Providing Effective Feedback to Copywriters
“Great job, looking forward to improvements on the next round.” “Can you fix the introduction paragraph? I don’t like the way it reads.” “Can you add context?” “We’d just like to format the content differently, but keep the same amount of words even though we are now using 3 categories instead of 1, and 10 bullets instead of 5.”
No, those are not random snippets overheard in the local Starbucks line. They are samples of actual feedback provided to copywriters. Like you, I’m left scratching my head in confusion. Not only are some of the comments contradictory, but they are downright confusing. Especially the last one.
Take it From a Copywriter…
Take it from someone who has looked at a few pieces of client feedback and quite literally written back, “I’m sorry but … I’m confused.” If your feedback elicits the phrase “I’m sorry but…” from your copywriter, then chances are you aren’t communicating effectively. Fortunately, we’ve all been there. We’ve all had those moments where words have escaped us, or we have made the egregious mistake of using a word we thought meant one thing, but in reality it meant something entirely different (but that’s a story for another day).
The point is, even if you are speed typing while balancing a latte in one hand, your phone in the other, and your car keys in your teeth as you flailing try to stop the elevator door from shutting so that you can beat the afternoon commuter traffic, giving effective feedback to copywriters doesn’t have to be a stress-inducing process that leads to a back and forth series of “I’m sorry buts.”
3 Tips To Giving Effective Feedback To Copywriters
As copywriters, we understand that written communication might not be your strong suit. This isn’t a dig (although if it was, I’d be tempted to reference Phoebe from Friends by saying something along the lines of “Come on Ross, you’re a paleontologist, dig a little deeper”). The point is that written communications don’t have to be your strong suit to provide effective feedback. And so, three tips to avoiding the “I’m sorry but” comments from your copywriter:
1. Use the WriterAccess annotation tool. Like the comments feature in Word, WriterAccess has a fantastic annotation tool that allows you to highlight specific sections of text and then leave detailed comments. This tool eliminates the guessing game of “which paragraph,” “what formatted section,” or my personal favorite, “which keyword, there are 15 of them.” The moral of the story is simple: if you want to give effective feedback, then you need to use the right tools so that any confusion is immediately resolved.
2. Close the door on an argument before it even begins. Writers are sensitive; it’s why we can help your business connect with customers. However, sensitivity does have its down side … no one really likes receiving criticism. Sure, we learn from it and if we are writing RFPs we might even say that “we create an environment of continuous process improvements via learning opportunities.”
But the reality is that critical feedback, without a hint of positivity, opens the door for a defensive copywriter who is ready to argue. This is not a door that you want to open. Instead, deliver effective feedback by always including some type of positive note. For example, “I love the introduction. Everything else afterwards feels as if it was written in a different tone. Can you please revise the rest of the post so that it matches the joviality and style of the introduction?”
While the latter type of comment might elicit a heavy sigh (or perhaps the pouring of a strong drink), it does provide a bit of positivity, as well as a clear direction for the writer.
3. Provide details and examples. The “great job, but” comments are often the hardest to decipher. Instead of providing vague comments, you want to use specificity, details, and examples to help your copywriter understand exactly what you want to achieve. Whether it is pointing to a previous post that they wrote or even highlighting a single phrase that you absolutely loved, there are countless ways that you can help your copywriter put on your shoes (or perhaps more aptly put, look inside your brain) to discover what you want to change and how they can best go about doing it.
Remember That Effective Feedback Is A Conversation
To quote two great men, “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” (Bill Gates) In the words of Elon Musk, “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.” With these two quotes in mind, I do have one last piece of advice for providing effective feedback to copywriters. Always remember that the best copywriters ask a lot of questions to make sure that they are delivering the exact type of content that you want and need.
When all else fails and effective communication seems to have gone the way of “wassup dog,” just remember that you can always ask your copywriter, “do you have any questions?” This simple five word question will deliver a sigh of relief as the expert at written communications once more takes the helm to redirect the conversation in a more effective direction.
Laura P has written 4,000+ articles, blog posts, product reviews, press releases, and website content for a multitude of clients. In the past 7 years, she has developed written, marketing, video, and web content for clients in the real estate, information technology, restaurant, auto, retail, equine sales, oil and gas, and public relations industries. Laura is highly proficient in SEO optimization, particularly in real estate and retail industries. She ghost wrote IT white papers, government contract task orders, RFIs, and RFPs that resulted in millions of dollars won. She has 7-years of experience working with and interviewing olympic athletes, small-business owners, CEOs, SMEs, and entrepreneurs on complex topics. As a professional writer, Laura strives to create content that is both meaningful and relatable to her readers.