How many stakeholders does it take to sign off a piece of copy?

Stakeholders can keep things on message and on brand, and even prevent you being sued. But there's a point at which excessive or ineffective stakeholder involvement starts to affect copy quality...

 How many stakeholders does it take to sign off a piece of copy?

And how many is too many? Our survey of content professionals calls to mind the old proverb about too many cooks…

Stakeholders often play a vital part in the content creation process. They can keep things on message and on brand, and in some cases even prevent you being sued.

But there’s a point at which excessive stakeholder involvement starts to affect copy quality – and, as our State of Digital Copywriting survey results show, many content professionals clearly feel their organisation has already crossed that line.

We found:

  • almost 10 per cent of respondents have 6 to 7 stakeholders
  • almost 5 per cent of respondents have 8 or more stakeholders
  • 1 in 10 have to incorporate over 5 rounds of feedback

About 2 in 5 of our survey respondents have 1 or 2 people involved in signing off key web copy. That’s a manageable quantity – it’s when numbers go over 3 that things can get tricky.

But you have to know who your stakeholders are. ‘The biggest issue is that a stakeholder sign-off group is never fully identified before a project starts,’ comments one of our respondents.

Which stakeholders do the most damage? 

As to which stakeholders most get in the way, about 3 in 10 of our respondents point the finger at senior management for damaging copy during sign-off. As one of our respondents wryly notes, ‘Our copy is sent out to all senior managers, who then argue back and forth about what the key messages should be.’

Too many stakeholders leads to ‘frankencontent’

We’d suggest that too many stakeholders giving too much feedback on a piece of copy rarely improves its effectiveness. Instead, it often results in what we term ‘frankencontent’ – potentially monstrous content that’s been written by committee, with lots of different people’s parts not quite adding up to a coherent whole. 

We recommend a content stakeholder management programme, which includes training those giving feedback in seo, copy best practice and usability. We also think it’s a good idea to limit feedback to individual areas of expertise.

Along with joining the stakeholder management programme, perhaps senior management might be more profitably involved in the planning and briefing part of the process, rather than at the feedback stage.