Have you ever had a writer ask for your ruthless criticism? How did you respond?
More to the point: How can you be ruthless in your feedback on a draft?
Asking for ruthless criticism
“Go ahead. Be ruthless.”
It’s a pretty good line, isn’t it? I’ve heard writers use it with marketing managers and engineers who appear uneasy about the process of reviewing a white paper or solution brief.
It’s not exactly an invitation to tell writers that their work is a great heap of useless nonsense or fluff. But this is all about business, isn’t it? Let’s not have politeness get in the way of conveying information, because that will only slow down the content marketing process.
Here are a few ways of interpreting a request for ruthless criticism:
- “I don’t deserve your praise, so lower the boom.” If you’ve hired a writer with an inferiority complex – or worse yet, somebody incompetent – you’ve probably hired the wrong writer. If you get ruthless with this person, you’re going to ruin the relationship and the document.
- “Let me put you at ease: You’re not going to hurt my feelings.” This writer is a “pleaser.” It’s hard to know whether pleasers are really working with you, or just satisfying their urge to please. However, they’re generally honest when they tell you that you won’t hurt their feelings, so don’t be afraid to criticize their work roundly.
- “Look, you’re the one with the information, I’m the one with the keyboard, and we both need this piece to tell your story properly. Let’s not allow politeness to interfere with the job we both have to do.” This is a pretty businesslike way of looking at the matter; “be ruthless” doesn’t really do it justice, but this is what it boils down to.
Easy to be hard
As on the web, people usually find it easier to be ruthless when they’re not sitting across the desk from you and looking you in the eye. So, if you’re still new to the concept of being ruthless with your writer, you’ll find it easier when you’re not in the same room together. Tell the writer you need some time to go through the piece on your own and then get back with comments. You can be much more ruthless and businesslike when you’re dealing with a red pen or a blinking cursor instead of somebody’s personality.
Beyond that, it’s up to the writer to deal with.
They’re made for it.