17 May 2022

3 ways to Improve your copy approvals process if you're a regulated business


Copy approvals can be a bureaucratic nightmare

One of the biggest challenges businesses face when creating content is getting their content from draft stage through to sign-off. The regulation in industries such as financial services and healthcare doesn’t just govern the products these companies sell, it also dictates the copy and content that they can publish.

Approvals often get held up at the compliance stage, often on what looks like a technicality. Here are some of the most common compliance blockers for regulated content.

  • Due prominence – are product risks called out with the same prominence as product benefits?
  • Non-compliant wording. – someone has introduced new copy. It might be great, but it’s got to go through the entire compliance process.
  • ‘Orphaned content’ – nobody in the approvals chain wants to take ownership of the content, or nobody knows who should be signing it off

Of course, regulation is important because it protects us all as consumers, however, it can have an outsized influence on the content creation process, often stifling creativity and rapid iteration. Regulation covers everything, down to specific words that can and can’t be used across a business’ products, which can create a feeling of limited creative capacity, especially for UX copy professionals whose role is to think outside the box to improve the user’s experience.

Stringent regulation can also lead to approval bloat. Copy will often need to be approved by compliance teams, including risk and legal, meaning that the approvals process takes significantly longer than it does at non-regulated businesses. There will undoubtedly be instances where approval bottlenecks are unavoidable, there are a few steps that businesses can take to improve their approval process, and therefore, deliver the best copy to its users.

Content categorisation and content labels

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Yes, your copy will need to be approved before it’s published, but that doesn’t mean that all of the copy you create needs to be given the third degree. We can all agree that some copy presents more of a risk to a business than others, so categorising your content before you send it for approval will ensure that resources are allocated to the content that needs it the most. We’ve seen many cases where businesses will allocate an undue amount of attention to low-stakes content, but ‘riskier’ copy will slip through without the proper checks.

There are a few ways that you can categorise, or label, your content before submitting it for approval. If your business uses project management technology, such as Jira or Monday.com, you can create ‘high risk’ and ‘low risk’ labels so that compliance teams can easily spot the content that urgently needs their attention. If your business doesn’t use any of these technologies, you can adopt a manual approach, which could be as simple as flagging emails with ‘high importance’ to signify that it’s ‘high risk’.

Improve content collaboration across teams

For most businesses, the remedy for their broken approval processes is to improve the communication between the compliance and content teams. Individual teams can easily become siloed, where there’s minimal visibility of upcoming projects, or the goals for creating a piece of content.

Creating clear communication channels between the content and compliance teams is a great solution for this. Achieve this by setting up team huddles where key members from both teams meet weekly to discuss upcoming content for approval. Opening up communication will weed out potential problems early on, which will save time in the content creation process. Collaboration is extremely important, particularly where UX copy is concerned, so having more discussions around new copy will undoubtedly improve the overall quality of your business’ content.

Maintain approved content

So, you’ve created a bit of copy and it’s been signed off by the compliance teams. Great! Now that you know it’s risk-free, you can use this copy wherever necessary across your business’ products, right? Wrong.

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It’s always tempting to squeeze every possible use out of copy that’s been approved to avoid going through the approval process again, but it’s important to remember the user. Repetitive copy lets users know that we haven’t prioritised creating the best experience for them. Also, context is key. Your copy is only half the story; the context it’s used in is the other half, so in most cases, it can’t be used universally. But all is not lost. Here are a couple of ways that you can make the best use of your approved content.

Create standardised copy

This absolutely doesn’t mean carving out chunks of copy that can be pasted across your entire website. But it does mean that certain copy should be standardised so it doesn’t need to go through approvals multiple times. ‘Terms of conditions’ copy is the most common example of this. See also key brand language phrases and slogans, declarations and website footers. Keeping templates of these types of copy, in the same way that you do brand colours and logos, reduces the time spent on approvals.

Document your approved content

One resource that isn’t appreciated enough is experience. In a lot of cases, similar pieces of copy will go through the approvals process and the same issues will be addressed repeatedly, particularly if there are multiple people creating UX copy within a business. Creating a central document of key legal constraints, such as words and phrases that the business can’t use, can save a lot of time on both the content and compliance side. This can also then be used as a helpful resource to train new content professionals that join the company.

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