Advertising and marketing (and, therefore, copywriting and design) are very collaborative fields. You put your best foot forward with great copy, but the team you work with is always going to have added insight and opinions based on their own expertise.
It’s not always so easy to listen to feedback and criticism of your work, so today’s question from Alby N. is a great one: “I find it hard not to get a little upset during reviews when we’re going over my work and people want changes. What can I do to develop a thick skin? (Fast!)”
Obviously, no one likes being criticized. It’s even a bit tougher for copywriters and designers since what’s up for review is your creative output—the creative result of your working like crazy to solve a challenging problem. It can feel personal. And when it does, here are a few things to keep in mind and do to keep from losing your cool in a creative review or letting it affect your mood:
1. Remember that this is feedback to help the team get the right result.
It may feel like the creative output belongs solely to you and your designer, but that’s really not the case—everyone on your marketing/advertising team is accountable for its results. And everyone on that team has different expertise and insights that can help make it better.
Your job is to execute the creative, but their job is to help direct you to get to the right execution.
2. No one is questioning your ability to be creative.
And no one gets it right 100% of the time.
First of all, remember that the review is to discuss how what you’ve created has solved the problem: Not about your ability to solve it. No one is saying that you’re not creative or that you aren’t good at what you do. They’re not giving feedback on you personally.
Remember, too, that is very, very rare that you’ll get it perfect the first time. There are considerations and insights that you just can’t possibly know and angles you can’t have thought of. It’s okay: No one expects perfection, they just expect your best.
3. Ask questions to get to the root of what’s wrong.
Marketing managers, product managers, project managers and all of the other people in your meeting usually approach things differently than creatives do and can have problems conveying what they mean. They aren’t copywriters and designers and, therefore, often don’t have right words to help you understand what’s not working for them.
Simply “It’s not working” or “Somethings just not quite right” aren’t going to be helpful for you. Ask them what about it isn’t working or where, specifically, something isn’t quite right. Don’t leave that review until you’re clear on exactly what needs to change.
4. Keep them focused on the problems, so you can come up with solutions.
On the other hand, sometimes the other people in your creative review will start trying to help you come up with the right changes in the meeting; things like “Maybe this should be blue” or “If you cut this copy here, you could move that message there.”
They do this for a couple of reasons. First, some people actually feel bad offering criticism on work but not helping you come up with a way to fix it. Second, quite simply, writing copy and designing are fun. People want in on that. But while a few suggestions are fine, don’t let them spend too much time on it.
Remind them that the best way to help you is to let you know what’s not working or what the problem is, so that you and your designer can come up with a new execution that solves. them.
Look, sometimes you’re going to have a review and people aren’t going to like something that you and your designer love. It sucks—so go ahead and acknowledge it.
After your review, discreetly meet with your designer somewhere private to regroup and allow yourself to spend a little time being disappointed. “I can’t believe they didn’t love that line!” and “That was my favorite part! I’m going to hate to cut it!” are perfectly reasonable responses. Just be sure that you spend only a bit of time mourning that last creative incarnation before you move forward onto the next one.
6. Keep what you really love for your portfolio.
Just because your team isn’t going to use a piece of creative, doesn’t mean that it’s not good. If you love it, keep it for your print and online portfolios—not everything in your portfolio has to have actually been produced.
When you talk to it in meetings with clients or potential employers you can explain that that execution wasn’t what the team ultimately ended up going with, and then explain exactly what you loved about it anyway.
Your turn! How do you deal with feedback and criticism? Let us know in the comments below!