You’ve gone through all the necessary motions to get your firm’s content marketing off the ground. You’ve created your overarching strategic plan. Developed detailed target personas. Mapped out an editorial calendar. Identified and oriented your content contributors. And now your team is writing and podcasting and recording. They’re creating content. It may not be easy, but you and your team are making it happen. Or at least trying to.
Because even with all that effort, you’ve still got some naysayers. Individuals who are holding up the process or simply causing uncertainty to fester among the wider group.
How do you nip that in the bud before your content marketing efforts come to a crashing halt? Should you involve those who are doubting the plan and strategy? Is it possible to get to the point where they’re also contributing content?
You can do all that and more with the right internal content review process.
What is Internal Content Review?
Just as you wouldn’t send a proof to a client without a couple other pairs of eyes on it, you shouldn’t publish content to your site without other team members reviewing it first.
A common pitfall of internal content review is trying to make a piece of content perfect according to … everyone. An article that is basically an art form. A seamless podcast without a single moment of meandering conversation. A video where you never look away from the camera to think up another thoughtful insight to share. The quest for perfection will be the downfall of your content marketing strategy. You simply will not publish content, let alone ever get around to promoting it.
In this case, perfect really is the enemy of good.
Instead, internal review is an opportunity for other stakeholders to bolster their teammate’s content with additional insight. Or to strengthen the delivery of that content’s message. These improvements may come in the form of major feedback that requires reworking larger sections of the content. Or it may simply mean reordering the message or making minor grammatical changes.
Ultimately, the feedback that arises during internal review should make for an improved piece of content. But you shouldn’t have so many rounds of internal review that it holds up your publication schedule. Instead, get the right people to do it at the right time, and then move forward.
How to Choose Internal Content Reviewers on Your Team
There are two ways to think about your internal content review:
The first is to have one “gatekeeper” of your content across the board. This individual reviews — reads, listens, watches, etc. — every piece of content that you publish. If this sounds like a bottleneck waiting to happen, you may be right. But if your editorial calendar has you publishing every week or every other week and you’re able to generally stay on that development schedule, then one reviewer may work best for your team.
Having one person fill this role will likely mean that they become very good at internal review. That specialization can come in handy, both in terms of not hurting any egos and ensuring content is strengthened before publication. And if you work at a firm where one executive mandates review pre-publication, you may likely be in this position already. So use that to your advantage.
The second option is to designate a group of internal reviewers to cycle through your content. That doesn’t mean others can’t jump in here or there and review as well, but you still want a core group focused on honing their specific review skills. Otherwise, you’ll spend too much of your time guiding internal review rather than on the other necessary details of effective digital marketing (like sharing your content via email — ideally once a week!).
When brainstorming who should be part of that internal review group, consider who your subject matter experts are. Who is in a position to add further insight to your content? Or to guide another team member in a more advantageous direction? These are the individuals you want doing internal review. You may be thinking that these are also some of your busiest colleagues. That is probably the case, but if you provide adequate internal review instruction, this shouldn’t be as time-consuming as some may think. Just like all other tasks, clear direction and practice makes reviewing more efficient.
What are the Benefits of Conducting an Internal Content Review Process?
Don’t even think for a moment that you can skip this step in content development.
There is obviously the advantageous element of strengthening one another’s content. That is a crucial benefit of having another team member (or two) review content. But there are other benefits you may not think of immediately:
- Inevitably, during internal content review your reviewer is going to elevate additional ideas and insights that could be included in the content. However, there’s not always room to cover that detail in the existing topic at hand — or it may be an idea that gets a mention but isn’t covered comprehensively. In this case, not only do you have fodder for another piece of content, but you also already know at least one place where you should link your content together for viewers’ easy access (and SEO best practices). Doing so will better enable your website to nurture sales prospects.
- You may quickly discover who your pickiest reviewers are. If it’s your one gatekeeper … you may have a rough road ahead. But try not to think of their nitpicking ability as a hindrance. It can be a boon to your content strategy in the long run. First, it’s likely to push your team to publish better content. And second, a picky reviewer is ripe for selection as a frequent contributor. If you find that one of your reviewers tends to pick everything your team produces apart, start challenging them to develop more of their own original content. You need these opinionated reviewers as part of your content team! They’re the ones most likely to put a stake in the ground with their content.
