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EPISODE 34: Giving and Receiving Content Feedback

by May 18, 2021Copywriting, Podcast

In this episode we will cover:

  • The four types of people giving content feedback
  • A writer’s dream feedback goals
  • Figuring out what’s breaking down in your critique process
  • Ways to turn vague or unhelpful feedback into actionable edits
If you’re a writer, you’ve probably realized by now everyone doesn’t give feedback on your work the same way.

From the vague “I’ll know it when I see it” or “This isn’t quite right” types, to the constantly shifting “Whoops, I changed my mind” type, to the type that never seems to give any feedback at all {but still isn’t quite satisfied with your work}, navigating the editing process can be difficult.

So in this episode, we’re breaking down strategies you can use to turn vague or unhelpful feedback into critiques that are clear, kind, and actionable.


In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The four types of people giving unhelpful content feedback, and how to improve your experience working with each one.
  • How to figure out what’s breaking down in your critique process.
  • Ways to turn vague or unhelpful feedback into actionable edits.

To learn more about how to build a better copywriting experience, visit https://www.northstarmessaging.com/writers/.


Jessi: Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi… Marie: …and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity. Jessi: Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell, so you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals. Marie: And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode. Hi, there and welcome to another episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. It's Marie today flying solo, because I'm going to be talking all about giving and receiving content feedback. This episode is specifically for writers. So, if you are a CEO, you've hired a writer, know that you can learn some stuff from this too. And if your writer is not taking the initiative to help in this process, maybe you can send them to this episode and get some ideas. So let's talk about some of the frustrating content feedback experiences we've experienced here at North Star. And I started thinking back through projects where there were hiccups in the process of getting critique, getting feedback, getting edits, getting revisions. And I came up with sort of four broad categories of the CEO, or like the decision-maker for the content. So first there's the strong and silent type. These are folks who never make edits. Like you submit the work and then you hear nothing from them. And then later you find out they're frustrated and that's tough, right? Because, you didn't know that you were doing something that wasn't working for them. And so you kept doing that thing that wasn't working for them, and they're getting more and more frustrated, but it's because there was a breakdown in communication about that. Then there's the I'll know it when I see it client. So this is the person who has a little trouble articulating exactly what they want from the get-go in terms of the content, what they're looking for, what their goals are. And then you submit something to them, they're like, no, no, no, this isn't right. And they give you a bunch of edits and it takes a while to kind of like land on it. Then there's the client. Who's the whoops. I changed my mind. So these are clients who, you know, you've got a plan everything's going according to plan. Everything's great. And then, you know, you're kind of deep in the process and they're like, actually we need to take a hard left turn here. I'm changing everything. Maybe they've like changed the entire, like layout of their launch. Maybe they've changed the benefits and features maybe like whatever. It's just, you know, something where there's a big change Lee on the process. And then the fourth category is the, this isn't quite right clients. So this is the person who is like, this is just, can you just like, make it different? Like, they'll say, like they may give more specifics than that. They may simply say something like, can you just make this a little more punchy or, I just think this needs to connect a little better. Right. So it's like vague feedback that you're having trouble deciphering. So honestly what I believe is that it is possible to achieve the writer's dream most of the time, which is few rounds of revisions and a reasonable timeline with critiques that are clear and actionable. And that they're kind right. Kind of critiques that aren't just going to make you feel like you're a piece of dung on the bottom of somebody's shoe, but that also make people happy, right? Like we don't want a client to mince words so much with their critique that they actually don't say, you know, I'm actually kind of unhappy. We want them to have the freedom to say that, but then also explain why, right. So how do we do this? So I would say my first tip for you is give your client permission to critique the content. We do this early on, even in the sales call where I'll say, and you get two rounds of revisions with your content. And then sometimes, especially for those clients are just so sweet and they just don't want to hurt your feelings. And they know you're doing your best. And they're like, these are the ones who are like in danger of becoming the strong and silent type where I really like, they just never have edits for you, but they're secretly unhappy. So just like continue reminding them that they have permission to critique the content. And furthermore, I would make it easy for them to do it. So maybe this, you know, you can, at one point we created like a little GIF that was like, here's how to go into editing mode in Google docs. Here's how to leave a comment in Google docs. And we would just