Creative Feedback, Anyone?
Did you know that feedback is not just that high-pitched wail that obliterates your eardrum when you connect the amplifier wrong?
Turns out, feedback is also used to describe the comments and opinions people (usually clients or bosses) share in an effort to make the work better. I have no proof, but I have to believe that the second definition was assigned very purposefully. I do know that it was a scant twelve minutes into my very first creative presentation when the assembled collection of furrowed eyebrows began to sound off. At that moment, I would have preferred the screaming amp.
Not anymore. Today, I live for feedback. I accept it happily, even eagerly, with a humble spirit and downcast eyes.
Yeah. No. I don’t do any of that. But I have learned the value of good feedback, how to hear it objectively and how to appreciate it. I understand its place in the process, and its value. For the marketing creative, feedback is a way of life.
The holy grail of every good writer, designer, artist and producer is the big idea. Much one-on-one time is spent discovering, building and polishing a conceptual gem until it sparkles. And when it finally does, the writer, designer, artist and producer must let it go. Fine artists send their creations out into the world. Marketing folk send theirs upstairs.
The routine itself is simple: create work, share work, get input on the work, refine work. Then repeat, as many times as it takes for all the players to get behind the idea. Successful marketing is the result of collaboration (not to be confused with groupthink; that’s another thing entirely). By sharing ideas – dissecting, examining and questioning them – we end up with stronger work.
I know, I know. This is the real world. And in the real world, feedback isn’t always delivered in the most supportive manner. Hey, rough feedback happens to good people. I’m sure we’ve all faced, at one time or another, some harsh (or disengaged, vague, hostile, confused, uninformed) characters.
But great idea people persevere. Marketers – particularly retail marketers – must not let the fear of feedback stifle them. The retail space is alive with change; fresh approaches to shopper experience and brand building are critical to success. Retail marketers must continue to push bold, even dangerous, new ideas. They must be brave enough to create them, savvy enough to sell them and resourceful enough to pull useful feedback out of not-so-great feedbackers.
Here are eight ways to elicit worthwhile feedback:
Prepare yourself to be critiqued. Understand the process, see the big picture and check your ego. In other words, gird your loins.
Insist on detailed feedback. Bad feedback is vague, example-free and non-specific. It’s basically useless. Understand why something doesn’t work, what could make it better and how it might be improved. The devil – and the best work – is in the details.
Recognize and disarm personal attacks. In a good feedback session the conversation is about the work, not the worker. But on those rare times when it starts to get personal, focus solely on the work, remain calm and drive the conversation back to the appropriate topic (as many times as it takes).
Identify recurring themes. See the bigger picture. Examine the feedback in real time and find those spots where the input converges. These may be the real trouble spots.
Listen. Really hear what’s being said, on the surface and underneath. Be objective and process the feedback itself (rather that the delivery or the deliverer). Take a deep breath, and then respond.
Find the positives among the negatives. It is rarely all bad. Look closely at the feedback that seems negative and excavate the useful information.
Ask questions. Lots of questions. Ferret out the meanings behind the words. This is not a one-way conversation. Take an active role, and get detailed, actionable information. Don’t leave the room until next steps are crystal clear.
Don’t take anything personally. It’s not personal, it’s marketing.