For the PR professional, it’s the worst sort of feedback you can get to any sort of press release or content: the nonspecific kind — “I just don’t LIKE it.” Or its equally ambiguous cousin, “it just doesn’t read well.”
At a previous agency, we used to call this the “make it more brown” feedback — feedback that is, well, feedback but makes no sense and ultimately has no action associated with it.
Here’s a few handy tips I’ve tried to employ to get past the “I just don’t like it” feedback:
- Take many, many deep breaths — I try to think back to the “Basics of Tai Chi Video” starring the soothing Master Christopher Pei.
- Realize this likely isn’t coming from a bad place — so don’t take it personally. This is hard, admittedly. Unfortunately, while the client isn’t able to articulate exactly what they need, they need something different. Your job — play detective to figure out exactly what that is.
- I usually do this through a series of questions — after acknowledging they don’t like the content, but that we can work together to make it better. “What key messages are missing?” “What type of headline would you prefer?” (after which I work with them to freestyle a few examples) and finally, “OK, let’s take a step back to the outline we did — are there any features or benefits that we need to highlight better?”
The solution requires patience, empathy, and the ability to truly listen. It does NOT require you to roll over and do what they want, however: for example, if you really feel strongly about the word “empower” over “enables,” tell them why.
Finally, I’m a firm believer in the pushback twice rule. If they disagree after hearing your cogent argument two times, well, it’s their nickel.