Who’s Providing Feedback on Your Content Marketing?

April 2019

two business women collaborating on a tablet

Image: iStock

Many years ago, I served on focus groups evaluating everything from knee braces and showerheads to ice cream and pasta sauce. It was clear during introductions that we each represented a different consumer. No surprise, we produced a wide range of responses. Sometimes the room remained divided; other instances, a consensus formed as we collectively considered all factors.

I thought of those sessions when reading about the latest PR debacle at Google. The search giant last month formed an ethics council to help guide the company’s artificial intelligence initiatives. It included a range of academics, policymakers and corporate leaders regularly reporting on potential ethical implications to Google leadership. Soon after the announcement, a group of Google employees posted an open letter protesting the inclusion of one council member with ties to the defense industry and another holding anti-LGBTQ views.

This made me think of the ways we solicit input for content marketing. All stakeholders should provide input. But that isn’t always practical. And personalities and politics can cloud opinions, making it difficult to improve a piece to everyone’s liking.

Here are some suggestions to ensure your content hits the mark with the majority.

Include people with different viewpoints

Are consumers all the same? Of course not. That’s why we create different buyer personas and tailor messaging to each. Yet it’s tempting to share our work with people who also share our passions and/or perspectives—essentially people who think like we do. But great collaborations don’t just include like-minded members. Go outside your creative and/or corporate bubble to elicit feedback early on. That inclusion could save you harsh criticism later.

Chosen reviewers should be familiar with project objectives before they dive into a draft, given content’s high subjectivity. These readers may pull in other subject matter experts, but you should try to keep circulation to a manageable number. And always explain ahead of time how deliverables fit into a campaign. Be sure to consult (and attach, when needed) a style guide to help orient outsiders to branding guidelines, including voice and tone. This can help keep everyone with differing opinions on the same page.

Provide deadlines—and stick with them

Most projects have a timeline. Make sure you and everyone involved adhere to deadlines, so a project doesn’t languish and you aren’t spread too thin working multiple projects simultaneously due to others’ delays.

If someone isn’t available after a reasonable wait, ask if someone else can fill in. If not, move on. Again, if someone knows ahead of time when they are needed, they will make the time. Twirling Tiger Medias process includes sending drafts cumulatively so that each person sees the edits of earlier handlers. Also, limit the number of drafts; otherwise, people will procrastinate until the next round … and the one after that.

Reflect back on all of that feedback

The easiest way to track feedback is by tracking changes in a document. Such transparency is important when there are conflicting edits. In the event two people have wildly differing opinions, try to find common ground. Get everyone together on a quick call or email exchange to work out a solution. If you believe one suggestion is better than the other, explain why rather than ignoring someone else’s input. If facts are in dispute, find an outside resource to settle the claim.

Always remember: It is important that everyone feels heard.

Don’t automatically discount the outliers

Depending on the size and scope of the group, someone may appear out of sync in liking or disliking a piece. Before shrugging off their feedback, talk to them and find out where they are coming from. Do they represent a novel approach? A minority opinion? Is it worth modifying copy or redoing an image to include that point of view—and explain the changes to others?

We all have biases and preferences for copy and imagery. And, we all work better with some personality types than others. But we must be receptive to other people’s valid viewpoints. Know when to hold steadfast and when to compromise; after all, more than your work is actually being evaluated. With the right doses of ingenuity, integrity, honesty and diplomacy, your ideas—provided they are the best of the bunch—will be the ones that prevail.

–Anne Saita