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?