Every business needs content.
When a complete stranger Googles your company, you want something to come up other than your personal LinkedIn profile. Why? Because content achieves crucial goals, like:
Whether it be product copy, a blog post, a commercial, or something else, content always serves one or more of the aforementioned purposes. So, when we inevitably have to give feedback to a content creator (more on this in a bit), we need to approach that feedback with the content’s purpose in mind.
Stay cognizant of that, and you’ll get effective, compelling content easier and faster.
If you run a business, you need content. If you need content, you need to hire a content creator — either full-time in-house, freelance, or agency. And if you need to hire a content creator, you’ll have to give that creator feedback.
Very few pieces of content turn out perfectly on the first draft. That doesn’t (necessarily) mean your content creator is bad at what they do. It just means the content creator can’t read your mind. (If he can, send me his contact info ASAP.)
You need your content to:
But on the first draft, a piece may not sound quite like your brand. Or it may miss the mark goal-wise, or get facts or company views wrong.
Thankfully, every great content creator thrives off of feedback — but how do you share your thoughts in a way that moves you toward your marketing goals?
It all comes down to staying aware of common feedback “traps.”
Certain types of feedback become traps because they make you feel like you’re sharing your thoughts constructively, but they don’t actually articulate a way for the content creator to move forward. It’s easy for the most valuable parts of your feedback get stuck in your head — without you realizing the creator can’t interpret your meaning.
Unless you hired a mind-reader (see the note above), you’ll need to provide actionable, constructive feedback to get compelling second drafts that serve your marketing goals. So watch out for these traps:
“I don’t like that” is great if you’re journaling, but your blog is about your audience, not you.
“I don’t like that” is based on your feelings, and nothing else. It doesn’t provide a content creator with anything they can act on. When they iterate, they’re just taking another shot in the dark, and you may not like that, either. It wastes everyone’s time.
Feelings-based feedback overlooks anything specific about the content — it’s just a reaction. Maybe you aren’t used to this form of content, or you aren’t used to another person producing content for you and you’re far outside your comfort zone. Or, maybe there are legitimate problems with a piece, but you haven’t taken the time to identify and articulate what they are.
You’re communicating feelings, not facts.
The alternative to feelings-based feedback is objective, concrete feedback. Highlight specific words or phrases, and outline why they don’t work. Explain what you’d like to see instead and why:
“Because” is your best friend. If the content creator doesn’t know why you want a specific change made, they’ll have a harder time landing on the right fix — and they’ll likely repeat their mistake in the future.
One little “because” now saves a lot of frustration down the road.
Vague feedback is exactly what it sounds like, and just like feelings-based feedback, it leaves the content creator directionless and confused about how to approach the second draft.
Here are a couple common examples:
Be as specific as possible about what isn’t working and what you’d like to see instead.
This doesn’t mean you have to know exactly how you want the content creator to revise their work — that takes away your time and defeats the purpose of having hired a creator in the first place — but you should take the time to point out what you want changed and why.
Bonus: If you have, or know of, a piece of content that captures the voice you want to use and accomplishes your goal, share it with your content creator to use as a reference. It’ll provide a stronger direction.
Remember, your personal brand is separate from your company brand. If a piece of content is produced for your company brand, even if it’s ghostwritten for you, it’ll be written differently than if it were written for your personal blog or YouTube channel.
If you approach a draft thinking, “This should sound exactly like me,” you’ll find a million things you could change. The content creator may use turns of phrase you wouldn’t use in real life, or frame something differently than you would, but as long as the content fulfills its purpose and doesn’t misrepresent you or your company brand, it doesn’t need to be changed.
Personal feedback can sound like:
If you had the time to create your own content, you would. But your time is better spent elsewhere. That’s why you hired a content creator.
Part of delegating is relinquishing a little control, within certain bounds. When you look at a piece of content, don’t ask, “Is that how I would say it?” Instead, ask:
On that last point, the question “Does this represent me?” can easily turn into “Does this represent me perfectly?” That’s why I suggest sticking with “misrepresent” to avoid becoming perfectionist and stymying your content efforts.
No one will ever be able to recreate the exact words or images you see in your head, but with constructive feedback, they can convey the message you want and accomplish the goal you’re after.
Bonus: If you really want to build a good working relationship with your content creator, limit the number of people who review a piece to one person, especially content that’s being ghostwritten for an individual.
When it comes to content, everyone will have a different take and personal opinion. This may sound beneficial, but design by committee almost always results in conflicting feedback for the content producer — and the end product is a watered-down version contributing far less impact than it should.
Remember, a human being’s point of view is far more valuable than a committee’s point of view.
While giving feedback, you don’t have to limit your focus to the negative. Reinforce what you like with positive, encouraging language:
Positive feedback does more than just pump up a content creator’s ego; it gives them insight about what you like, what represents your brand well, and what accomplishes your goals. They can then take that information and apply it to future work.
Remember, giving as much feedback as you can now prevents you from having to give it later, saving both you and your content creator time in the long run — and that’s something everyone can appreciate.
Lindsey Putnam is the Senior Editor at Fluxe Digital Marketing. She watches over content production for each of our clients to make sure every post conveys their ideas clearly, accurately, and engagingly. Lindsey finds language fascinating and studied literature and language in undergrad and grad school. With years of experience in writing and editing for companies throughout North America, she now lives in West Texas with her husband, where they both work remotely.