None of us like criticism, but in a work-related situation, it’s sometimes necessary to make us better at our jobs.
Criticism goes part and parcel with copywriting as a profession, and for copywriters, it’s something that can be difficult to receive. This, in turn, makes it hard for editors to honestly critique a piece of writing you know your copywriter has spent a lot of time researching and crafting.
On the one hand, you don’t want to knock their confidence, but on the other, it’s part of your job to ensure that copy is of the required standard. It’s a balance that can be tricky to get right, but there are ways to give your copywriters constructive feedback that will boost their writing in a way that’s well received.
Here are some ideas for providing constructive copywriting feedback:
No one’s perfect
A piece of content that’s perfect first time is a rarity. When a copywriter’s work is passed on to a senior member of staff for review there will almost always be things they would like changed.
It’s important for editors to convey this fact to copywriters so that they don’t become disheartened when their copy is sent back for revision. Highlight the fact that you have a structured revision process and that feedback is helpful to a copywriter in order to improve their writing. As long as they know and understand this, your copywriters will welcome the feedback you provide.
Focus on what’s right
Regularly telling someone what they’re doing wrong can be a real blow to their morale, so be constructive in your feedback by focusing on the positives first. Let them know what you liked about their writing and why, for example, “I love what you wrote here, it really makes the point well”. This approach will get the copywriter thinking about how they can do more of that in their copywriting.
Once you’ve given your writer positive feedback you can concentrate on any negatives in their writing. You might say something along the lines of “You’ve included all the important points here, but certain areas need to be expanded upon”, and provide examples that they can work from. This approach will make the writer feel that you’re on their side and you’re willing them to do well.
Beware, though, don’t praise someone’s work just to be nice if it needs a lot of work. This will not do you or them any favours in the long term, as they may not improve as a writer.
One of the best ways to help your copywriter is to provide them with clear, detailed feedback that they can use to improve their written work. A survey by the Freelancers Union found that one of the top pet peeves of freelance writers was receiving feedback that was ‘vague’ or ‘unhelpful’. This can waste both your and your writer’s time, as instructions can often be misunderstood or misinterpreted, resulting in written work being sent back and forth for endless revisions.
Clarify what you mean when giving feedback. Don’t simply say “the copy isn’t on brand”. Explain why and offer suggestions – i.e. “We don’t use this kind of phrase as it isn’t appropriate for our audience”, and suggest an alternative or refer them to a specific section of the brand guidelines.
Use the track changes and comments function in Word or in your chosen content production software. That way your writer can be directed to exactly where in the text they’ve gone wrong and what specifically needs to be changed, with comments explaining why.
If a piece of writing doesn’t fit with your company’s style and tone of voice, rather than spending time writing a detailed critique, providing an example piece can be extremely effective.
Examples of other blog posts or landing pages are a great way to demonstrate to your copywriter what it is you require so they can emulate the style. Such examples are often included in your copywriter brief, but specific reference pieces are also a great way to guide your copywriter in the right direction if you find they’re having trouble in a specific area.
Highlight sentences or paragraphs from the example material that you find to be particularly relevant – this will give the copywriter a better idea of the changes that need to be made. Also, consider providing your own examples by rewriting a sentence or two from the copy so your writer knows exactly what you’re after.