Tips for giving constructive feedback

A concept's creative implementation can make or break your results.
The more clearly you communicate your thoughts to your creative team members, the more effective they'll be at implementing your ideas.

Here are 10 tips for the next time you provide creative feedback.
01. Be Positive:
Open your creative feedback with a positive. It shows respect for the person's work and helps set a good tone for whatever follows. If you're excited about the creative you saw, let that show through. If not, find something you like about it and use that.

02. Be Clear:
Don't force your creative team to figure out which part of the e-mail or landing page your comment refers to. I like to arrange my feedback, especially if there's a lot of it, by section. Simple identifiers like "top left" or "third paragraph" help the team quickly identify the issue you see and fix it.

03. Be Concise:
Bullet points are best, one per item that needs to be addressed. This allows the creative team to check off things that are done and quickly scan the document to see what's left. The bullet points don't have to be complete sentences, either. This is much more effective than providing a paragraph-based dialogue on what needs to be changed.

04. Be Descriptive:
It's not the creative team's job to read your mind. Comments like, "I just don't like it," or, "This sentence isn't true," aren't constructive; they don't give your team the necessary guidance to make changes. Try to figure out why you don't like it. Does it look too cramped? Is the white copy on a red background difficult to read? Provide your team something specific they can do to make corrections. If a sentence isn't truthful, ask them to delete it or provide alternative copy or an idea to take its place.

05. Be Disciplined:

A typical schedule for creative review is as follows:
• First-round review: Identify issues and provide feedback to address them.

• Second-round review: Confirm that the changes made resolve the issues identified in the first round; tweak if they don't.

• Final round: Approve the tweaks, move forward.
If you see copy first, then copy in the design, you have three rounds for copy, then three rounds for copy in the design. If you skip the copy review and go right to copy in the design, you should have three rounds total.

If you regularly have more than three rounds, discipline is needed. Sometimes disciple involves making your initial creative brief more effective, so the team has a better idea of what you're looking for before it starts. Other times, it involves making sure you identify all the issues in the first round.

If you have trouble with this, try doing multiple reviews of the first round on your own. Look at it, make some notes, then go do something else. Come back to it an hour or more later, review it again, and add to your notes. If you have the time to sleep on it, even better.

06. Focus on the Material:
Focus on what really matters: issues that will lift response. Copy related to the benefits of your product is significant; copy asking people to add your sender address to their address book isn't. It doesn't make sense to spend a lot of time on things that won't boost or depress results.

07. Cut and Paste If It Helps:
Years ago, one of my favorite art directors taught me this trick: if the format isn't working for you, cut the elements of the e-mail apart and spend some time repositioning them on a blank piece of paper. This will allow you to see for yourself (roughly) how things might be better positioned. It's also a great way to provide creative feedback; tape your final version together, scan it, and include it, along with your bullet-pointed issues, in what you send to the creative team so they can see what you're envisioning.

08. Put It in Writing:
Is it quicker and easier to provide feedback verbally? Yes, but avoid the temptation. While it's fine to provide some initial thoughts on a call or in person, your formal response should be in writing. This keeps everyone on the same page and heads off the "what was said versus what was heard" conflict before it emerges.

09. Resolve Internal Conflicts:
It's not the creative team's job to resolve disagreements between a marketing team's members. Don't give the creative group conflicting feedback. If there's a disagreement on a copy point or a color choice, resolve it before you provide your comments. If at all possible, have a single marketing person compile all comments, check for and resolve conflicts, and provide this comprehensive feedback to the creative team.

10. Know What You (and Your Colleagues) Don't Know:
It's rare to find someone who excels at all the different creative aspects. You should be working with a talented creative team (if you don't feel you are, you need a new creative solution). As a result, you should trust their judgment on some things.

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