Good Marketing vs. The Review Wars
I’m in the middle of a lucrative, stimulating, and potentially-risky project.
Lucrative, stimulating, and potentially risky? I know what you’re thinking — “two out of three isn’t bad.” And that’s true.
But in this project, there’s a risk of it being completely derailed. And that ratchets up my tension.
This project is part of a partnership between two companies. Just that fact alone makes the project interesting — intersections offer more choices than straight-aways, after all, and there’s room to take the project in different directions. I can skew the content to heavily feature one company, or the other company, or combine both in different ways. When you’re working on a project that involves two companies, there are many more choices to be made.
But that freedom has a dark side. Two companies rarely agree on everything. Each has a unique perspective on the world. And in a joint project, their requirements and expectations often overlap — but aren’t identical.
So as the consultant, I have two sources of input that aren’t quite the same. I have two contacts — both of whom are paying for the project. And that means that I have two groups of reviewers to please.
Ah, reviewers. They can give you brilliant insight, or take you down a rabbit hole. You can find supportive reviewers, or a political minefield.
It’s so easy for reviewers to interfere with your view of what’s good in your work. Sometimes, as a CYA exercise (yes, that acronym means what you think it means), reviewers will strip out or over-simplify anything edgy, vaguely controversial, or subtle.
But there are tricks of the trade you can use to minimize conflict, keep momentum, and ensure everyone is satisfied.
Step 1: Get everyone to agree on the audience for your work. Just yesterday, I had to force this issue. After several subject matter expert interviews, I realized that I might have four different audiences, each with different needs. Making that clear up front gets all your reviewers on the same page.
Step 2: Agree on the number of revisions you’ll do. The magic number is two. You don’t want to be forced into endless revisions based on review after review.
Step 3: Keep signposting your progress with both sides. Create a table of contents or outline, send it to both sides, and get agreement that you’re on the right path.
Step 4: Name 4-5 reviewers you want. If you’re writing for high-level decision-makers, ask for salespeople who regularly sell into the executive suite. If you’re writing something strategic, ask for a review from a director or VP.
Step 5: Do a stepped review, person by person, using one copy of the document. This is critical. Do not, under any circumstances, blast a document out to a bunch of people and request feedback. Instead, write your copy in a Word document and turn on “Track Changes.” Send it to one person and request feedback within 24 hours. Capture that feedback in the Word document, give the reviewed version a new version number, and send it to another reviewer with another 24-hour deadline. Continue until you’ve finished the reviews. That approach suppresses conflicting feedback and duplicate feedback.
Step 6: Do a final review with all the reviewers on the phone. Once you’ve made the changes, get all the reviewers on the phone and take them through the edited document. A best practice is to use a tool like WebEx or sharing your desktop through Instant Messenger. That way, you can edit live, go through changes live, and get everyone on the phone to agree.
To put it simply, I’m recommending that you stay in control. I know that’s easier said than done. But review cycles can completely derail your project. If not managed well, they can result in the dreaded … bad marketing. But that’s not what your client is paying you for. They want you to deliver good marketing, and sometimes that means sticking to your sense of the good.
Ultimately, you’ll be better off, and your client will be better off, if you manage reviews using this approach — that stays focused on forward momentum, quality, and results.
Anyone have other ideas on managing reviews? Feel free to share them in the comments.
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