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How a Content Approval Process Went From 9 Days to a Few Hours

Too often, the content approval process turns into prolonged agony.

You ask, remind, and plead with reviewers to send their feedback. Once you finally get what you need, the creators make the updates. Then you have to push the approvers to sign off ASAP on the updated content. And once again, you ask, remind, and eventually resort to pleading before you publish it.

Given all those headaches, publishing content that involves trends, news, and other time-sensitive topics in an expedited manner might seem impossible.

But it can be done, as a collaboration between Nativo and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) shows. I asked Tyler Holck, a client success team lead at Nativo, to share the story behind their collaboration, which won the 2020 Content Marketing Awards’ Most Innovative Content Distribution Strategy honor.

What they did

Hewlett Packard Enterprise, a platform-as-a-service company, sought to scale its thought leadership beyond its traditional audience of C-suite and information technology leaders. As the team thought about how to reach the new audience, they crafted a program with engaging content and real-time promotion.

To create engaging content, the HPE team developed timely and relevant thought leadership. To reach an audience of people already consuming information about the topic, they promoted the content through native advertising on premium publishing sites.

For example, one asset – Deepfake Video: It Takes AI to Beat AI – responded to the conversation around fake news and fake videos circulating the Internet. People who clicked on a contextually relevant ad in the publisher’s news feeds landed on a page showcasing the HPE infographic directly on the publisher’s site. The page dynamically mirrored the form, function, and feel of the targeted publishers’ sites.

An image of two mobile devices. One showing a contextually relevant ad in the publisher’s news feeds and the other showing the landing page that showcases the HPE infographic directly on the publisher’s site.

Given the challenges of the approval process, how did they publish and promote that trending content in time to be the most relevant to the target audience?

Nativo and HPE streamlined the content approval and creation process for timely topics as part of an initiative the brand calls responsive ad desk (RAD) moments – native displays of articles on third-party sites.

How they did it

The standard ad creation and execution process took about nine days – a two-day turnaround for creative and a week after that to launch. But that timing wouldn’t work well for promoting content about trending and timely topics.

.@Nativo and @HPE went from a 9-day turnaround to a few hours with a revised workflow, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. #ContentCreation Share on X

To accommodate a few hours’ turnaround time, the teams identified pre-approved HPE content that could be repurposed in the new native ad executions. That cut down the creation time.

The expedited review process first involved a tracking spreadsheet and an approval email chain. But all involved soon realized the sheet lacked clarity on the ads’ statuses in the production stage and the HPE person responsible for the next step. Plus, several people had to update the spreadsheet.

Perhaps the bigger challenge was the number of people involved. There were too many people to get clear, consistent feedback, and the process didn’t properly capture the nuances from the input of all who had a hand in it.

To solve the problem, they reduced the number of reviewers and approvers and moved the review-approval email chain to a shared spreadsheet.

Only the most important decision-makers had access to the shared document, but that didn’t mean others didn’t provide input. Instead, HPE collected the feedback internally from the stakeholders and appointed one person to post it to the shared document.

To expedite #content review and approval, one person collected internal stakeholder feedback and posted to the team’s shared document, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. #ContentWorkflow Share on X

Eventually, they streamlined the content creation, progress, review, and approval process onto a Trello board. A card is created for each step that a decision-maker is responsible for. It includes a tagging feature to allow faster and easier communication between teams and allows to work to be done simultaneously on their respective cards.

A weekly call with key team members complimented the online tracking board to ensure alignment on the week ahead.

“This efficiency facilitated Nativo’s direct access to brand creative the moment it was approved for use,” Tyler says.

The RAD program revolutionized how HPE responds to timely topics with relevant content through paid media campaigns.

How it’s working

The pilot project turned into a content marketing engine involving HPE, Nativo, Edelman, Digitas, and several other strategic agencies and vendors.

Between the third quarter 2019 and second quarter 2020, HPE increased its native “moments” by 45%. In return, it saw significant increases above industry and HPE past-performance benchmarks, including:

  • 30% higher CTR for native displays
  • 10% higher CTR for native articles
  • 15 seconds longer on content

The native ad-promoted distribution improved overall reach and drove consumer engagement. At the end of 2019, an HPE study showed the opinion of HPE increased 15%, and the share of people who viewed the company as a thought leader in enterprise tech increased 12%.

One more thing

Given the cumbersome approval processes many agencies and corporate internal teams face, Tyler recommends making sure you get as much as possible out of your approved content: “A better understanding of what content you have – and how it can be given new life – is a fantastic start to getting ahead in the approval process.”

Of course, you still need to create new content. Follow the Nativo and HPE model:

  • Encourage open communication among all partners and stakeholders.
  • Establish direct lines of communication – shared Slack spaces, team drives, etc.
  • Use a shared tracker so everyone can see where a content asset is in the process as well as who’s responsible for it.
  • Recognize when a tool or process isn’t working well and find a better solution.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute