The Never-Ending Internal/External Review Process

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Portrait of a man reviewing a file in a home office settingAs communicators, we work with many different parties. From the marketing team, to C-level executives, the legal team and a whole slew of other internal and external parties, our days and activities can often be filled with balancing a series of discussions, hopes and wishes with a slew of people.

But at a certain point, after many meetings and conversations, we are tasked with writing that next big news release, or a big speech for our CEO or developing our company’s core brand messaging, and that’s where our big work really kicks in: the often never-ending internal/external review process.

Groan. I know, we have all been there before, stuck three weeks after a release was supposed to go out, waiting on the 10th round of reviews by legal, with a document that has six different layers of track changes.

Something I start asking myself, and I want to pose to all of you: Does having the multiple approval process with press releases (you know, six people internally review a release with all of their track changes and comments, and then there is the outside source that inevitably gets drawn in for the review) undermine and devalue the worth of communicators?

My thinking on this is that to a certain extent, yes, it does. Think of it this way: If you were the business development guy or gal at XYZ company, you wouldn’t have six people review your new proposal before you submit it to a client. And you especially would not have six people review the proposal who are not experts in your field (e.g. non-business-development experts). You may have your boss/CEO/Director review it quickly to make sure all points are addressed, but it would be absurd to have it go through a lengthy internal review process. The reason being: you are the expert in what you do. That’s why your company hired you for the position you fill.

That’s not being egotistical and saying outside points of view shouldn’t be welcomed or taken for consideration. Certainly, there is an acceptable and necessary amount of outside perspective needed, and for larger companies (and even some smaller ones), the legal team does need to review things to make sure it’s on the up-and-up. At the end of the day, however, you are the expert, and you know which key messages and points are best to be included in that proposal, or in the case of the PR professional, the news release and similar key external communications.

So, why do we, as communications experts, put ourselves through a lengthy internal review process where often, 12 different hands get involved, each with a different, and most likely, not expert perspective on communicating our organization’s core messages?

If you have hired a communicator to do a job, let him or her do it. Otherwise, if you’re always going to insist on getting six people involved to approve and change key messaging around, you’re better off getting rid of that communicator and doing your PR by committee.

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  • aellrod

    Halleluiah! It is so nice to read that this is an issue not just in my organization but at others as well. Although here it is not a matter of legal, but of every internal department reviewing everything communications produces. Even if this process can not be changed in the near future for any of us, it's nice to know we are in this boat together!

  • jolynnelyon

    Internal reviews help me make sure the message is how we want it, before it reaches the press. In the process, reviewers often want to change the language into the technical terms that are comfortable for them and incomprehensible to the audience. Ultimately, though, I think everyone agrees that the message needs to fit the readers–and that's what I was hired to do.

  • keithtrivitt

    Thanks for chiming in! You make a really good point, that yes, some form of internal review is absolutely necessary to ensure everything is legal, jives with the organization and its overall values, etc. But at the end of the day, unless you're dealing with some type of SEC or regulatory filing at a public company (which I concede I left out of this argument, as the majority of PR practitioners don't work at those types of companies), then the audience you are trying to reach with your written and/or spoken words need to understand the messages in terms that make sense to them, not your legal or marketing department.

  • keithtrivitt

    You're not alone, trust me! I think we all have gone through the never-ending internal/external review process before, and yes, it can be incredibly frustrating, and at times, disheartening to see what yo believe are fantastic messages just wiped away by an overzealous marketing or legal team looking to get their own viewpoint into the doc. I believe, though, as seasoned professionals, we need to take a stand against this. I know I wouldn't even think of giving the legal team, or operations team, etc. advice on how to run and communicate their jobs and main practices. Perhaps similar discourse should be offered to the PR professionals in organizations?