Archives for category: Writing

There are reams of material available for communicators in print and online on developing, maintaining and controlling approval processes in organizations for materials such as newsletters (internal or external), press releases, fact sheets, etc. Lots of articles complaining about them too!

What I’ve yet to find is something solid on how to explain why an approval process is necessary and important.

Approval processes for materials aren’t for covering your a** (CYA) or even a professional courtesy, e.g., “We thought you’d like to know we are sending out a press release on our most important product launch in YEARS, take a glance at if you like.”

Approval processes are integral to many areas of an organization and how it is run. Approval processes maintains the professionalism, brand and message promoted internally and externally to various important stakeholders such as <gasp> CUSTOMERS! A couple of things to keep in mind when that approval email lands in your inbox, and why it is probably a good idea to open it up in a timely manner and answer it:

  1. Quality control: We are all beautifully human, and the most careful and professional communications executive, who writes materials every day for work and for pleasure and has had six other people look at the piece before sending it out, makes mistakes. Little, silly mistakes that he or she didn’t catch because they have stared at that press release for five days. After a while, you don’t see those small mistakes. The approval process helps catch those types of errors, which can negatively affect your organization’s…
  2. Professionalism: Despite the fact that we are beautifully human, we have standards and often pretty high ones, for the materials we read on websites, Facebook, Twitter and on Google. Even as a public relations professional who has committed more gaffes than I care to admit to (but will go ahead and do so, because it’s true and I depend on the approval process), if I see a press release or website content with typos, even one, I wonder, “Did anyone take a look at this?” I try to be understanding, but part of me is wondering what is going on behind the curtain and if the organization is on point.
  3. Branding and Messaging: I can write a release or a white paper or an op-ed and think I have hit all of the important messages, but there may be something emerging that I don’t know about that needs to be added to the piece for context. Or I may mention something in the piece that should be removed for legal, proprietary or other reasons. Perhaps the entire piece needs to be put on hold. How would I ever know if I didn’t send the piece for review and if no one opened it to read it and let me know the deal? Every piece that goes out, internally or externally, should reinforce correctly and clearly, the organization’s brand and key messaging. You have to check communication pieces just as carefully for message as you do typos and grammatical errors. Nothing should leave the communications/public relations, etc., department without strongly supporting the organization and its mission.

I’m not advocating not allowing a communications or public relations department to function and operate without being watched carefully – but approval processes are important. The importance transcends a department’s autonomy, what people perceive their job responsibilities to be, (i.e., I work in Finance, so I’m not sure I need to bother reading this), or assuming that everything is okay, (i.e., I’m pretty sure Bob read this…). Everyone in an organization, not just the communication department, is responsible for how it is perceived and what represents it. And it all starts with taking ownership and responsibility in the approval process.

 Flackchick wants to know: How does the approval process work in your organization? Or how doesn’t it? What would you like to change, and what do you like about it?

Columbia Journalism Review recently researched close to 700 consumer magazine Web sites and its content and discovered that:

  • Copy-editing requirements for online content was less stringent than those in print at 48 percent of the magazines.
  • Eleven percent did not copy-edit online content at all.
  • Fifty-seven percent of the magazines fact-check online content the same way they fact-check print articles,
  • 27 percent used a less stringent editing process for online content.
  • Eight percent did not fact-check online content at all.
  • Even worse: The other eight percent did not fact-check print OR online articles.

These weren’t little publications either. Twelve percent of the publications in the survey had print circulations of more than 500,000, which represents most major consumer magazines, such as Time, Wired and Redbook.

Do they think people are crazy or stupid? Or both?

We might be, but regardless of our IQs or mental state, we can read and we see misspellings and notice information that is less than accurate, to say the least. As a public relations professional, I know the information that I provide a publication and its editors on my client and/or company is accurate and has been approved by executives and usually the legal team. If I read an article I worked to place and notice a mistake, I want to believe it was an honest mistake, not that the editor just threw a story together and didn’t care if it was correct or not. This report makes me wonder. All the editors and publications I have worked with in the past have been very smart, professional and helpful. I’ve only had one publication refuse to correct a mistake. And I don’t work with that publication or read it.

My solution?

Let’s tackle this problem initially by politely calling editors and the publications they work for on fact inaccuracies and other mistakes. This includes everyone from Average Joe, to company executives, to communications professionals. If the publication is reputable, they will correct the error and you will see an increase in the content quality. This goes for print and online.

If they give you lip or don’t make a correction, then we need to reconsider working with certain editors and publications and/or reading their content. They should care about the quality of their work, and if they don’t, we shouldn’t be reading it.

We already pay for print content, and we are about to start paying for online content as well. News outlets and publications need to step it up.

See the article on the report at The New York Times, and read the actual report below.

The New York Times: Survey Finds Slack Editing on Magazine Web Sites 

See the article on the report at The New York Times, and read the actual report below.

The New York Times: Survey Finds Slack Editing on Magazine Web Sites

Columbia Journalism Review: Magazines and Their Web sites

After a year of standing against the wall, snapping my fingers and bobbing my head to the beat, but not actually hitting the party floor, I’ve decided to dance my way out of my constrictions. I’ve joined the blogosphere.

I am not sure what held me back – or maybe I’m not able to articulate that right now – but once I can, I will definitely let you know. Right now, we can just focus on what is I am trying to accomplish and what I hope you all get out of this.

What do I want this blog to be for those who stumble upon it? My goal is for this blog to be place for public relations professionals like me to learn and discuss issues in the industry, and for professionals who are looking for job opportunities and/or trying to freelance to find support and information.

I will work hard to supply you with relevant articles. On the flip side, I need something from you – because no one really does this altruistically, right? I want you to like what you read enough to keep coming back, whether it is to stop and think more on a particular topic, comment, vent, tell me I am completely off my rocker about something, or have a chuckle.

So with that, welcome! Check out the “About Me” section, and stay tuned!

P.S. – If you want to, you can follow me on Twitter @nlinton. Check out my Web site: http://www.creativitaconsulting.com/ or find me on LinkedIn under Creativita Consulting.

All the best,

Flack Chick