*What’s up? I’m George. I used to work with Dave at Drift and now help to manage his content at DGMG. I’ve been known to sling copy from time to time, so Dave asked me to throw a blog in here and there.
As some of you may be aware, Dave had me write his newsletter last week while he was on vacation. He didn’t give any real direction on what the topic of the newsletter should be other than, “write something fun.” So, ever the rebel, I decided to write about something that is decidedly not fun, feedback.
Everyone in marketing has to face feedback on a daily basis. Like it or not, it’s the nature of the beast. When I started my career as an email/blog writer at Drift, I was told that constructive feedback was an important part of the Drift culture. The thing is…I never really thought they would critique my writing.
For context, I’ve always been a writer. In school, it came easy to me. Essays, book reports, creative prompts, etc — no problem. Even in my free time, writing was part of my life. In my pre-revenue days aka childhood, I went the homemade gift route, writing poems and short stories for family birthdays.
Hell, in college I once wrote a 7-page satirical narrative recapping my freshman year in an effort to avoid studying for a Business Law final. Writing is just part of who I am, and has always been my creative outlet.
So adapting to the myriad edits I received any time I wrote anything at Drift was a bit jarring for me. Even the simplest email came back riddled with red marks in those early days. Frankly, I was embarrassed and frustrated. But once I started looking at the feedback critically, I realized that a lot of the critiques were correct and actually improved my writing. And the more I learned from the edits, the less red marks I saw on future pieces of copy. So I’ve put together my top few tips for marketers on how to handle yourself when the feedback hits.
Don’t Take it Personally
Believe it or not, your manager isn’t out to get you. Well, most of the time they’re not…I’ve heard stories.
But seriously, the feedback you receive on your work is not meant to personally attack you or discredit you. I know firsthand how tough a pill feedback is to swallow for a creative person. Our work is like our baby. We spend so much time crafting our own specific vision that it can be disheartening when it doesn’t align with what the company wants. But Dave, as always, puts it eloquently:
Your morale is going to sink real low if you take everything personally. Always welcome constructive feedback, especially when it’s about something that you’re naturally talented at. Marketing in particular is very collaboration heavy. It can’t just be the (insert your name here) show all the time. The only way to get better at your passion is to understand a perspective and approach other than your own, and evolve your style.
Preempt the Feedback
Instead of whipping up a piece of content and sending it off for review, hoping that it won’t get any edits, try preempting the feedback. Let me show you what I mean. Here’s a real Slack interaction I had with Dave a while back:
I start off by asking for feedback and calling out a specific area of the email that I know is a little bit weak. This serves a few purposes. First off, it shows engagement and interest. I’m not just checking boxes and trying to pump out content as fast as possible. I care about my work and want to get it right.
Second, by calling out the subject line I’m telling Dave that is the area that I, as a copywriter, am most concerned about. So he knows that the body is most likely fairly solid, since I haven’t made any reference to it. Admitting a weak point in your own work establishes credibility the same way that a waiter advising you not to order a specific menu item makes him more trustworthy. You’re more likely to be able to retain a lot more of your original vision if you admit that your work isn’t perfect because you’ve demonstrated that you can be objective and self critical.
Secondly, after getting the feedback from Dave, I respond positively and directly state what about the feedback was helpful for me. This establishes a productive working relationship between Dave and me, and helps him, as my manager, learn how I want to be managed and the areas where I want to grow.
(Politely) Push Back
Brace yourself for this one…it’s ok to disagree with your manager.
Yes, believe it or not, they are not omniscient beings who know all and have ultimate say on everything you do. Yes, they’re your boss. Yes, their job is to critique you and help you grow. But they can be wrong. And if they are, it’s ok to very politely push back on them and say “no, I actually think this works.”
There’s a couple keys to doing this the right way:
1. Come with facts
I talked about this in the last section, but it’s a lot easier to push back if you have credibility in your field of work. One of my managers was really hesitant about allowing more creative copy because she felt that it sometimes detracted from the overall message. So when she tried to nix an idea, I pointed out that something similar I had written performed really well the previous week and she then allowed it to ship.
2. Be ready with a “why”
Don’t just say, “hey this feedback is off base, I’m keeping what I wrote.” That’s too standoffish and won’t persuade them to withdraw the comment. Instead, say something like, “I understand why you wrote this, but here’s how I’m thinking about it.” Most of the time you can come to a happy medium.
Ultimately, if you believe strongly enough in your vision AND the impact it will have on the business, then say so. Don’t be afraid to ask for the occasional vote of confidence.
One more day, let’s finish this week strong.