Last year, we posted about giving good design feedback. Several of the tips – like being direct and providing examples – also apply when you’re sharing feedback about content. Here are a few more ideas that will help writers ensure the final product hits the mark. In my experience, these techniques are highly effective and keep the process moving efficiently:
When involving multiple stakeholders, plan ahead.
Nearly all writing projects involve review by multiple stakeholders, often from various groups and seniority levels. Before writing a single word, it’s best to plan which people will provide feedback at each milestone. Who should review the initial outline? Who needs to provide their blessing on the final version before it can be published?
Being selective and organized when soliciting feedback reduces unnecessary churn and cuts down on version-control issues. It’s also helpful to consolidate comments as much as possible. If three members of a sales team need to review the current draft, get them in a room together to hash it out. If a draft is circulating via email, decide who has the final say. That way, the writer won’t be forced to untangle conflicting edits and opinions.
Help writers understand the problem, but don’t jump into potential solutions.
If something major isn’t working, it’s essential for a client to be honest and clear about the problem. At the same time, the process will ultimately be more effective if the writer works with the client on potential solutions.
Say a stakeholder believes a section is too thin and wants to improve it with proof points. It might be tempting for the stakeholder to cut and paste a chart into the section to “fix” the problem; however, I believe it’s ultimately more effective if the stakeholder engages the writer in a conversation. The writer can provide context and explain his or her thought process and the stakeholder can explain the problem.
The client and writer can determine the best path forward. Often, the solution they identify together is better than one suggested in a vacuum. In this example, perhaps an additional paragraph, callout or reordering of the section could deliver the desired proof points with more gusto than a chart.
Try to see the big picture.
When we leave behind idiosyncratic personal preferences, we can focus on key goals and business objectives. A great way to avoid diverting energy away from the big picture is to review the content through the eyes of the target reader. A reviewer who hates long paragraphs will (hopefully) pause before he takes an axe to the draft, once he remembers the piece is designed for an academic, journal-oriented audience.
Lastly, it’s valuable to hear what clients do like! Calling out the successful parts helps writers pinpoint what’s working so they can do more of it.
How do you provide feedback to your writing team? Let us know in the comments below.