3 tips to secure sign-off

Approvals, sign-offs, proofs. Whatever your review process is called, how do you handle it for research stories? Do you skip it altogether? Or is every profile sent to a researcher for approval? And if so, what happens if a researcher requests extensive changes?

Without a doubt, the approval process can be difficult to navigate. Here are three tips to help you get through:

1) Be up-front about the process

Everyone likes to be given a heads up. So before you assign the story to a writer, take some time to speak with, or send an email to, the researcher who will be profiled. Provide the name of the writer, describe the publication, explain how long the interview may take and whether or not a photo shoot will be needed. Most importantly, summarize the approval process – if you indeed have one.

For example, who will send the story for review – you (the editor) or the writer? At what point during the process, will the researcher see the profile – after you’ve completed your own edits, during the design stage or just before the publication goes to print?

Providing this information can help the process run smoothly. As a bonus, it can also help settle pre-interview nerves among researchers who are new to being profiled.

2) Be clear about your needs

OK, the story is written and you’ve made any necessary edits. Next up, the piece will go to the researcher for review. But do you simply send an email that reads, “Please see attached file and respond ASAP?” Or do you make a friendly request that also includes your expectations?

During this stage, it can be helpful to explain (if you haven’t already) that the publication is for a lay audience. From there, ask the researcher to review the story for accuracy. Read: “Please ensure your research is described correctly.” Unless a researcher spots grammatical errors (and hopefully that won’t be the case!), it’s unlikely that he or she will need to request changes to the article’s style.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Keep reading…

3) Be flexible with (some) revisions

Let’s face it: some stories miss the mark on the first attempt. Maybe the researcher feels the tone is wrong or the emphasis is misplaced.  These things can happen sometimes. And when they do, it’s important to work with a researcher in order to get a piece that satisfies both parties.

Adding jargon to a research story, however, is a no-go. If the point of a research story is to introduce research to a broader audience, inserting jargon will bring that process to a full stop. This situation can usually be remedied by explaining that the story must be written in plain language. This, of course, is different from “dumbing down” research. When you simplify language, you still capture the essence of the research, but you also describe it in a way that helps readers grasp the “big idea.”

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