviews as efficient and comprehensive as possible.

Read some helpful tips for choosing an automated workflow system. Marketing and Compliance processes can really make your job easier.

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