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    Content review & approval 101: suggested vs. mandatory feedback

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    Every life science organization has a slightly different content review and approval process to ensure their materials are accurate, compliant, and on-brand. Communicating clearly during the review process–such as indicating the difference between suggested vs. mandatory revisions or edits–is essential to ensuring your documents meet all internal and external requirements. 

    The steps in the content review and approval process vary on your organization’s size, stage, team, SOPs, and the content you’re reviewing–but typically include the following steps:

    1. Upload a document to your content review and approval system
    2. Prepare the document (such as linking claims, supporting attaching documents, leaving general annotations for the team’s review)
    3. Review and provide feedback–either in a sequential or parallel format
    4. Revise and resubmit the content for review, as needed
    5. Approve the document

    Step 3–reviewing and providing feedback–is a critical step in this process and allows all teams to sign off on new or revised content. It is during this stage that your team will provide both suggested and mandatory feedback. Let’s review some best practices for making this process easier, faster, and more collaborative. 


    Mandatory feedback:
    • Changes that have to be made as part of the review process.
    • Revisions to address a compliance issue associated with a document or claim.
    Suggested feedback:
    • A change that can be considered as part of the revision process. 
    • Feedback that is more subjective in nature, such as word choice, imagery use, etc.

    How to indicate the difference between mandatory and suggested feedback during content review

    Clearly state 'Suggestion' or 'Required' at the beginning of your annotation

    Clearly stating whether your annotation is suggested or required lets reviewers immediately understand how to move forward. Suggested comments can be considered and discussed amongst your review team, while mandatory feedback can be incorporated immediately through revision.

    example of clearly communicating feedback is required

    If feedback is not taken into account, communicate why. The more your team understands the context behind these decisions, the more efficient reviews can be moving forward.

    Use SOPs to designate reviewer responsibilities

    Make sure your standard operating procedures (SOPs) clearly indicate the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved in the content review and approval process. Outline what each reviewer or review team is responsible for. That way, if feedback they request is within their lane, it is deemed required; if the feedback is outside their area of responsibility, it is deemed a suggestion.

    For example, if your regulatory team offers feedback on a marketing-focused element like an image or color choice, consider this as a suggestion. If feedback is provided outside your area of expertise, tag all appropriate departments for their input. This allows those departments to weigh in and easily give input on suggested feedback that falls within the scope of their responsibilities during content reviews.

    Color code annotations

    Use the features of your content approval software to designate what color should be used for each type of annotation. For example, use the color red to indicate that a piece of feedback is mandatory. Use blue to indicate that a piece of feedback is suggested. 

    color coordination annotations

    Once you’ve settled on what colors to use for your different annotations, make sure that everyone involved in the content review and approval process is aware of these guidelines. With uniformity among all departments and reviewers, you’ll ensure that feedback is clearly marked and nothing can fall through the cracks during the review process.

    @ mention specific team members for added clarity

    Use an @ mention on a piece of suggested or mandatory feedback to bring in other promotional review committee teammates when something is unclear and needs further explanation.

    use software to @mention team members for clarity

    Overcommunication ensures every piece of feedback is clear and can be properly taken into account by the review teams. 

    @ mentions also open the door for conversation between different team members and departments and create learning opportunities. 

    Reply to all annotations

    Whether the feedback you receive is suggested or mandatory, be sure to always reply with a final decision on how that feedback was handled or incorporated. That way, other reviewers know their thoughts were taken into account and considered even if the final piece of content does not reflect the changes they recommended during their review.

    Annotation replies also allow your entire review team to keep track of all conversation that happened during the review process, which can be referred back to later if needed.

    reply with final approval decision

    Using both mandatory and suggested feedback ensures that the content review and approval process is both compliant and thorough. These best practices will help your team denote the difference between these types of feedback and ensure better communication, collaboration, and clarity for all members involved in reviewing, approving, and getting your content to market. 

    At Vodori, we make it easy for life science companies to move fast–because healthcare can’t wait. We empower companies to move quickly with cloud software that is innovative, life-science focused, and delivered with an exceptional customer experience.

    Annalise Ludtke

    Senior Manager, Marketing Communications at Vodori

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