September 24 2021
Getting feedback from various parts of an organisation, departments and stakeholders can be an arduous task and often extremely long winded.
You want to include everyone and allow them to input their thoughts, but all too often the comments start to encroach past what you’ve asked for and disagree with other views. Sometimes it even starts to get a bit personal. Does this sound familiar?
Inclusively driven, not individually reliant
Whether you’re asking for content for the annual report, requesting feedback on the quarterly newsletter, fact checking a service brochure, seeking case studies or views on the new fundraising campaign; the feedback process can either bring an organisation together or cause friction and disappointment. There’s a time to collectively agree and then there is a time to concentrate and focus on specialist areas.
The key is to strike a balance between achieving positive comments (with everyone staying in their lane) but reaching a collective, inclusive solution. By being able to pinpoint who and why you need a response and creating a clear process to achieve this is the key to success. This allows you to create a system that curates a collective responsibility and doesn’t rely on individual views.
The glancer and the overstepper
The risks of a poor feedback process are many:
- Project overrun – on schedule and budget
- Loss of control
- Confused objectives
- Unfocussed and weakly targeted outcomes
- Possibly all culminating in a disgruntled team!
Over many years we’ve experienced the good the bad and the ugly in terms of feedback processes. The good are remembered for a long time, empowering teams and organisations and the bad leave teams feeling drained and unaccomplished seeking to get the project finished and your projects never to darken their desks again. People usually want to contribute to an organisation communications and want to be included in this process but different personalities and skill sets can have contrasting remits in mind.
Generally I find that people fall into three camps:
The first is ‘the glancer’. This person gives the piece a general eye as they always think they’ll get another chance to look at it before it’s signed off. If it’s a Word doc they’ll wait until they see it fully visualised. “I’ll wait ‘til it comes back round again and look at it properly next time.”
The second is ‘the procrastinator’. They want to feedback knowing it’s important to give their view and comments, but feels pressured by the gravity of the attention needed. These people need continuous chasing as they are often paralysed by the task.
The third is ‘the overstepper’. This person feels the need to feedback on every element (whether it’s within their remit or not) including format, design, subject, facts and general style of the communication and message. Whilst well-meaning, the enthusiasm needs direction and boundaries.
All of these personalities and their feedback behaviours can be resolved in the same way: in exactly the same way as a project starts, with a brief. Feedback should be accompanied with a brief of what you’re looking for. If you’re not clear about what you would like feedback on people will assume and decide for themselves what’s important.
What to include- a brief and checklist
Be clear on the following areas to get comments, feedback and amends to your communications in a successful and structured way.
What areas can they feedback on? For example, if brand is being looked at by the brand team let them know. If images have been agreed or commissioned specifically for this project or from a brand library be clear about that. Who else is being consulted? Why are they being asked for their view and comments? Is there an original brief or overview of the purpose of the piece that you can provide. Does this need to sit alongside any other communications? Is it part of a set? Will another piece of communication follow?
Describe the project timescale, the deadlines and milestones in your brief. This way when you are asking for feedback by a certain date, the context, the consequences and impact of any delays will be visible.
Stages and iterations
Be clear about how many stages there are. Will they be seeing a text only format first and in a fully designed up format at a later stage? How many times will they see something and what do you need them to concentrate on? What are you specifically looking for at each stage? What are the consequences of making large sets of changes at later stages?
Design is so often subjective and always a tricky one to handle. Who is it that you want to be involved in the design review and sign off? The design will usually be steered by brand guidelines so this will be a brand team priority. If you have a brand team, be clear about their role. If not, communicate if this is something you’re looking for comment on. If it’s at concept stage, be specific about what they are looking at and add context (include the original brief). Again, what do you want feedback on and what do you not want them to concentrate on.
Facts, subject and content
Who is the subject owner and specialist? Communicate this clearly and who else is included in the process. If they are being asked to check facts and feedback on subject specific content, it’s often a good idea to do this in a text only format. This way they are not distracted by information hierarchy, design and imagery.
Voice and tone
Your organisation should have a set of brand guidelines that has a written personality, tone and style. If the piece has been written by a copywriter following these guidelines, you can be clear in your brief that the style follows the organisational voice and so is not up for discussion.
Punctuation and grammar – style/proofreader
As above, punctation and style (e.g. terminology, bullet point style, quote format, time format) is usually written into brand guidelines, and if it’s not it should be! This helps resolve many debates and it’s a crucial part of any style guide adding consistency and confidence to brand identity. Is a proofreader being employed at the end? A fresh pair of eyes with experience of following style guides is always a recommended final stage. It’s also something you can use to convey confidence to your ‘feedbackers’ as an additional belt and braces stage.
By providing as much key information alongside a project creates far less opportunity for others to push the boundaries of their remit in terms of feedback.
With clarity, objectives and a set process a streamlined approach will naturally draw on the strengths of the whole organisation; as opposed to a battle of wills which outputs a diluted piece of communication. If you’re able to control being pulled in too many different directions, you’ll ultimately see the outcome you’re hoping for!
If you would like more information on a successful feedback process or a template that you can use please get in touch.