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The Review Process For Sales Materials Juggling Egos, Comments, And Schedules
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For many copywriting projects, an enormous amount of time, effort, and political negotiation goes into the review process. You must continually juggle different comments from multiple reviewers against firm project schedules and budgets--not to mention the political sensitivities and personalities that often get in the way of objectivity.
Several strategies can make the review process more fruitful and manageable.
Their Review, Your Control
An essential strategy is to determine in advance how you will control the review process. In particular, identify who will serve as reviewers and how they will work with drafts.
Different projects will have a different numbers and types of reviewers. For some projects, only one or two reviewers will be needed. For other projects, it will seem like half the people in the company will be giving feedback. Typically, the more significant the document is to the marketing effort, or the greater the visibility it will give your company, the larger the number of reviewers and the more review cycles.
However, not all reviewers need to see the copy at every stage of its development. Some reviewers will see the copy in every draft while others reviewers will only need to see the final text.
Giving reviewers copy at different stages of its development offers several advantages for managing your projects.
First, you can ask the subject experts to review copy in the early drafts, when extensive revisions can be made easily and inexpensively.
Second, some people have trouble visualizing how draft copy, which is usually printed as straight text without any formatting, will appear in the final document. For these reviewers, presenting the copy in the design layout can help them make more constructive comments.
Finally, reviewers such as company executives may need to see the final layout--with text and visuals together--in order to verify that the piece will convey the desired messages and branding.
Tell Reviewers What to Do
Use a reviewer's checklist to present instructions on the type of comments you want from reviewers. Without guidance, reviewers may assume that any and all aspects of the draft are open for comment. This means an engineer from whom you wanted a technical review may give you comments on the marketing messages as well.
Caution reviewers about attacking the tone, style, or concept in the draft. Remind them that even if the approach is not one they would choose, they should be able to accept it as long as the approach does not introduce errors in the content.
A frequent hurdle in managing reviews is motivating reviewers to complete their work on time. Tell your reviewers that if you do not receive their comments by the due date, you will interpret their silence as implied approval of the copy in its current form.
Another strategy is to identify an "information freeze" date for reviews--a point past which you will not accept major changes to the content. Make sure your reviewers understand the relative costs--in time and expense--of changes made at each point in the document's development. This strategy can go a long way to discourage last-minute "tweaking" by a company executive.
Getting Useful Comments
Realize that reviewers won't always give you the type or amount of comments you may want for a piece. Some reviewers may never look at your draft, some will read only part, while others will wait until the last minute and give it only a cursory look. Comments may be vague and incomplete, or at the other extreme, the reviewer may return a complete (and usually poor) rewrite of your text.
You will need to make a judgment call when selecting which reviewer comments to incorporate in the document. It is usually helpful to have one person other than yourself designated as the "referee" who can negotiate with the reviewers who provide conflicting comments.
Of course, like any writer in an organization, you'll need to develop a thick skin when reading reviewers comments. Understand that a draft returned to you with a substantial amount of edits may not be an indicator of poor writing on your part. Instead, it may simply be a case of changes in the product positioning or information.
"No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft," said H.G. Wells. By applying the strategies discussed here, you can streamline the review process and receive comments that are more about content than ego.
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