Critics: Know Who to Listen to and Who to Ignore

May 2021

editors at the controls

Image: Getty Images

Today is better known in certain circles as May the 4th Be with You, a loose play on the most famous line in a long list of Star Wars movies. But we’re going to open with another sci-fi classic: Blade Runner.

If you caught the last half hour of the Oscars the other weekend, then you likely laughed at Harrison Ford reading a list of feedback from producers to director Ridley Scott after a screening of that classic from 1982. Here is a sampling of what he read:

  • “Opening too choppy.”
  • “Why is this voice-over track so terrible? He sounds drunk? Were they all on drugs?”
  • “Flashback/dialogue is confusing. Is he listening to a tape?”
  • “Why do we need the third cut to the eggs?”
  • “Up to Zora’s death, the movie is deadly dull.”
  • “This movie gets worse every screening.”

The speech got some chuckles, but anyone who’s been on the editing end of any collaborative content—not just a movie—cringed with recognition. We’ve all gotten similar feedback from those who control the purse strings on a project. Or there’s an especially vocal team member who missed meetings and/or aligns recommendations with their own vision or tastes.

Pick your personas

In content marketing, this is why we develop personas for target messaging. Through chosen images and words, we create content for a very specific type of buyer. Those personas are an editor’s North Star.

Editing is difficult even under ideal circumstances. Our small editorial team edits a lot of raw copy from some very smart people who know their subject, but not necessarily how to write about it. That’s where an editor shines by removing bloat and giving relevant details their due so copy moves along at a decent clip. A creative team then showcases that work in a novel way.

Personas should be developed at the onset of a new project and revisited as needed. Copy editors don’t just check for misspellings, punctuation errors, grammar mistakes, style and typos. They use language and structure to tell a story. They determine how deep to go on industry jargon, and whether to go long or keep it short. Some people scan everything; others want as much detail as possible. There is a way to appease both, but it takes editing skills built up over time.

When a client resists good advice

We recently created a presentation on this very topic in our Knowledge Center. The key is to know where to compromise and where to stand your ground. If you don’t ever compromise, you won’t be in business for long. Still, there is your integrity to consider.

Again, the best in the business take in everyone’s feedback and find a better path forward. For editors, sometimes it requires strategic pruning; other times, it’s a full gut job.

Not every opinion is equal

Not every opinion is equal in value. You absolutely must consider the source. Is there indication someone gave your work a thorough read, or are they just reacting to bits and pieces or even rumors? Is there a larger issue at work that’s causing a negative reaction?

Everyone’s opinions count. But those who take the time to read, ingest and then comment lend more credibility to their criticism. They can back up their assertions and suggestions. Yes, gut reactions are important—especially if they appear to be universal on a project—but well-reasoned arguments deserve credence.

What content marketers want is something to sell well and earn critical acclaim.  When that happens, even those who initially had their reservations come around. Just like those producers who made a mint from bankrolling a film that’s stood the test of time—woozy voiceover and all.

Thank you for reading this,