How do I give feedback to my copywriter?

in Working with a copywriter

Obviously, the best kind of feedback a copywriter can get runs something along the lines of ‘This is great, it’s spot on, it delivers to the brief and more. Thank you!’

This is not only great for your copywriter to hear, it’s also great for you to be able to say. After all, the feedback process is time-consuming for you as well as your copywriter. If a first draft hits the mark first time, everyone’s happy.

But back in the real world, it’s likely you’ll need to give feedback and amendments to your copywriter.

So how do you go about doing it?

Be prepared

Let’s firstly take a step back. The quality of the output is directly related to the quality of the input.

You need to make sure you’ve given your copywriter every chance of getting it right first time by making sure they’ve got a good brief to work from.

You should expect to share a lot of information with your copywriter before they start writing. Equip them with all the information they ask for – and more, if you have it. I’m sure I’m not the only copywriter to say it’s better to have too much information than too little. They’ll also be doing their own research to make sure they’ve got as wide an understanding as possible. Lastly, take the time to think the brief through properly. It’s much better for everyone if your copywriter has all the salient facts before they write the first draft than afterwards.

But even with the best brief in the world, it’s still perfectly normal for there to be amendments. (Personally, I always worry if a client doesn’t come back with at least something. As good as I might be, I’m not perfect and there are always improvements that could be made.)

Here’s how I suggest you handle these.

Be specific

One of the most common pieces of feedback for a copywriter to hear is ‘I don’t like it’.

There are two things to think about here. The first is that you probably aren’t the target reader, so the fact you don’t like it doesn’t mean your target audience won’t.

But perhaps more importantly, it isn’t specific enough. It leaves your copywriter trying to second guess or come back to you for ask for clarification. Instead, give specific feedback. What don’t you like? Why don’t you like it? By being specific, your copywriter knows what to change and you’ll get to a better result faster.

Similarly, while it’s always lovely to hear phrases like ‘I like this’, it’s even more lovely to know what you liked about it and why. This is especially true if you’re hoping to form a long term relationship with your copywriter because it helps them get to know you and your brand better.

Be objective

This is the hardest to do but the most rewarding to get right!

It’s natural to want to rewrite something that isn’t written the way you’d write it. But before you start reworking something, ask yourself one thing.

Are you rewriting this because it’s factually wrong? Or are you rewriting it because it isn’t the way you’d say it?

If it’s because it’s factually wrong, then go right ahead and rewrite it (or flag it up for your copywriter to correct). If it’s because you wouldn’t have written it that way but it’s actually an equally valid way to say it, then leave it. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and effort.

Be helpful

It’s likely that several people in your organisation will need to have sight of the piece before it’s signed off.

To make gathering that feedback as painless as possible for everyone, set a DACI when you put together your brief. (This article includes more on DACIs.) This makes it clear whose feedback you have to listen to and why. For example, you need to listen to your legal team’s feedback on legal aspects of the copy but not on anything else – unless it’s valid, of course.

Then, before you send everyone’s feedback to your copywriter, take a moment to collate it. If there are conflicting viewpoints on something, decide who’s right (or whose feedback takes priority) and only give your copywriter that. This makes your copywriter’s life easier and saves them getting embroiled in office politics.

Be eagle-eyed

You’ll have equipped your copywriter with lots of information. Your copywriter will have done lots of research. But you’re still the expert. It means it’s your job to focus on the details:

  • accuracy
  • consistency
  • tone of voice
  • legal aspects.

This is the nitty gritty that no one notices when it’s right – and everyone notices when it’s wrong. (The first example that sprang to mind here was the Hoover flights fiasco. Which rather dates me…)

Be practical

When you’re giving feedback, use the ‘tracked changes’ facility in the document. That way your copywriter can work their way through the changes and be sure they’ve got all of them as well as add and reply to comments.

Handwritten comments that have been scanned in and emailed over are time-consuming for you to do and invariably hard for your copywriter to read.

If there are wider changes – for example, you feel the copywriter has missed the brief (although bear in mind my comments above on this), it may be helpful to have a conversation with your copywriter rather than doing it over email. That way your copywriter can ask questions and get clarity where they need to before redrafting.

Be honest (but polite!)

Your copywriter will have put a lot of work into getting the first draft as close to final as possible. They will have used art, science, experience and more in the process. But don’t be afraid to give feedback on their work. Your copywriter wants the copy to deliver on its objective just as much as you do, so they’ll appreciate honest, proactive feedback because it will make the piece better.

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