- Last but not least, content development brings teams together, especially when internal review is handled well. Your contributor is going to be getting detailed feedback from their reviewer. This will lead to conversation, perhaps at times debate, and these are exactly the kinds of discussions you want your team to be having. This kind of knowledge transfer is ideal between clients. It’s essentially on-the-job training, albeit a slightly passive form of it. (Which actually tends to be the most productive kind — the type you don’t necessarily need to schedule a meeting for.) And talking about each individual topic will also reinforce everyone’s collaborative ideation in the future. You can only hope to see better, deeper relationships between your team members if you set up internal review correctly.
Internal Content Review Best Practices
You can’t just expect everyone out of the gate to be a good reviewer. Just as you’ve given tips and guidelines for creating content, you should also share the best practices of reviewing with your team. You need to focus their attention and remind them of the endgame. Otherwise internal content review probably will eat up too much of your SMEs’ time.
The Golden Rule of Internal Content Review
If you only teach your reviewers one principle, let it be this: Provide feedback in the same manner that you would want to receive feedback. It is perfectly natural to be a little self-conscious when your team starts content marketing. That will hopefully soon fade away as everyone realizes this is a team effort for the benefit of your business.
So take it slow coming right out of the gate. Let your internal reviewers know that they should prioritize the most important elements rather than, again, trying to transform each piece into a work of art.
The next logical question is: What are the most important elements though? And I hope your internal reviewers ask you that. If they don’t, it’s on you to tell them.
Content Marketing Requires You to Focus on Your Audience’s Needs
First and foremost, your contributors should be prioritizing your firm’s target personas in their content. Your content marketing efforts rely upon freely sharing your teams’ perspectives on the challenges your prospects are experiencing and how they can learn from you. So how you talk to your prospects is crucial.
Since that is such a major tenet of content marketing, it should also be a top priority for your internal content reviewers. Request that they keep an eye on this. When they’re reviewing, it should become very clear to them — quickly — what the audience pain point is that’s addressed in that piece of content. Pain points should be identified and acknowledged before anyone’s attention risks wandering. Your internal reviewers are in place to ensure your contributors don’t get waylaid on the path toward that pain point because it’s ultimately where your content connects with prospects.
Editing Tips for Internal Content Reviewers
In addition to honing in on your audience’s needs, there are a number of general editing best practices your reviewers should keep in mind. A few of these guidelines relate to SEO; other tips focus on readability and prospect experience.
The Bare Minimum of Guidelines for Copyediting
Internal content review is not meant to replace copyediting. It’s ideal to have someone as a final proofreader for your firm’s content, whether that person is internal or outsourced. However, your team is full of smart individuals who are sure to notice certain grammatical details. So why not at least have your internal reviewer(s) on the lookout to help ensure authors follow basic grammar guidelines?
These are five common grammatical errors that can kill your credibility with your audience:
- Misusing “its” vs. “it’s”
- Connecting two separate sentences with a comma (that’s a comma splice)
- Using vague pronoun references (“we” to mean you and your audience in one reference and then all consumers in another)
- Writing run-on sentences (not to mention shorter sentences help readability and SEO)
- Adding superfluous commas left and right
And these are three common formatting details to keep an eye on for consistency across your content:
- You should only use one space after a period, not two. The two-space rule predates modern digital copywriting. Now you only need one — in fact, one helps readers’ eyes scan content on computer and phone screens.
- Make sure to use capitalization consistently across your titles, subheadings, etc. Readers are less likely to notice discrepancies across various pieces of your team’s content (though adding a rule on this front to your style guide certainly doesn’t hurt). But at the very least these pivotal details should be treated consistently in each individual item.
- Watch out for random capitalization. Just because it’s a term that your firm uses more like a proper noun doesn’t mean that it should actually be capitalized. You can always test this with a quick Google search to see how others treat it.
Don’t expect your internal reviewer to catch it all, but as a team you can make sure there aren’t errors to distract your readers from the messages you’re presenting.
If you find an internal reviewer who thrives on grammar and is looking to learn more, refer them to additional resources. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. has been enlivening copy since 1920.
Your Path Ahead for Content Marketing
Accept this reality now: Not everyone is going to write. Or make videos. But anyone and everyone can be a part of strengthening your firm’s final content for publication.