George Costanza on … Giving Feedback

George Costanza on … Giving Feedback

UPDATED: May 2, 2017

There’s a question that I get asked, over and over, usually by Account Executives and other strategy folks. They’re nice people, and they want to be accommodating AND they want to make sure they are getting the most out of their creative partners. So they ask, quite nicely (and rightly) “What’s the best way to give creative feedback?”

There are several important keys to delivering your feedback in a way that is mutually beneficial. But first, let’s take a look at this …

Have you ever been in a meeting with a client or your account team that went anything like this?

So, what IS the best way to give feedback to your creative team – be it an in-house team or an agency team?

Well, first of all, don’t do as George does. Of course you’d never be as blunt as to say “You Stink!”. You’re a modern, evolved person. of course. But, still, reflect for a minute. You might not have said You Stink but there’s a distonct possibility that’s how it was heard. And if that’s how it’s heard, it’s pretty unlikely a good dialogue will ensue.

Everyone has opinions about design and copy. We all care deeply. We all speak the language, and we all have at least some experience in marketing. But the people who design it and write it for a living … well they do it for a living. So, no matter what you have to say, please start with the assumption that the work you are reviewing is the result of careful thought and expert consideration on behalf of the people who created it. That doesn’t mean you have to love it, or even like it, but it will help you to keep your comments grounded and not wildly subjective (hopefully). And you won’t be, again in the words of George, just bebopping and scatting all over it.

Of course it’s the creative team’s responsibility to present their work in a way that conveys the thoughtful consideration they have given the project. If they don’t, that’s a separate problem and one that will be addressed in a future post (probably with some interesting insight from our freind George.)

Here are 5 ways to keep your creative feedback grounded (and your creative team receptive.)

1. Know your brand standards.
Imagine giving a comment like “I hate this color. Change this color” and then being told that the color you hate is, in fact, one of the colors in your brand’s approved palette. (I’ve seen it happen.) Remember, the brand standards are there to provide guidance, like Adam’s Smith’s concept of the Invisible Hand. So it’s NOT helpful to say “I hate yellow.” But it IS definitely helpful remind the team “Yellow is not in our brand standards.”

2. Tie it back to the brief. Always.
If you’ve done a good job in writing your creative brief — with solid consumer insight, a clear and understandable Problem Statement and an on-target claim and Focus of Sale — then you’ll find all the ammunition you need to give your feedback right there. It’s NOT ok to say “That image’s not working for me.” It IS ok to say “You know, I don’t think that image will connect with the target audience described in the brief.”

3. Remember the most important communication strategy. (It’s listening, by the way.)Before you offer your feedback, make sure to ask a few questions to make sure you have a good understanding of the team’s creative strategy. Ask probing questions, and really listen to the answers. Before you ask “why didn;t you do it this way?” find out why they did it the way they did.

4. Remember, every creative person takes it at least a little personally. (Even if they tell you they don’t.)
I’ve been a copywriter, a creative director and a group creative director and I’ve never once met a creative person who didn’t feel that they were putting some of their heart and soul (probably a lot, actually) into their work. Not saying you shouldn’t be honest. Just reminding you to consider the POV of your your audience. Just sayin.’

5. Make sure you’re open to new ideas.
You know your brand, your customer, and your industry better than anyone. You live, breathe and sleep your business. That’s a given. Just don’t let your deep focus keep you from seeing the big picture. Just because an idea is different — or you see an approach you didn’t expect — doesn’t mean it won’t work. That’s exactly the reason it might.

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