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Master the approval process

It's 4pm on a Friday. You've finished all your work for the week, you've ticked off your task list and you're just waiting for one person to come back to you before you can clock off and relax. It's all looking good.

You can nearly taste that Friday night takeaway.

Your email dings. Ah, it's Steve! You emailed him earlier with what seemed like a beautifully simple question:

"Hey Steve - thanks for sending me the information on the new finance system update for the newsletter. The article is now attached - can you review it and let me know if you want any changes by COB? Thanks!"

Now kudos to Steve, he came back exactly on time and he did as you asked: he reviewed the article and made changes. Oh boy did he make changes.

When you read Steve's reply you immediately recognise the huge mistake you made. Your face changes to this:

Steve has rewritten the entire article. It's gone from 400 words to 4,000 words. It's dripping in jargon and Finance Speak and you can count at least 17 different unexplained acronyms.

Your gorgeous piece of content is destroyed.

Head... meet desk.

Now you have to figure out how to salvage this piece of content. The tasty takeaway doesn't seem so close now.

How to get your content approved

Has this ever happened to you? It's definitely happened to me.

And there's a simple fix: be really really crystal clear on the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder in the approval process.

In the story above, the question Steve was asked was way too broad: "can you review it and let me know if you want any changes?" Steve interpreted this as change anything you like. And so he did.

Try using a question like this instead:

✅ Can you fact-check this for me before I publish it?

​Using a question like this sets out a clear role and responsibility for Steve: he is the fact checker. His responsibility is to check the accuracy of the facts and content. You're not asking for Steve's opinion on the style, tone of voice, formatting or word count ... this is your wheelhouse as the comms expert, as you know what your audience needs and how best to communicate with them.

I've used this technique for years and wish I'd known it from day one of my first internal comms job. It speeds up the approvals process and keeps you in control of the language and style of the content. It also saves your stakeholders a lot of time and effort as they're not trying to rewrite something that doesn't need rewriting.


Want to work together?

Whenever you're ready, here's 3 ways I can help you:

  • Join my membership community. The IC Accelerator is my group coaching community for ambitious, action-oriented communicators who want to take their skills and career to the next level with direct support from me. Work directly with me in live online quarterly sessions and in a private community platform throughout the year. You can join the group any time of the year and I'll get you onboarded and up to speed. Click here to learn more.

  • Take the weight off. I've created a bespoke collection of tried-and-tested internal communication templates, how-to guides and checklists to give you step-by-step instructions on many of the processes that you need to excel in your role. These will take the weight off while you get on with the rest of your job. You can find my Internal Comms Cheat Sheets here.

  • Hire me to speak at an event. I am passionate about effective communication and I love speaking with people about why communication matters, the power of curiosity and why we need to focus on innovation instead of best practice. If you have an event coming up in 2024 and you're looking for an energetic, thought-provoking speaker, drop me a line.


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