Separate the approval of content and style

Tired of Senior Engineers telling you they’d prefer the second sentence in your article to end with a smiley face? Want managers to let you shape messages as per your remit? Try this radical idea!

I notice that review cycles tend to be vicious circles when it comes to communications. Rob isn’t sure we should be telling everyone the latest statistics while Vera considers the stats to be the ‘meat’ of the article. Mick doesn’t appreciate the starkness of the second paragraph, and wants to ‘soften’ the bad news, and Raj thinks we should have an ‘upbeat’ sign-off sentence that talks about our hopes for the Olympics…

It’s all a bit vague; each reviewer wants to send a different message in effect, and yet you’re all supposed to be shaping the single message for your defined audience. Who’s in charge here?

Well, it might be the content expert or it might be the Communications Manager. In either case, might I suggest a radical notion to help ease the wheels on this vicious circle of personal opinion and tactic discrepancies?

Value the differences in expertise and duties

The content expert validates the content, the meat of the communiqué, the senior Communications Manager involved approves the communication of the facts, the meat, and the Communications Editor deals with the presentation, the style, the tone – everything about ‘how the message is shaped and how it should land with the audience‘.

I’m suggesting that content experts and comms people consider their remit and professional expertise. The comms editor may know nothing about the process of electricity production using Combined Heat and Power systems, but they will know something about syntax, readability and what’s genuinely interesting to the defined audience.

The content expert might have provided the very first draft of the article, but it’s not their responsibility to fit it into the overall communications strategy, or to really know / care about what the reader needs to get out of the text. Let’s help our reviewers understand what we’re asking of them when we involve them in review cycles. Let’s ask them to validate the facts and highlight any concerns in communicating such details. Let’s assure them that the tone / style will undergo further review and tweaks within the Communications team.

After all, as much as professional discernment is valued, opinions are two a penny… Let’s keep our focus on the purpose of the communication and the desired affect upon the audience.

  1. Validate the relevancy and accuracy of the facts [content experts];
  2. Approve the appropriateness to communicate such details [senior manager and Communications Manager];
  3. Present the article / missive in the appropriate and most-awesome style for the audience [Communications Editor];
  4. Send for final review, explaining that the article has been crafted in the appropriate style and this is the final ‘sense check‘ regarding facts and messages only;
  5. Publish and be damned.

For review cycles, separate the content from the style of message; let’s present the correct messages in the best manner we, as comms specialists, know.


Photo credit: mellowfood [Vegetarian Buckwheat Crêpes]

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