Creative marketing professionals must have thick skins. We put our hearts and souls into our work and then put it out there for others to evaluate (often right in front of us). This is a good thing. The most effective marketing solutions are a result of a cadre of professionals with various expertise and perspectives, collaborating their way to success. The business professional has the black and white pressures of their business, dollars, traffic, units, awareness, and affinity. And creative professionals are driven by passion. Our work becomes an extension of ourselves and criticism of it can be felt personally. So, when the business professional in the equation needs to communicate feedback relating to the creative work it can make for a tricky mix. A 2014 study confirmed that 43% of people describe giving feedback as a “…stressful and difficult experience.*” But it doesn’t have to be scary if we keep these five things in mind.
- Feedback is not criticism.
Criticism lays blame in the past while feedback is focused on improving the future. And wouldn’t we all like to improve the future? In fact, another survey of nearly 1,000 people found that even negative feedback was effective at improving performance “…if delivered appropriately.*” How you deliver feedback is crucial to how it is received and applied to improving the work.
- Be considerate.
You probably learned this important aspect of delivering feedback from your parents and didn’t even know it. When giving feedback the easiest way to set a considerate tone is to begin with something positive. “The thing I really like about this mobile experience is…” Be sincere. It makes it clear that you respect the creator and share the intention improving the work. Establishing the framework for a positive and productive dialogue is putting your best foot forward. Now there are other things you can do to ensures the final product reflects the ask.
- Define the criteria.
Clearly defining the criteria can help remove the barrier of subjectivity and give a yardstick by which all can measure the work. “Okay, the critical point we are looking at today is whether or not the new social media campaign communicates our brand values.” Then proceed to critique spelling out your criteria for each point. “To me it definitely communicates ‘integrity’, which is great, but I’m not sure I’d look at it and think ‘innovation’.”
- Define your role.
It is also important to make your own role clear and explicit. Are you speaking from your own perspective? As the customer? The end user? “I can see a new customer seeing this and…” By making your own role clear you can express robust feedback while still being respectful of the creator’s expertise. This too can be effective in reducing unnecessary subjectivity.
- Make your feedback specific and actionable.
Vague feedback can be frustrating, leave room for misinterpretations, and lead to errors. “The layout is too busy.” is not as likely to be effective as, “The layout is busy. Three columns and the amount of icons divides the user’s attention. Can we consolidate some components?” The more precise you can be in describing what’s not working will eliminate the space for mistakes.
Don’t fear feedback, either giving or receiving it. It is the universal collaboration tool that improves work and performance. Knowing how to best navigate the waters will create better outcomes for everyone involved.
* 2014 surveys by the leadership development firm Zenger Folkman