A big part of being a copywriter is incorporating the feedback you receive in creative reviews. But what do you do when you get bad feedback? And not feedback that makes you sad, but truly useless feedback?
Imagine this scenario: You had a creative review with your client and the client is … well, let’s say you get the vibe they’re not thrilled. Your client keeps suggesting things like “increasing the size of the headline” or “trying a different color.” Your client even went so far as to rewrite half a line of copy … during the meeting. You and your designer are at a loss for how to move forward. You feel like throwing stuff at a wall and hoping it sticks.
You know how they say in brainstorming sessions that there are no bad ideas? Well, that doesn’t hold true for feedback sessions: There absolutely is a such thing as bad feedback.
The tricky thing, though, is that bad feedback often masquerades as good or reasonable feedback. After all, what’s wrong with a client suggesting another color? Or asking to swap the headline and the subhead? Or trying to help you rewrite a line?
Well, actually that’s a big problem.
Why Client Suggestions Aren’t Always Helpful
See, when you start taking piecemeal suggestions and trying to put them together to form a piece, that piece is just never going to work. Everything that you and your design partner created was carefully thought through. And of course any of it can be changed, but not just changed ad hoc.
Feedback like this turns you into someone who just takes requests—a short-order copy chef. The problem is that your client is trying to do your job for you by providing you with the solutions, instead of letting you come up with the solutions.
In a feedback session, your client (or boss or project manager or anyone else) may have ideas, but their primary role is to voice the problems—the things that aren’t working in a piece—and then let you come up with the solution.
Some clients try to give you solutions because they feel bad about just pointing out what’s not working with a piece without helping you solve it. And that’s very nice of them, but that’s just not helpful.
How to Redirect the Conversation to Nail the Project
So, what do you do? As soon as you notice you’re getting “solutions” instead “problems,” you need to refocus the group. You can even simply say, “The best way for us to work and the way you’ll get the best work back from us is for us to understand what’s not working for you in this piece. From there, we’ll go back and work on a range of possible solutions. So, what about this isn’t working for you?”
You may very well have to keep reiterating that you want to hear about the problems and not the solutions. (People may not believe that you want to be told about what they don’t like or what doesn’t work!) But remember that it’s often going to be up to you and your design partner to guide the creative review and get the information you need in order to revise your work and create the best piece.
Solutions from your client won’t do that, but an understanding of the problems with the project will.
On Episode 116 of the Build Your Copywriting Business podcast, Nicki and Kate dig into what to do when you receive negative feedback from a client. Sometimes, clients simply don’t know how to give feedback. That’s when you, as the copywriting pro, can come in and take the reins of the conversations. Here’s how to do it and finish the project like a champion.
Your turn! What’s the piece of feedback from a creative review you’ve found hardest to work with? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on March 8, 2023
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