Sludge. The creative engine behind your brand is likely suffering from a slow buildup of inefficient and confusing processes. The source is email. That wonderfully easy and flexible form of communication. You can message multiple people at once, attach files, and embed funny animated GIFs of goats.
It can do all those amazing things and everyone’s already using it, so why isn’t it working for the review and approval process? Creative operations teams are growing. Requests are coming in from more teams. Deadlines are tight. The flexibility and ease of use of email builds up inefficiencies. It’s time to identify the sludge in your creative review and approval process and take the next steps to a cleaner, more effective operation.
Why is email bad for managing creative review and approval process?
Email doesn’t provide any framework for the process. Email is simply a communication channel. This puts 100% of the process on your team. Here are some common challenges with using email as your workflow tool.
Who’s responsible for what?
When you receive an email to review a piece of work, is it clear what you’re reviewing it for? Are you reviewing copy for grammar or tone and voice? Or are you responsible for reviewing the layout?
Tracking asset and review history
Email threads can provide some context, assuming everyone replies all to every email. But every piece of feedback, clarification, and question adds to the entire team’s inbox.
What about including only certain people throughout the review process? By adding reviewers into the process at different points, you’ll have a harder time combining and consolidating their feedback. Did the people who can turn the feedback into action see the message?
When you’re bringing multiple teams into a review process, you might have some added email clutter due to the differences in language being used. People will be asking more questions, resulting in more emails.
Understanding where the design is at in the review process
Where are is this project at? You’ll have to dig through the email chain to confirm if everyone who needs to review it has and that all of their comments have been resolved. What if you weren’t included in the email and you need to send out the completed project right now?
Your next steps to moving the review and approval process out of email
You’ve now seen the sludge causing creative engine problems. How do you clean it up and, most importantly, prevent it from building up again?
Talk with your team about your current processes
You might be surprised with the pain points you’ll uncover by having everyone involved discussing the process. Talk through specific processes for your various deliverables. If you’re creating a lot of infographics, map out that process on a whiteboard. Identify who’s requesting, how they’re requesting, who’s creating the deliverable, who’s reviewing it and when, how are they being notified of updates, when is the deliverable done, and where it goes next.
Identify what’s helpful at each stage of the review
A common challenge teams face is order. Instead of sequential tasks that keep progress moving forward, the process ends up being a bunch of concurrent tasks. This can lead to confusion, redoing work, and unnecessary noise.
Another challenge is feedback overkill. If you have too many voices reviewing it’s much easier to fall into opinion-based feedback instead of quality feedback.
Keep your teams focused on the right things at the right time. Your designers shouldn’t be receiving feedback on the tone and voice of the body copy during the final review stage. That could have been much easier to resolve early on in the review process.
Establish a notion of priority and timeline
There’s a big difference between identifying a timeline and sticking to one. You’re probably thinking, yeah, it’s six weeks. One major cause of stress in creative and marketing teams is short deadlines and turnaround times. There are some things that come up that just need to be done like that. But planning in advance and establishing the priority of work should help reduce some of that stressful, end-of-deadline work.
Research tools to meet your new review and approval process
Once your team has identified the process it needs for all participants to work and collaborate more effectively, it’s time to explore tools that will help facilitate and support that process.