How to give feedback to creative and production people
Producing amazing visual content is not easy (amazing visual content agencies just make it look easy) and the workload can take its toll on everyone involved.
From having the right briefing and content development process right through to having the right creative, production and post-production teams to execute it and making sure that everyone from the agency to the client are all communicating clearly – there are a lot of things to get right!
One of the most important processes in getting the final piece of visual content you really want is giving effective and relevant feedback.
Whenever I start at a new agency or production company and start surveying their clients about the experience of working with them, a common frustration I often find is the clients satisfaction (or lack thereof) with the current creative and briefing process.
While clients often cite these two stages specifically what they are really highlighting is a lack of quality communication throughout the process that has led to what they now view as a compromised result.
Whether you are an internal client or an external client giving actionable feedback can sometimes seem like a challenge. Here are just a few of my tips on how you can give better creative feedback:
1. Start with something you do like
Doesn’t matter how small or seemingly insignificant it is…
Pick something that is working and highlight that first.
Even in the worst video or animation, there is usually at least one thing worth salvaging and starting with a positive allows the feedback to start flowing.
Sometimes it can be difficult to see this clearly but everyone on your team is more often than not trying to do their best, they are putting in hard work (and even if it hasn’t yielded the right result yet you have to trust in the process), and while you shouldn’t have to worry about everyone else’s ego…
Egos can easily get bruised…
And that just makes the process harder.
Finding one or more positives (more is always better), shows respect for the effort your creative, production and post-team have put into the project thus far by pointing out the elements of the project that work.
By putting a positive spin up front, you have set the stage to be more receptive when you have to deliver your feedback on what isn’t working.
If you run into one of those rare circumstances where you find there is nothing good in the piece of content you’ve just seen…
Perhaps try leading off with acknowledging the time and effort put in so far before giving your honest critique and assessment of the failings.
2. Write your notes down and then schedule a feedback session
This might sound logical to most but it’s amazing how often people get this one little step wrong and the wonder where the disaster came from later…
When you are going to give feedback – take the time to write down your feedback.
It doesn’t have to be comprehensive even just the dot points but articulate it so you can articulate it clearly to others (tip: if it doesn’t make sense to you… it doesn’t make sense to others).
Booking the feedback session is also important – it lets everyone know that you have something to discuss and sets the stage that this feedback is an important part of the process.
Booking the session also allows everyone to mentally prepare and to be ready to listen and bring an open mind.
At the end of the session you should further summarise the discussion into a final feedback document which is distributed to everyone in the meeting so that everyone has a clear plan to move forward with.
Cold calling or dropping by someone’s desk to give feedback can have disastrous effect for your project as in most cases – largely due to you being unprepared to give the feedback (as its off the cuff and unconsidered) and the other person is caught off guard and unprepared to take on the feedback (which often results in them being defensive).
3. Ask lots of questions and listen carefully to the responses
Before you criticise a decision, you need to know the intent behind it.
Without discovering the intent, you are more often than not only going to repeat problems or create new ones.
A good way to discover this intent is to ask a lot of questions.
Most creative work (from strategy to scriptwriting, directing, filming, animating, editing and so on) is often about making a creative choice.
This choice is often based on a series of different approaches the creative practitioner was presented with and in their mind, they have selected the right one.
Unpacking this choice is crucial to understanding a particular element or structure and why it does or doesn’t work in the context of the completed work.
By asking questions you show both your respect for the team you are working with (and the creative process as a whole) but more importantly you keep an open mind and you may come to realise that the process selected once rationalised has added benefits that you had never considered.
4. Put action points in all your feedback…
Without specific issues to address you are at best only giving vague feedback that more often will require people to try and somehow read your mind.
Identify the specific qualities in the video or animation that your find problematic – its often easier to start with your high-level observations – “this call to action is too weak, we need something that drives people specifically to connect with us immediately” …
Before drilling down into more specific items “This font is too small” …
5. Try and give everyone feedback at the same time
Wherever possible try and give your team feedback at the same time.
Giving feedback to one team member and then to another increases the possibility of people seeing and interpreting your feedback differently.
By having a well organised single feedback session – chaired by one key team member who ensures that the feedback is understood and translated (even if multiple stakeholders are involved from both ends) and makes it easier to build a consensus and generate action fast.
6. Follow up on your feedback
My final note is not to forget to follow up on your feedback.
Even with all the steps above its important to ensure that everyone has a clear picture of what is required from your feedback.
Casually following up after a feedback session and asking a few more questions will help you quickly determine of the feedback is on track or if further follow up is required.