Just as tone, style and target audiences are important considerations when preparing a document or website, so is the accuracy of your content. A good writer can ensure your project is delivering on its objectives, but we always need your help to get there.
Here are a few tips to help you hit the accuracy mark, particularly when writing complex, multi-layered communications.
1. Provide a solid brief
Sometimes, clients think I can write their content with no brief or direction. And while I can do this if I have to, it’s not ideal! In most cases, it means the project will take longer.
A solid brief needs to set the scene for your writer. It needs to explain your intent, your target audience/s and your key messages. The brief needs to direct the writer to any existing materials such as style guides or successful bids or brochures.
Importantly, it needs to provide details of subject matter experts (SMEs).
2. Engage your SMEs
SMEs are extremely valuable as part of any content development project.
They know the ins and outs of a policy or program. They can check if a simple re-wording has changed the meaning of a statement.
They are often the people who understand stakeholder or target audience interests the best. They may be the person answering phone enquiries or negotiating changes to legislation.
Plus, they’ll tell you if the written content is well, wrong!
Where possible, link your SMEs to your writer.
3. Respect and brief your SMEs
Just as important as briefing your writer, be sure to brief your SMEs. For web projects, or bulky documents like annual reports, they need to be told:
- what they’re reviewing: ask them to check content for accuracy, not tone or style (for instance, it’s not their job to add semi-colons to bullet points or format headings)
- how the content fits into the broader project: provide a copy of the information architecture (IA) or executive summary so the SME can see how their piece of the content puzzle fits into the the overall picture, and ask them to comment on this for greater buy-in to the project
- when to expect the draft/s: give dates for when the SME should expect draft content, as well as how long they have to turn their review around
- who is involved in the workflow: be clear about whether the SME needs to source input from other experts, if they’ll get a chance to look at a second draft, and who the content approver will be
- whether they’ll seek approvals: the SME needs to know if they, the writer or project manager, is responsible for sourcing content owner approval
4. Build in time for cross-referencing
When you’re working on a large content project involving multiple SMEs and approvers, a change to one section of a draft may impact on another section. Allow time for the writer or editor to cross-check all relevant sections.
It makes a difference to have one primary writer across all content to enable edits to flow correctly throughout the material.
5. Brief content approvers
By the time the final draft goes to the content approver, it may have progressed through many stages of review.
Include comments in the draft to provide context for the approver, such as:
- which SMEs reviewed the draft
- notes on key decisions made during the review process
- potential linkages to other sections
Also be clear with the approver about what content they will receive, their timeframe for review, and when the content is due to be published.
If possible, ask the relevant SME to seek these content approvals so they can provide greater context (and be responsible for meeting the approval deadline).