paste the gift into all the drafts that we sent. The other thing that we would do, or suggesting mode or other, I think I said editing mode. The other thing that we do sometimes, and probably ought to do more is when we deliver a draft, include a booking link to say, Hey, if you would rather go over this content and a meeting, as opposed to going back and forth over email or over comments, then feel free book the link, we'll spend 15, 20 minutes going over it and we'll get your specific feedback and everything will be great, right? This is nice too, because if you have further questions for them, you actually have them right there on the call and you can ask. So make it easy for them and make them feel like they have permission to critique the content. Next piece of advice would be set boundaries and expectations around edits and revisions and feedback. So you can let them know how many rounds of revisions they're gonna get. You can let them know how to do it, right. You can say, you know, maybe let me know the things that are going well and maybe let me know the things that aren't going well, things that you don't like about it, right. And it may not be something that they don't like, maybe they love it, but they're like, you know, I tried this and the data, just like my audience just doesn't click on this kind of CTA. Right. And so that's, that's really helpful for you to know, right? So like what's working, what's not working. You can even have like a questionnaire for them, right. Where they can fill that out. It's really anything to make it easy for them. Another type of boundary or expectation is sort of like, what does the critique process look like in practice. So you could say something along the lines of, you know, you're going to get two rounds of revisions. The first round is really for high level big changes. So like all that stuff about, you know, I changed my mind halfway through, right? Like we're gonna, you know, if there's something where like, we need to take a completely different angle with the story or whatever it is, let's do that on the first round. And then the second round is really for word choice, specific little bits of messaging, things that are a bit more nitty-gritty. Right. You could tell your clients something like if you decide after those rounds that you need to take a hard left turn and something changes, maybe like, you know, the entire structure of your launch changes, or you need a completely different direction for this story or, you know, whatever. Then that's going to be a separate charge. So you can just let them know that going into it. You are allowed to make those boundaries just as long as you communicate them. And I would suggest putting them in your contract as well, so that they have it in writing. My next tip for you would be to leverage the North Star Brand Voice Process. Now I know you're not a member of the North star team, most likely unless you are high team members listening to this. But what I would love to invite you to do is go to Northstarmessaging.com/writers and go ahead and opt in there. That means a you'll get a great freebie from us, which is 10 different ways that we've learned to optimize our writing business, that you can implement as well in yours. But B you're gonna be able to get emails from us when we are ready to start teaching our Brand Voice Process to writers who are outside of our company. But the great thing about this, and it doesn't have to be our process, whatever your process is for capturing their voice really lean into that. You don't have to use our process. We're not, you know, the, the brand voice, you know, we don't have a... we're not the only people who do this, right? You can do it too, but really leverage whatever your brand voice process is or ours. If you're looking for some support in that area so that you have fewer revisions as you go, because you're already learning their stories, you're already learning their voice, the phrases they use, the stuff they avoid, all of that, and it'll really help you get closer to the mark. I would also suggest having a really strong strategy called process on the front end. So ask questions until you're blue in the face, basically until you feel like you have all the information you need to create the content. If they don't have time to help you, ask if there's somebody else on their team that you can talk to. Ask if they have examples of things that they can send to you. It doesn't even have to be within their own business, right? Like earlier today we were talking with a client who's looking at creating, um, a quiz opt-in and he was saying, you know, I, I really liked this format that I saw somebody else doing. Obviously needs to be different. It needs to be my own thing. I have a completely different business, but I liked the architecture of the funnel. So you could use that as inspiration, right? That's great. That saves him time from having to explain every single step of what he's looking for. And it saves us time because we can just go look at it and get the information we need and apply. Right? So don't be afraid to ask questions early on in the process. Your clients, most likely will actually be really grateful that you're taking the time to really understand the project. I remember one of the things, one of our clients, Todd Herman, said to Jessi and me one time when we thanked him for his time at the end of a strategy call was ladies one hour with you saves 11 hours. For me, he was very happy to sit on the phone for one hour with us. Cause it meant that it saved him 11 hours of content creation time for this project. Next I would suggest once you've already drafted something and you're ready to go ahead and submit it to your clients. I, something that I've found that can be really helpful is to deliver with an explanation. A lot of times I like to do this, both a video