23 Oct

Seek Criticism

It might seem like I’ve used quite a negative title for this post, but what I want to say can only result in a positive outcome.

When I give a first draft of work to a client, I wait for feedback. Very often, they’ll come back to me and feel they need to lay out the positives first, at which point I stop them and say; ‘no, no, don’t tell me what works – tell me all the stuff that needs changing!’

This sometimes makes them pause and say ‘oh…’.
It’s a shame, as I know they’re only trying to be nice, and they probably really thought about what they were going to say, in looking through what I’ve sent.

There’s a reason I do this – I’m not just trying to piddle on someone’s bonfire, or show extreme humility.
It’s simple: I don’t want to be made consciously aware of the things I’m already doing right. If I’m already doing them right, I’m doing so naturally – without thinking about it. I don’t want these things flagged up.
However, I do need to know what’s not quite right or ‘on brief’, in what I’ve written. These are the things I can make notes on and ‘step to’, in terms of making changes.
I’ll also want to know why I didn’t quite get them right first time round (maybe I misunderstood something or wrote the wrong thing on the briefing form).
This can open up a whole new conversation with a client, and we can bat ideas back and forth for a bit (provided there’s time).

After that, it’s a case of cracking on with the changes and making sure the second draft is spot on.

With this in mind, I’d suggest the following: if you own a business and want an opinion on your current or forthcoming marketing campaign, or your existing content, don’t seek feedback from family, or friends and colleagues who are always nice to you.
Seek out your harshest friends and colleagues – those who don’t shy away from giving their opinions, no matter whose nose is put out of joint – and ask them for honest, constructive feedback.
They might tell you what already works, but they’ll definitely tell you what doesn’t, and how they’d set about making changes. It’s also likely that, amongst the criticism, you’ll find a general consensus on the things that don’t quite work, so you’ll know that these things definitely need to be addressed.

What you don’t want are the opinions of a bunch of nice people who just want to blow smoke up your backside. This is fine for most things, but not when it comes to feedback on a marketing campaign that you’re putting out to thousands (maybe millions) of people. It’s your harshest critics that will do you the biggest favour when it comes to opinions on things like this.

So, it’s not really a negative to seek criticism rather than praise. In fact, in nearly every case, it’s very much for the best.

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