How to give your copywriter constructive feedback

September 4, 2020

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6 tips for getting the changes you want to the copy you’ve paid for

You’ve hired a professional writer to handle the copy for your website, blog, emails or ads. They’ve lifted the load and saved you time, but what you’re reading isn’t quite what you were expecting. There are changes you want to make.

First, I want to reassure you that it’s absolutely fine to request changes. Edits and tweaks are part of the job. Most copywriters understand this. That said, just like any person receiving feedback it’s appreciated that comments are given respectfully and with consideration.

If you’re feeling a little unsure about how to offer constructive feedback to your copywriter, these tips are for you. They’ll explain what you can say and do to help your copywriter better understand what you want so the next version you see hits the mark.

The six secrets to giving constructive feedback your copywriter will love you for

 

Tip 1: Don’t panic if it’s the first draft

Getting everything perfect on the first draft is rare. It’s rarer for this to happen on the first project you and your copywriter work on. (In fact, I’m more suspicious if no tweaks and edits come back at all.) If there are parts of the first draft you don’t like don’t worry. Revision rounds mean there’s room for changes and your feedback teaches us what you do and don’t like, what is and isn’t right for your business.

Tip 2: Read it and step away

Emotions can get in the way of feedback. Whether you’re excited or a little nervous about reading your copy for the first time it’s easy to let those initial thoughts influence your overall feelings. Listening to your gut is helpful to an extent, but you’ll provide clearer feedback once you’ve had time to let the copy sink in. After the first read, avoid firing back your comments immediately. Do something else then return to it and give it a second or third read. As you get familiar with the document you may spot extra changes. Giving yourself space to think helps you catch all of the tweaks you want so you can bundle up your feedback in one go.  

Tip 3: Put yourself in your audience’s shoes

Your copywriter’s job is to create copy that satisfies your audience’s needs. If there’s something you don’t like, consider whether it’s something you personally don’t like or if it’s something you know won’t chime with your audience. If it’s the latter, then you need to be able to do the next point…

Tip 4: Explain the change

When it comes to giving constructive feedback, can you explain the changes you want and why you want them? Feedback like, ‘I don’t like it’ isn’t helpful if it can’t be backed up with a ‘why.’ You don’t need to be mega detailed (unless you want to be) or even go into technical detail. That’s why you hired a writer after all. But if you can at least pick out specific parts you don’t like and pin a reason such as “this is unclear,” “this doesn’t explain our message,” or “we wouldn’t phrase this like this, we’d say it like this,” really helps. Explaining your reasons for changes educates your writer on what is and isn’t acceptable, which is especially useful if you’ve got an ongoing working relationship. It’ll stop them making the same — or very similar —mistakes in the future.

Tip 5: Follow the writer’s feedback process

There are a few different ways to give feedback, such as over email, over the phone, tracked changes and comments on the document or even in a video. Most copywriters have a preference. It usually ties in with how they like to implement the changes. Try sticking to the method they’ve asked for. I’ve seen the pain and despair writers go through when a client prints and scans handwritten feedback for a 15-page website when they’d been asked to add comments to a document. Giving feedback in a way your copywriter isn’t expecting can add time which may slow down your entire project. If you’re unsure, flick your writer a quick email to ask. They’ll appreciate you’ve considered this.

Tip 6: Highlight what’s good

Constructive feedback is as much about highlighting what you do like as it is showing what you want changing. Positive framing also keeps you and your writer feeling upbeat. Kate Toon has a great analogy for this. She calls it a ‘compliment sandwich.’ You call out something you like, followed by something you want changing, then finish with another positive. From experience, this is a good way of receiving feedback. It’s nice to start on a good note, then get into the nitty-gritty of the changes and finish the conversation on a positive. This keeps the working relationship on track.

Giving constructive feedback is a helpful process for all involved

It’s important that you get the copy your business needs and feel proud of. Reaching this point is a collaboration between you and your writer, which is why your feedback is valuable. It’s how you educate and guide your writer. Don’t ever be afraid to call out things you want changing. Just approach it respectfully and with forethought so it helps your writer.

Got any thoughts or ideas on constructive feedback that I’ve missed? I’d love your comments.

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