tour of their deliverable. You can use like a free, screen-sharing software like loom, or you can record yourself in zoom or whatever technology you have. But I find this really helpful because basically what I do is, I also do this even for, for like high level strategy on the front end. Right. I'll walk someone through what I've created and I'll say, okay, so first we have this section, I actually gave you two different subject lines and are- not subject lines- headers and sub headers to choose from. So let me know what you think of these options. And then the next section here, you know, I'm really focusing on this, I'm focusing on the benefits. That's what the section is for. And then over here, you know, I'm talking about the features and the benefits specifically of those features and like, whatever it is you're doing, right? Like I wanted to bring forth some really great social proof. So I incorporated these testimonials. I chose them because they highlight this messaging, whatever it is, right. When you're able to show them your thought process, then they're going to have fewer questions because they'll understand where you're coming from and they may disagree, or they may realize that there's something important that they forgot to tell you, or they may want to switch the order of things or whatever, but at least they know where you're coming from. And they know that you weren't just flinging spaghetti against the wall. Do you actually have a framework? And you had a purpose behind what you were doing. So try that sometime try the little video tour with your deliverable. You can also do this other ways, right? You can also invite them to get on a call with you. Next I would suggest adding, asking specific questions for critique, if you have them. So you can ask things like, you know, does this feel like it's hitting the audience targeting the way you were envisioning? You know, I was a little bit confused about this part of your program. I realized as I was writing it. So can you help me clear that up? Because we can elaborate on that in the next round of revisions, right? And then I would say when they give you feedback, take time to incorporate it and show that you've really internalized it. So if you have created some kind of brand voice document for them incorporated there, update it and let them know that. Create comments, right? So now maybe you're submitting draft two and you can say, you know, Hey Steve, I just wanted you to know that I changed this paragraph based on our conversation about XYZ. And you can use that little video tour, again, that little trick that I talked about, and you can do that for revisions too. It doesn't have to be for initial deliverables. So hopefully if you're implementing these tactics, this will help you with the silent type, because you've now given them permission to give you edits. You've prevented the I'll know it. When I see it, the people who have trouble articulating what they want and they have a lot of edits later, you're preventing that because you have a really strong brand voice and strategy called process on the front end. The, oops, I changed my mind. Same thing. That's both of those things are really going to help with that person. And then the, this isn't quite right, the vague feedback, ask specific questions for critique. If you do not understand what they're saying, if they're like, can you just make this more relatable or, you know, I just didn't find this interesting or whatever it is, ask them, why ask them why they checked out, ask them what they're looking for instead, you know, ask them if they have examples of things that they want you to emulate. Like, just keep asking questions until you feel like you understand what's going on when they have vague feedback, because chances are, they just haven't really thought that much about it. And they're giving you feedback, hoping that you can fix it, forgetting that you can't actually read their mind. So onto homework. So I would suggest for you examine what is breaking down in your critique process with your clients, and then make one change that you feel will make the biggest difference. So maybe if, for example, you just keep running into the never making edits. And then later you find out they're frustrated, strong, silent type people. Then for them, maybe it really is just making sure that they understand that they have permission to critique the content and proactively asking for critique, giving them opportunities to get on calls with you, giving them opportunities to fill out questionnaires, whatever it is that helps them really, really feel like, Hey, you know, you're not going to hurt my feelings. Like this is part of my job. I'm a writer. I'm here to create the best possible written product for you. And so that means that I need to hear from you when things aren't going well. And let them know if they're just concerned about hurting your feelings, you can also let me know what's going well about this. If there is anything like, feel free to compliment it too, maybe that will make them feel better about the process of telling you things that they're not as happy with because they were able to kind of balance out their critique with the good and the bad. All right, well, happy content feedback adjusting. I hope this is helpful for you and CEOs. If you're listening to this, please feel free to forward this on this episode onto your writer if you're having critique breakdowns. All right, take care. Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. Make sure to visit our website, Northstarmessaging.com where you can subscribe the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more. Jessi: If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you and happy content creating.
For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 

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