How to give content writers feedback

Why I’ve joined Digital-Collective.Co

How to get the right copywriting for your business

You’ve signed on a copywriter to do some valuable writing work for your organisation. They’ve sent through the first draft and it’s… er… well, not what you were expecting. Don’t freak out! This is all part of the process and is why we have more than one draft for every project.

Why do we need to give content writers feedback?

For a healthy copywriting/client relationship it’s vital to have an adequate amount of feedback. This is why most content writers provide a number of rounds of edits in their packages. It’s also completely normal for the copywriter to not get it completely right, first go, particularly when it’s a new relationship. However, over time, the copywriter will learn how you want the writing to sound and will write the copy more to that style. For a copywriter, there’s nothing we like hearing more than “This is perfect, exactly what I wanted. No notes. Send the final invoice!”

But, before we get to that point, we need to learn how to work well together, and sure, it can be uncomfortable. After all, no one likes to be critical over someone else’s work, particularly when you know they’ve spent hours on it.

I once worked with a client, let’s call her Brenda. She didn’t respond for a whole week after receiving the first draft. Turns out, there were a few things she wanted to be changed and she’d been too scared to share her feedback. I could hear her relief when I explained that feedback is all part of the process, and I wanted her to be open and honest with me. Together we created a website she absolutely loved.

Rest assured, we content writers love constructive feedback. It’s all part of the journey to getting the right content for your business.

Here are some tips to help you give content writers feedback (and still have a good working relationship at the end of it).

The starting point – an extensive brief

Before the first draft has been sent to you, you should have an honest conversation with your copywriter about what you’re looking for. First, consider the intention of the writing – do you want to sell something, inform your audience, entertain them, or build a relationship with them?

Next, how do you want to sound? Do you want to be fun and playful? Do you want to sound formal or informational or how your audience speaks? This is called your tone of voice and it really helps your writer with their work. If you have an idea of what you want your writing to sound like, provide examples. It doesn’t matter if they’re in a completely different industry. If it’s a tone you like, then examples are really helpful.

I have a comprehensive briefing process with new clients where we either chat over the phone or in person. I like to ask a lot of questions about your intentions and inspiration. Not only does this help me understand more about you and your industry, but it’s an excellent way for me to pick up nuggets of gold about your business.

Get the information correct in the first draft

For website copy, the first draft is usually more about content over style. Copywriters usually provide an initial skeleton draft which outlines where they’re going with the content, checks the facts are accurate, and ensure you like the structure. Don’t be concerned if the tone isn’t right, this draft is about getting the content correct. They can pretty up the words later.

If there are other stakeholders who are going to be approving content, now’s the time to get them involved. The copywriter can then take any extra information and include it with the second draft.

When I provide a skeleton draft, I like to include a small piece of more polished copy which will highlight the tone. If you don’t like the way this sounds, make sure you mention it, so the copywriter can then provide a different example of writing before they go and write all of the second draft.

Improve the tone in the second draft

The second draft should be more along the lines of what you’re looking for. The copywriter will have taken your comments about the content and the tone from the first draft and will provide something that more closely resembles the finished product. Make sure anyone within your organisation who needs to see the website copy has read this second draft, particularly if they didn’t haven’t read the first version.

Give approval of the final draft

Once we’ve gone through the second draft, the copywriter will then work on the final draft. This will be the one that is proofread, so all typos have been fixed and the grammar is on point. At this stage, there shouldn’t be too many changes to be made. It will be sent to you for a final sanity check before it’s considered complete.

How can you give feedback?

There are many ways you can give feedback to your copywriter:

  1. Track changes. This is a straightforward way that is preferred by many copywriters. You simply turn on track changes in Microsoft Word or Google Docs and make comments or notations throughout the draft. Give the copywriter specific examples of what you want to be changed and why. Also, make sure you highlight the parts you like so they know what’s working.
  2. Provide a separate document of comments. Sometimes this works better when there is a general theme of what you want to be changed. Say you thought the tone would be friendly, but it’s a bit too overly friendly in parts. Pull out the parts you like and the parts you don’t in a separate document, so the copywriter understands how the document can better align with what you want.
  3. Have a phone conversation – If you’re more of a talker than a writer, you might prefer to workshop the copy over the phone or in person. I like to do this with some clients – we go through it line by line and make sure all the copy works.

Copywriter feedback dos and don’ts

  • DO provide feedback, particularly if you’re not happy. There’s nothing worse than paying good money for something and not getting what you paid for. Make sure you give your copywriter feedback so they can make appropriate changes for their subsequent draft. Us copywriters have got thick skins, and we’d rather receive honest feedback, so don’t feel bad about saying what you do and don’t like.
  • DON’T rewrite the copy. Simply choose a few examples of how you want it written, and the copywriter will make sure it’s all written in that style.
  • DO ensure you’re aligned with your team on how the copy should be written. There’s nothing more confusing for a copywriter than having conflicting feedback from various stakeholders. If you’re working with a few team members, make sure you agree on the feedback before you send it to the copywriter.
  • DON’T say ‘I don’t like it’ but then have no other feedback why. A copywriter can’t change the writing if they don’t know which direction to take it in. DO be respectful – we’re all working towards the same goal of writing the best content for your organisation.
  • DON’T panic if it’s not perfect first go.

Every copywriter has a slightly different process, so if you’re working with a new copywriter it’s a good idea to have conversation right at the beginning about how they’d like to receive feedback, and how many rounds of revision are included in their fee.

At the end of the day, giving feedback is all part of the copywriting process, and it’s the way we can work together to find the right words for your business.

How about you? Do you find giving feedback difficult? Or is it just all a part of a good client/customer relationship?

How about you? Do you find giving feedback difficult? Or is it just all a part of a good client/customer relationship?

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