Excellent communication is vital for success in nearly everything, and though that includes verbal communication, you can’t get away from written communication, too. Whether that’s blog content, web copy, reports, or emails, the written word is a necessary tool to communicate effectively, both in-house and outbound.
However, communication via the written word involves writing, writing involves editing, and editing involves someone(s) reviewing and/or approving that written content. That obviously means there’s going to be more than one ‘chef in the kitchen.’ Throw in company executives, project managers, plus a subject matter expert or two, and you’ve got the makings of a word gumbo even the cat wouldn’t eat.
The problem is that once a document requires more than one or two pairs of eyes on it––in this case, several––the entire process can become painfully clunky. Even those teams with the best intentions at the start of a group editing process find that ultimately, the final draft is a hot mess.
Though revolutionary tools MS Track Changes have their place and can make editing much easier, if you don’t have a plan going into a group edit, you’re still going to run into roadblocks. Then you get stuck, leading to massive frustration for everyone. So how do you make the process run smoother? Keep on reading, friends.
Set Your Parameters
In other words, establish a plan and set some ground rules. Otherwise, you can expect chaos to reign, as snags and snafus will inevitably occur. If you don’t have some ground rules on how to tackle them ahead of time, you’ll make mountains out of what could have been molehills. Make sure everyone understands what the overriding message is for whatever document you’re working on and that the point of the content is crystal clear to all.
It’s also wise to be proactive and pull in any subject matter experts well ahead of time to make sure there are no massive conflicts or disagreements on the topic at hand and decide ahead of time how all disagreements will be handled.
Designate Roles for Everyone
Make sure everyone is involved in the process of making decisions and designate who will be handling what. It just streamlines the entire process if everyone has a singular job and knows exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. Keep in mind that it’s up to the team lead or project manager to ensure everyone knows what’s expected of them.
Avoid Large Groups
It’s typically easier to manage a smaller collaboration than juggling one with too many people. Try to limit how many you include in the process because the more people you involve, the slower everything will go, even when everyone is on the same page. It’s also important to keep in mind that editing and reviewing communications is different from brainstorming. The more, the merrier in a brainstorm sesh, but the fewer people involved in a group edit, the better.
Respect is the Name of the Game
Everyone contributing has a role to play and has their own unique strengths. Recognize each contributor’s strengths and use them to propel the project forward with excellence. Keep a positive mindset and give everyone involved the same respect and benefit of the doubt you yourself would want, even when you feel private that there may be a team member not doing their part or quite up to snuff.
Sometimes, Face Meetings are Best
In the digital world, it can be tempting to relegate all communications about the project to emails and such. However, if snags arise, sometimes organizing a meeting with everyone face-to-face or even on a Zoom call is more efficient and maybe a better use of your time. Then everyone can speak and voice any concerns.
Leave Plenty of Time for Reviewing
The project’s scope will determine how much time you give for the review process, but always ensure that ample time is provided. Rushed work is sloppy work, no matter what stage of edits you are in. If, for some reason, a project must be rushed, make sure your team knows why. Also, be sure to make all of your deadlines specific, so there’s no ambiguity on delivery. Otherwise, you may have varying interpretations of the said deadline, and then everything gets knocked off schedule.
Use Online Collaboration Tools
While MS Word and track changes can be great, they can also get messy. Sometimes an online editing tool like Google Docs may be better suited for everyone to use. You can then chat or comment right inside of the document and add several authors with editing privileges. Syncing happens automagically.
Keep It Clean
Messy drafts are, well, messy. Whenever possible, use clean versions as you move forward through the process to keep things going along speedily and efficiently. You can use tools like commenting and highlighting when you need to reference something instead of track changes. It will keep the document more readable and make it easier for everyone to see what’s left to polish. Whoever is doing final approval should receive the public-ready version, with no annotations or notes.
Honestly, we could go on for days around this topic, but hopefully, these tips we’ve provided will help you in your next group editing collaboration. Moral of the story? Simply your processes as much as possible, and keep your editing circle small.