Writing for corporate reasons – marketing, employee engagement, advocacy or other reasons, is an intriguingly creative and extremely collaborative process. Writing is skill that finds purpose almost anywhere – for marketing and communications, media and events, for employee engagement or technical writing, bids and proposals, award entries or review presentations, the list can go on.
To get the best results while working with a writer, it’s important to understand a little bit about the creative process. In this process, the role of feedback is a powerful collaborative moment – this is the discussion that can turn an initial draft into a compelling piece of content.
Here is an octagonal guardrail, with ways to liven up a feedback discussion and make it a refreshing collaboration. You won’t find grammar among them! Grammar is the last thing to look at, when your draft is finally completed – it’s essentially the garnish on your MasterChef-worthy dish.
- Start by complimenting the writer – This seems like a strange thing to have as a guardrail, but it in fact, the most important. It is personal when we craft something on a blank piece of paper, from vague inputs, high-level briefs, ideas from a larger team and the overwhelming ocean of material that we have to wade through on Google. A compliment is a great way to acknowledge this effort, and set a positive tone for subsequent discussion.
- Know your audience – When a first draft comes your way, the first thing to realise is that you look at it as a reader, which is important, but not everything. If the piece keeps you engaged, that’s always a good direction to start with. But wait, what if you’re not the intended target audience? Then the fact that the content piece doesn’t excite you – does that mean that it’s more effective? The reviewer of content must always think from the point of view of their intended audience while reading the draft. A B2B company targeting technology experts to sell their software must realise that these engineers are not impressed by beautifully crafted contexts – they want to know about the technology.
- Think, Feel, Do – be guided by the intent and call to action – In the original brief shared or discussed with your writer, it’s most important that you both have a crystal clear vison of what you want the reader to do, after reading the article. The Think-Feel-Do framework is effective here. For example, if your business goal is to attract learners to take up a course on cyber-security, and the best way to do this is to publish a blog, since most people interested in cyber-security are likely to do a quick Google search as a first step. In the blog, you want your reader to think about the ways to decide which course is best for them, you want them to feel like your learning portal has all of the courses they could want, and with the best experts, and you want them to click to know more, or sign up. When you read the draft, keep these in mind, along with the mental image of a person who represents your audience.
- Optimise for the channel – Content is often re-purposed across different channels, and this is a great practice, because audiences today have a choice of how to consume information. When you review a draft, however, keep the channel that it will be published on in mind. Twitter pares down to the most essential message, a blog can offer more detailed information, and a news publication requires a deviation from marketing goals, to position these in a way that it is interesting for the audience, and making a difference to industry or society.
- Recognise vague feedback and make these into constructive statements – When you apply the guardrails above, your feedback is going to transform the discussion from one that may feel like you are upsetting the writer, to one where you are stimulating ideas. Recognise vague statements like “It’s not crisp enough”, or “I’m not feeling it”. Turn these into constructive ones using the fantastic tools above – for example, “The audience may have a limited attention span, and the channel is better for short format content, so how can we sharpen (make crisp!) this message?”
Inside the octagonal guardrail is a safe space, a space teeming with unharnessed creative thinking for everyone involved, and the results often surprise you. The result of making an effort in this space, always means that the end result is unquestionably better than you wanted. This is because that’s how collaboration works in the creative space – there is the result that you want, and one that is better, which you cannot see. This is the one that takes on its own life, based on positive, collaborative feedback on a first draft. It’s better than what you had in mind, and can never be replicated.
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