It all sounds so obvious I know, but hear me out.
I cut my teeth in a digital marketing agency. Working agency side means that by nature I work across multiple accounts every. single. day. Broadly speaking, I’m spinning those plates and directing my attention to different projects and different people at all times. I can never really focus on just one aspect of my work — I have to be extremely organised and agile.
I started my career as a full-time content writer supporting a number of B2B and B2C brands. After a few years, I found myself sidestepping into the enigmatic, yet ambiguous world of influencer marketing, again working with a mix of clients, ranging from online fashion brands to a company manufacturing those mattresses that come in a box, you know the ones.
This varied client background has given me some brilliant insights when working alongside different people whether they are a brand-side team, another partner agency, or influencers producing creative for one of those aforementioned brands. Because of this, I receive many different types and styles of feedback. Some of this feedback is well-thought out and very helpful in progressing the project, and on other occasions, it is not.
When feedback is given well, the entire project is able to run much more smoothly. Because of this, the client/agency relationship definitely benefits.
Why do people give poor feedback?
In many cases, ‘bad feedback’ stems from a number of underlying factors. Perhaps a client doesn’t fully understand the objectives of the project, how it is being executed or how it will be measured. Bad feedback may also arise if the agency team isn’t organised and transparent on the project deliverables and timeline.
On the whole, bad feedback mostly arises from poor communication and a place of confusion. How is anybody supposed to give helpful, valuable feedback if they don’t really understand what they’re trying to say, what they want to achieve, or worse, what is actually happening?
So what exactly constitutes as ‘bad feedback’?
When I say ‘bad feedback’ I don’t mean negative feedback (we’ll get to that shortly) the kind of bad feedback I’m referring to is when comments, questions, and/or critique about a project are not conveyed clearly and the team isn’t able to progress forward.
- Multiple emails all containing different information
Whilst this may not always be a negative thing, the information may be duplicated, the right people may not be copied into the emails or worse, missing within some of the communication chains. Working this way is hella frustrating.
- A large, unorganised block of text which makes it difficult to decipher where one point begins and another point ends.
- Not getting to the point quickly, in fear of hurting someone's feelings.
- A long list of points with no real direction or actionable points.
Worst of all is no response to feedback at all. This could be due to a lack of decision making from the client, perhaps they aren’t sure how to react, and so they don’t react at all and the project halts.
A common issue for agency teams and freelancers working on client projects is that 90% of the time, people don’t know what they want until they’ve seen what they don’t want.
So how can we make the feedback process easier? It’s not always possible to arrange a face to face meeting, perhaps there’s no time to jump on a call? To keep things moving, feedback has to be shared via email and so…
Here are 5 ways to ensure you’re giving valuable feedback via email…
1. Organise your feedback using bold headings and bullet points
Wherever possible, separate your feedback into sections using a nice bold heading. Then use bullet points under each section to differentiate ideas, comments, and questions. This ensures that less information is missed and makes your feedback much easier to respond to.
2. Ensure everyone who needs to be, is copied into the feedback loop
This sounds really simple I know, but more commonly than not, things get confused when everyone who needs to be included, isn’t included in the email chain. Information is missed, the project moves on and nobody knows what’s what.
Stay cohesive when giving feedback and CC everyone in. It’s best to agree on one point of contact who is able to gather everyone’s thoughts collectively and respond in one clear email. Receiving too many responses, from too many people causes delays and the dreaded confusion. When feedback has been shared, it is sensible to follow up with actionable points in writing to ensure that everyone knows who is responsible for what.
3. Screenshots can be really helpful, include them wherever possible
Sharing feedback, especially over email can very quickly become confusing. This is especially the case when wires get crossed, perhaps when terminology is used incorrectly, or what someone is talking about is not thoroughly explained or signposted. To avoid this, and to illustrate exactly what you’re talking about, wherever possible, include screenshots throughout your feedback email.
4. It’s better to be honest than beat around the bush
At the end of the day, everyone who works on a project, whatever it may look like, wants to make sure it is a success. It is good practice to give honest feedback, even if that means having to be critical. If you beat around the bush, the project will get delayed and relationships will suffer. It’s far better to be upfront and honest when giving feedback, if you don’t like something, don’t understand something, or feel the output is simply not what you were expecting, let it be known!
Which brings me on to my final point…
5. Find balance in the positive and negative feedback that you share
We’ve already established that it’s very important to be honest when sharing feedback. It is however equally as important to try and balance any negative feedback with some positive comments wherever possible. This not only keeps team morale levels up, but it is also very helpful in outlining what you do like about the output so that it can be repeated.