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    Speaking Creative: 6 Tips for Efficient Revisions

    Speaking Creative: 6 Tips for Efficient Revisions

    If you’ve been a building products marketer for long, chances are you’ve worked with “creatives,” those writers and designers—and even developers and programmers—who make the marketing materials that help sell your products. And if you’ve worked with them, that means you’ve likely had to review work and provide feedback.

    Effective feedback in creative work requires clear and concise information.

    It’s a safe bet that at some point you’ve needed to look over a document or a layout and given feedback and experienced one or more of the following:

    • resistance
    • arguments
    • eye rolls
    • temper flares
    • passive-aggressive remarks
    • confused looks
    • crying
    • something different than what you asked for
    • the complete opposite of what you asked for

    For many of you, this is confusing. The creative process is supposed to be collaborative and part of that collaboration is making the materials as accurate and impactful as possible. So why are the people who need the feedback and revisions so resistant to making them?

    Presuming you have the right people in the right roles, and everyone is a mature professional—and if that’s not the case, you have bigger fish to fry—it basically comes down to providing the right inputs. Armed with clear, concise information, it’s amazing how quickly your creative team can solve problems and get your materials where they need to be.

    Here are six ways to improve your feedback for more efficient revisions:

    Consume it before you critique it.

    If the review process finds you immediately grabbing a pen and marking “what’s wrong,” you’re missing an opportunity to understand the work like the audience will. You’re also creating a mindset where you’re presuming something is already broken.

    Understanding the work’s intent before critiquing it is essential.

    Reading or looking it over twice is key—once as the audience, once as the reviewer. This gives you the context you need to better understand the intent of the work rather than jumping immediately into the mechanics of it.

    Consolidate inputs.

    A common process for most creative work is an initial draft followed by 2–3 rounds of revisions. Unfortunately, many changes come to creatives in bits & pieces, resulting in significantly more rounds and increased inefficiency.

    Consolidate feedback to avoid multiple, conflicting revisions.

    And as revisions can often come from multiple sources, it’s also normal for one person’s revisions to counter those of another. To avoid this, for each round of changes, consolidate and prioritize feedback from the team into a single list.

    Avoid one-person focus groups.

    Sometimes large-scale projects, like campaigns, warrant getting reactions from the target audience—and for good reason. Actual feedback from those we’re trying to reach can be invaluable.

    Seek feedback from relevant sources, not unrelated individuals.

    Unfortunately, what happens more often is “I shared the logo options with my wife and she didn’t like any of them” or “The barista at Starbucks didn’t care for your cattle vaccine tagline.” Outside inputs can provide needed perspective, but unless it’s the actual target, it usually just sows confusion.

    Something is better than nothing.

    A phrase every creative has heard at some point (sending a shiver down our collective spine) is “I’ll know it when I see it.” This is essentially creative skeet shooting, simply tossing one idea after another and waiting to see what doesn’t get blown away.

    Provide at least two clear descriptors when articulating your preferences.

    Not only is it demoralizing, it’s a serious waste of resources, costing you time and money as your team essentially tries to read your mind. At minimum, tell your creatives two things: “Make it less ____ and more ____.” With those two simple blanks filled in, they’ll arrive at what you want faster—even if you’re not sure what it is yet.

    Set the goal, not the solution.

    All too often, well-intentioned marketers will “help out” by providing painstaking how-to instructions or actually doing the work themselves (e.g., “I’m not a writer, but I wrote two pages that you can use”). Few things will disengage your creatives faster, because your underlying message is “You’re another pair of hands to me, not a mind.” If you want their best work, point out the problem you’re trying to solve and let their unique skillsets provide the appropriate way to get there.

    SCORE it.

    News flash: “I don’t like it” isn’t valuable feedback. Step into the paint department of any big-box building retailer and there are hundreds of paint chip colors offered. That’s because taste is completely subjective—even among professional marketers and skilled creatives. One person’s “love it” is another person’s “disgusting.” Instead of providing feedback in terms of what you like or don’t, use the SCORE method to more objectively review creative work:

    • Strategy – How well does it deliver to the objective/intent?
    • Creativity – How unique and distinctive is it (vs. others in marketplace)?
    • Ownability – How easily will you be able to claim it as your own?
    • Relatability – How well will the audience connect with it?
    • Extendibility – How well will it work with variations?

    By utilizing the SCORE method, you’ll not only be able to judge the value of the creative work more objectively, but the answers will assist your creatives by providing them with actionable feedback.


    Why do creatives sometimes resist feedback on their work?

    Creatives may resist feedback if it lacks clear and concise information or if it jumps into criticizing without understanding the work’s intent.

    How can I improve the efficiency of providing feedback on creative work?

    Consume the work as an audience first, consolidate feedback into a single list, and avoid seeking opinions from unrelated individuals.

    What should I do if I can’t articulate exactly what I want from a creative project?

    Provide at least two clear descriptors, such as “Make it less ____ and more ____,” to help creatives understand your preferences.

    How can I guide creatives without stifling their creativity?

    Focus on setting the goal or problem you want to solve rather than providing detailed solutions or doing the work yourself.

    What’s a more effective way to provide feedback on creative work than just saying if I like it or not?

    Use the SCORE method, which assesses work based on Strategy, Creativity, Ownability, Relatability, and Extendibility to provide more objective and actionable feedback.

    About The Author

    Elton Mayfield

    Elton's career spans media, production, digital and building industry expertise. His diverse experience makes him nimble, innovative, and curious – always pushing the envelope to create extraordinary work that delivers real results for our clients.

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