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Copy Review: Actionable Input & Feedback—Part II

by | Jun 12, 2023

In Part I of this series, we talked about steps you can take in the early phases of a copywriting project to get better and more useful feedback.

 In Part II, we’ll go through the nitty-gritty of:

  • moving the project forward during the revision/editing process

  • why relying solely on “track changes” isn’t always the answer

  • knowing when to say when, set down the conversation and keep it moving

Note: Everything that follows works so much better when delivered firmly, no nonsense-ly and with cooperation and goodwill in your heart—which is my florid way of saying, “Don’t be an asshole.” With that…

Be specific. Ask the right questions to advance the project.

As the copywriter, you develop messaging from input shared by others. These people are often experts in their respective fields. They are rarely writers or people used to thinking about communicating the way you do. Set up your collaborators for success by asking targeted questions. Be prepared to rephrase what you’re asking in a way that’s better for them. Suggest alternatives. Building a good rapport early on is an invaluable skill.

Find out the hard no’s and where there is room for compromise.

The hard no’s most definitely exist, and it does you no good—and wastes everyone’s time—to push back incessantly when you know what these are. This is especially true after you’ve developed some history with a team, organization, editor, etc. Battling with the executive director over the same three things on every project does not make you appear heroic. You seem incapable of learning—and remembering. This is the nature of the beast.

Which brings us to the next one…

Be ready to explain your word/image/format choice.

This is your defense in the hard no’s battle. This is where compromise lives and you want to buy property there. Why is the single, effective word you chose better than the four adjectives they want to go with? Why should a sentence not be 187 words long? Why did you choose that image over the others? Be prepared with a cogent explanation and engage briefly to reach a solution. Emphasis here on “reach a solution.”

Tip: Rather than draft hundreds of terse messages in “track changes,” get crazy and pick up the phone. You don’t want to do this every time, but if the comments in the document begin to get unwieldy and lots of open-ended questions are being posed, it’s a conversation—likely one that will save a lot of miscommunication and disgruntled partners. And finally…

Make your case and then make peace. 

This is it, man. If you have explained, if you defended your rationale intelligently and respectfully, but the answer is still, “No, I want it like this”—then it must be like that. End of story. If you’re going to get hung up on your brilliant work being sullied by the people paying for it, may I suggest choosing a different career from that of copywriter? I say this as someone 25 years in who received this advice early on. It put my responsibility to the client—and myself—in perspective.

I hope these chatty little blogs do the same for you.

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