Brand Activation Management

The art of approvals: How to keep your brand from going astray

April 2021 Written by Papirfly

In this article, you’ll learn…

  • How to keep your campaign creatives under control
  • Ways to streamline the approval process
  • Which approval features you should introduce

Creatives conceptualise your campaigns.

Strategy keeps your marketing aligned.

Project managers ensure everything is delivered on time and on budget.

Whose job is it to make sure your brand is aligned globally, across all campaigns?

For a brand manager, that’s a mighty role to take on. Without the right approval processes in place and technology to support them, it’s a tangled mess of complexity.

In this article, we’ll share how you and your teams can enjoy an approval process that’s free from stress and chaos.

How to streamline your sign-off process 

There are many steps to successful approval approaches, and these will vary depending on the size and nature of your brand. This isn’t about micromanaging – this is about ensuring clarity, consistency and control over your brand’s campaign and outputs. Here are some fundamentals to consider:

Identification and audit

If you don’t have your sign off process mapped out, this is your first step. There’s a great tool called Diagrams that can help you plot everything in a logical, easy-to-understand way. Identify all the people and processes that are required in order for something to be signed off. This may be organised by sub-brand, particular formats, divisions or countries. 

Here are 8 things you will need to include:

  1. The types of content and campaign material teams create
  2. Which stages are involved in the creation of each type
  3. Who is accountable for each of these stages?
  4. How long should each of these stages last?
  5. What is the key action for each stage that triggers the next one?
  6. Once each part is completed, how is this communicated?
  7. How do these campaigns then get reviewed and amended for different markets? 
  8. Is there a separate flow for ad-hoc/urgent jobs? If there is a time-sensitive topical piece, for example, how does this differ and can this be an abridged process?

Once you have this down, it’s important that refresher training is put into practice so that teams know who is responsible for what. If you have BAM by Papirfly™, you can completely automate this process, as well as create all your digital and print assets from within the dedicated portal.  

Documenting 

You’ve got the bigger picture mapped out, but now you need to talk about documenting the process in further detail and working out your audit trail. If you are yet to go fully digital, you might use a PDF annotation tool to submit requests, do it via email, use a project management tool or fill out a physical form. 

It’s worth creating a base template as a starting point. This may be in the form of a checklist, comment boxes or signature sections. So even if you fill out the PDF, you can keep an audit trail within this template and ensure you’ve checked everything you need to. 

Don’t just stick with what you have because it’s working right now – consider whether this will work in the longer term and ask yourself if you have documentation for the following scenarios:

  • How do you submit change requests? 
  • What are the steps after approval or refusal? 
  • Who is accountable if something goes wrong? 
  • What happens if the person who needs to give approval is off sick? 
  • How many revisions are allowed before the issue is escalated higher? 
  • How will the general review phase be separated from approvals?

There’s a lot to consider. But having these details in an approval guide or spreadsheet can help existing employees and new starters get to grips with how things work. It will also give you complete peace of mind that nothing will go wrong in your absence.

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5 tips to get the most out of approvals

#1 Timing is everything

There’s no point in sign off taking place too early or too late in the process. Involving stakeholders at the wrong time may have big implications on deadlines.

#2 Give prompts to avoid vagueness 

In your approval guide or as a separate piece of training, give examples of what’s considered constructive feedback and what isn’t. It might look something like this:

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#3 Ensure next steps are clear

When giving feedback make sure the recipient knows what to do after they’ve implemented it. Be very clear in the next steps. If you’re not, and a deadline is missed, it could come back to haunt you. Be as specific as possible in how the process moves on.

This doesn’t work...
“Please make these amends and send them back to me so we can hit the deadline.”

This does work...
“Please make these amends and send them back to me so we can hit the deadline. Also include Becky in case I’m in a meeting. She can give you final approval before this goes off to print.” 

This doesn’t work... 
“I’m happy with this now. Send it across to David and see what he thinks.”

This does work…
“I’m happy with this now. You will need David’s final approval before posting. Please make sure he does this today and confirm with me when it’s done.”

#4 Give teams brand guidelines

Without comprehensive brand guidelines, your approvals process could end up being unnecessarily long and complicated. Or worse, campaigns could go to market completely wrong. Brand guidelines should include (at the very minimum):

  • Logo use across different markets and applications
  • Typeface and text sizing
  • Supporting visual assets and icons
  • Imagery guidance 
  • Tone of voice rules 

#5 Revisit briefing documents

If the same things are consistently being picked up on, it could be that the briefs aren’t comprehensive or clear enough. When checking work for the first time, make sure you have the brief to hand. If something significant has been missed, and it’s not on the brief, you know you need to give two sets of feedback. 

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What could go wrong?

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How to learn from mistakes

No matter how stringent your approvals process, things can and will go wrong occasionally along the line. What’s important is that teams can learn from these shortcomings, get better and move on.

Debriefing sessions

At the end of a big project, review bottlenecks and audit trails to identify any common themes of mistakes. Hold a quick session to talk about what went wrong and what can be implemented to prevent this happening again in the future.  

Mapping out imperfect journeys and realigning

Taking a step back when things really fall short may mean knocking down your approvals process and starting again. This can seem daunting, but the time you invest now to get it right will save you a lot more in the future. 

Reviewing briefs 

While the fundamentals of a brief should be consistent, it could be that different levels of employees need different levels of information in order to make sure their work is the best it could possibly be. In addition to tailoring briefs where feasible, include a link to useful resources such as brand guidelines, so that everyone’s knowledge is consistently refreshed. 

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Essential approval features from BAM 

Whether it’s a full campaign or an individual asset, the approvals process is what keeps production moving smoothly and on the right track. While teams across the world are using BAM by Papirfly™ to create all their digital and print assets, on brand and on time, they are also benefiting from a range of features that makes sign off seamless. 

Chat function gives multiple stakeholders a way of chatting about a particular asset together, before committing to the feedback. This prevents conflicting direction and makes sure everyone is aligned. 

Document markup provides physical points for the creator to review comments left, so that they can see exactly what needs to be updated and where. 

Locking down elements 

The creation tool features templates that are created in-line with your brand guidelines and places restrictions on how much can be changed. Stakeholders also have the power to lockdown particular elements so they can’t be touched. This removes the need for feedback on basic brand etiquette as everything is pre-programmed. The creator still has flexibility, but within a predefined framework. 

Approval workflows

All workflows are documented, digitised and automated within the portal. Teams can access the assets, leave comments and receive feedback all in a single place. The entire version history and audit trail is recorded, and marketing materials can only be released and shared once final approval has been given. 

Re-approval of edited creatives 

If an additional amend is made to a campaign asset post-sign off, the approval process is reopened and the stakeholders will be notified. This gives an additional layer of assurance that nothing can be messed with or go out incorrectly. 

There are so many features that make BAM by Papirfly™ the perfect tool for marketing teams. Bring production in-house. Keep your brand consistent. Take global campaigns to market with complete confidence. From one centralised portal. 

Book your demo today.

by Papirfly

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