I always tell my clients, “I’m not really writing for you; I’m writing for your customers, or your supporters. They are the most important audience.”
But recently I’ve been thinking about how a copywriter has to juggle the needs of a client’s audience with the need to appease and satisfy client-side stakeholders.
For example, I can’t get away with just writing copy that will work for my clients – I also have to please them sufficiently so that they accept my suggestions and use my words to represent their business. If my clients don’t like the copy I provide, they won’t use it. My clients might have bad taste in copy, but to a certain extent I have to please them in order to help them.
Of course, no self-respecting copywriter is going to submit weak copy just because it’s what the client wants; the challenge is to lead your client towards a middle-ground where they get what they want while you also get to deliver copy you can be proud of.
So here are my tips for accepting client feedback and moving towards a result that pleases everyone.
1: Try your damnedest to see their point of view
This is difficult to achieve, but you must try. Even if you think their feedback is wrong or ignorant or misguided, you must try to understand their point of view. Why do they have wrong-headed views about the copy? What informs their opinion? Where did they get their ideas from?
2: Try to agree with their comments
Play devil’s advocate. Imagine that your client is entirely right and you are completely wrong. Consider the feedback from every angle – but start from a point where you assume they are completely right. Will them to be right. Pray for them. It’s much easier to roll with a client’s punches than to fight back.
3: Be gracious in your communications
Remember that the copy you wrote is now a business tool. It’s not poetry. So even if you do feel hurt by a client’s criticism, take a few deep breaths and let those feelings fly out of your body.
4: Focus on the things you can accept and agree with
Instead of responding to feedback with justifications and combative comments, start softly and positively by talking about the points you completely agree with and understand.
5: Discuss contentious points carefully
It’s entirely right and proper to resist any changes that diminish the copy, but do be careful how you argue. Be gentle, give evidence for your arguments and remember that your client knows their business and their customers better than you.
6: Remember that, after all, it’s their copy
If push comes to shove, the client won’t use any words that they don’t believe in. You can nudge a client towards the copy you think they need, but you can’t force it on them.
Do you have any tips for handling criticism and getting your client’s approval?