Now that I know how this story ends, I can share the lessons I’ve collected over the last 12 days. The process wasn’t easy and it’s entirely possible my growing pains are showing.
The situation: I’m in the thick of writing creative copy for a one of the biggest projects my client has ever done. In addition to tight timelines, we’re all working with lots of firsts, including relationships within the creative team.
The nutshell: Hours after turning in my first draft, I was one the receiving end of a conference call. “Your copy missed the mark completely.”
Ouch. I pride myself delivering fresh, well-written work. It’s rare to be perfect with a first draft, but I’m usually pretty close. And I can handle raw, unfiltered feedback – it can result in stellar new ideas.
But, that phone call really threw me. I had chosen my words so meticulously and was sure I’d produced a solid first draft. Fortunately for me, the client asked me how we could turn around the work instead of dismissing me.
The final result: My client’s end customer was very happy with the copy.
So how did I get from mortification to celebration? Here are tips for handling feedback – especially when you’ve made a mistake.
- Apologize. Immediately. I kept it simple, saying that I was very sorry I was off track and that I was willing to do whatever it took to get this right. My words – and tone – quickly re-set the tone of the conversation. It was clear to my client that I was not defensive, which helped everyone relax.
- Breathe. By staying calm, I sounded professional. It also helped me listen, instead of getting caught up in “how could this happen?” thoughts.
- Take notes. Writing down specific feedback is key to remembering it later. In my case, it was late and I knew we’d all be better off if I produced new copy in the morning. I also kept my client informed, saying, “If I’m quiet, it just means I’m taking detailed notes.”
- Reiterate and repeat. I made sure to restate key points to demonstrate that I understood the direction I needed to take. It showed I was listening and even helped elicit a few additional – and very helpful – details.
- Take risks. It can be extremely hard to be creative in stressful situations. But it can also be the perfect opportunity to test an idea before you start working on it. As we were discussing how one idea could be more creative, I lobbed a headline with, “so if I were to write something like [idea here], how would that grab you?” The client loved it – and it gave me the confidence to know I could turn this situation around.
- Follow up. Fast. When my client asked when she could see revisions, I told her that I could produce them that night, but we might be better served with me delivering the new draft in the morning. Her light tone told me that she appreciated my responsiveness and then she said the next day would be fine.
I gave up my weekend and didn’t get much sleep for more than a week. But things turned around. I saved an important relationship and learned in the process.
How do you handle feedback? How do you work with your clients when you’ve made a mistake?