Be Kind to Your Creatives: How to Give Constructive Feedback

Emily Patz
Emily Patz
Posted August 20, 2019 in Employee Motivation

Learning how to give constructive feedback is a valued skill that reaches far beyond your creative team.

Sales and support representatives can also provide valuable insights as they serve on the front line of your business, interacting with your customers and prospects every day. Tasked with delivering compelling products and features, product managers can offer a perspective on a campaign that bolsters its benefits. 

While broadening the feedback circle for creative and marketing materials can give your team the holistic view they need to deliver value, bringing people into the mix who aren’t well-versed in evaluating this kind of work can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help. Muddled messages and misguided perceptions can easily be avoided if you take the time to train everyone in your company on how to give feedback that is clear, actionable, and most importantly, customer-centric.

Use these tips recommended by creative marketing professionals to serve as the framework for your training. 

Respect the Feedback Deadline

When asked to provide feedback, you must take note of the deadline that the requesting team has set. That deadline is set for a reason. For example, if you’ve been sent a first draft by a copywriter, many steps will follow after you review it. The copywriter will have to assess and implement feedback, review the content with design, then the designers will create mockups which will also require review. From there, the content may require development work. Depending upon the team’s resources, a single campaign can take months to plan, create, iterate, and launch. 

These many reasons are why you need to understand the complexities behind the projects you’re reviewing. Yes, you have your own job, so oftentimes reviewing the work of others is not a top priority. That being said, if you want your voice heard, you should know that the deadline must be respected. No excuses and no extensions. 

A manager checking a feedback deadline

Remember, the Work is Not Meant For You

If you’re not extra mindful, your personal taste can get in the way of what could be very helpful feedback. 

You might not like the hue of a faded ocean blue, but instead of dismissing it, ask the team to talk about their color choice. A simple, open-ended question can be a learning experience for you. That color that made you cringe might actually be Pantone’s beloved “Color of the Year” that’s trending everywhere. 

The basis of a content section that seems somewhat arbitrary very well could be the result of a user feedback session in which your own customers said they’d love to learn more about the topic you would have recommended cutting. Again, a simple question like, “What was the purpose of this section?” can reveal the important reasons behind the choices that make up the work you’re reviewing.

To add value, you must know the following details about the project from the get-go:

  • The intended audience 
  • The goal of the project
  • The project strategy 

If this information is not given to you at the time your feedback is requested, ask the team to provide it.

Be Specific with Your Feedback

Put yourself in the shoes of the person who’s tasked with considering your feedback. Is “I don’t like that” the least bit helpful? Of course not.

These do’s and don’ts show the difference between an actionable comment and an empty one. 

DO: The light-colored button is difficult to see.
DON’T: Change this button.

DO: Here’s a link with more recent statistics regarding this topic. 
DON’T: Use another statistic. 

As a rule of thumb, you should always look at the feedback you’re about to send and be able to answer the question, Will the requester be able to do something with the feedback I’ve provided?

A sales representative providing constructive feedback

Don’t Forget to Mention What’s Working, Too

Creative professionals are constantly fielding feedback from their peers, customers, and internal stakeholders on just about every project they do. Sure, it’s part of the job, but taking in edits, additions, requests, and redirections at what may feel like the end of a project can be nothing short of frustrating. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be honest, but it does call for an important component of feedback that’s just as meaningful to the recipient as the changes you’d like to make: letting them know what they did well. 

Complimenting creative choices not only channels positivity throughout an often overworked, under-resourced team, but it also ensures that the good moves they make are replicated in future projects. 

Additionally, pairing constructive criticism with praise lets the team know that you took the time to thoroughly evaluate all aspects of their work and didn’t simply breeze through it looking for glaring errors. This two-pronged approach to feedback does require effort, but the trust it will build between you and the creative team will have a positive and lasting effect on the work you champion together now and in the future. After all, while you may hold different roles in your organization, you are all stakeholders in the work in one way or another.  

Acknowledge the Team’s Efforts with On-the-Spot Rewards

Show your creative team how much you recognize and value their efforts by celebrating their project launches in a special but cost-effective way. Whether you take them out for a happy hour toast or surprise them with gift cards they can redeem at their favorite retailers, your employees will feel appreciated by your company and motivated to make their next project even more successful. 

Employee gift card rewards from Giftogram

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