Creating great content is a collaborative, iterative activity, and giving and receiving feedback is an essential part of that process. Here are our suggestions for how to make the best use of the feedback cycle…
At the start of the project
Getting the right foundations in place is essential to creating the best content. By setting out what you expect this gives you a base line to judge what has been supplied. So, start with a clear brief. If you have specific points or issues you want covered make sure you tell the writer before they start. Provide tone of voice, style and brand guidelines.
Agree with the copywriter how feedback will be handled before you start. Agree how many rounds of amends are included in the pricing. If you know you are likely to need several rounds of amends then negotiate this up front so it can be factored in. Think about your own internal processes and who has sign-off.
- Do you have lots of internal stakeholders or is it just you reviewing the copy?
- Does the work need to go through a compliance team?
- Are the timescales realistic for gathering feedback from stakeholders?
- What will feedback look like? Are you going to give suggested rewrites that just need polishing or do you want copy reworked thoroughly based on your feedback?
Finally you'll need to agree dates with the internal team, copywriter or agency for
- delivery of copy
- when feedback will be provided
- when amended versions will be delivered back to you
1. Don't expect it to be perfect the first time. The first draft is exactly that. The copywriter needs input from you to get the best results possible. Writing is subjective and working together to produce the best result is the natural process.
2. Give early feedback. If you have a large project where the copy agency or content team is going to be writing lots of articles for you, ask the copywriter to produce some early samples so you can provide some in-depth feedback quickly. This can help prevent the same issues running through all the subsequent copy.
3. Resolve any conflicting feedback from stakeholders and collate comments before passing them on to the content supplier. You can't expect the copywriter to decide between comments that contradict each other which can quite easily happen if there are a significant number of stakeholders involved.
Clever ways to manage stakeholders
4. Answer any questions raised by the copywriter. Look hard at any questions raised by the writer. Their feedback is like informal user testing. If there are things they don’t understand, then there’s a fair chance users won’t either.
5. Be specific. Simply saying 'Could you have another go?' or just 'Please rewrite' without further explanation is unlikely to get you the results you’re after. Explain what needs changing (and why) as concretely as possible, ideally using tracked changes and comments in Word. It is also worth indicating what the right solution would look like. Also, make clear when your feedback is a local or a global change eg 'Add this call to action across all pages in this section'.
6. Be clear about what you want to get back. Let the copywriter know what you would like. Are you expecting back more tracked changes or clean copy?
7. Show the team what good looks like. Examples from other materials or brands that you want them to emulate are really useful. Also, point out when the copy you receive is spot on so the copywriters have a useful benchmark.
8. Group feedback into categories. As well as providing specific detail on individual points, it is also worth giving overall feedback on tone of voice, formatting or messaging. For example, you could point out that there are variations in tone across different pieces, or that the messaging of one article has gone off track.
9. Be clear about timeframes. Give the copywriter feedback promptly. Just as you expect your content supplier to hit your deadlines, you need to make sure your internal stakeholders give their feedback in time. Specify deadlines and make it clear that comments after the cut-off point won’t be included.
Find out more about managing stakeholders
10. Speak to the copywriter. It’s often worthwhile calling the copywriter to talk through feedback, as well as adding notes and comments on the documents. This is sometimes the quickest and easiest way to explain what you want and gives the copywriter the chance to ask questions. For bigger projects, it’s a good idea to schedule regular catch-up calls to share feedback and highlight things you want the copywriter to pick up on.
11. Develop a relationship over time – the more you work with someone, the easier it is to get them to understand what you want. Your writing team will also know and understand your tone of voice and house style – saving time and effort on both sides.
Learn from the project
To save time and effort in the future, collate ongoing feedback into a reference document that can be shared. This is particularly useful for bigger projects as this will help prevent the writing team from repeating mistakes. It can also help with future briefings.