One thing I see that is common among digital marketers (especially the inexperienced ones) is the tendency to not give honest feedback, or to remain passive so everything remains the same. Part of being a good marketer is sticking up for best practices, as well as your own opinion when you notice something that isn’t being done correctly.

Two Sides of Every Coin

Whether you are the one giving it or receiving it, feedback is a crucial component of success. While you may not like getting it, it’s the only way you can truly find out your setbacks so you can get better. Conversely, telling others where they fall short (in a constructive way) is not only going to save you (and them) time by preventing future errors, but is also giving you a chance to grow your authority and credibility.

Think about someone in the marketing industry that you admire. If you’re like me, a bunch of names pop into your head instantly. Once you’ve narrowed it down to one person, think about that habits and patterns they have likely used to get where they are today. Do you think they didn’t give or receive feedback? Or were they vocal about what needs to change and that is why you admire them today?

Being Tactful

As the head editor at Search Engine Journal, I have to give feedback on contributors’ content every day, Monday-Friday. I’ll admit, there are some days I just flat out don’t feel like doing it. It’s these days my feedback is short and sweet (or I even take a day off once in a while just to reset). However, sometimes “short and sweet” doesn’t fare well when it comes to feedback. I believe there is a line between being respectful and giving constructive feedback and being too brutally honest.

Here’s an example of taking it too far: I once had a manager at a healthcare website building company where I was an independent contractor. He trained me for about a month and told me one day we needed to talk about my “email habits.” He told me that my emails were too “to the point” and that I needed to include more pleasantries. He told me that they strongly prefer if all emails start with “Hi NAME” instead of just “NAME.” He said this makes me seem more friendly, which I apparently needed more of.

I agreed at the time and it became habit to write a Hi before my recipient’s name, but looking back, I realize how dumb that all is. Everyone is a mixture of fed up and dependent on email, why should I waste any more of our time on writing out pleasantries such as a salutation or asking them about their day? I thought that while I knew sometimes I needed to be more tactful, worrying about whether or not I said hi was taking up too much of my time.

However, if the pendulum swings that other way and you are too blunt, it can also come back to bite you, albeit in a different way. In my case, I may read a post that makes me think, “Wow, this is goddamn awful. One of the worst posts I’ve seen this week.”

Now ostensibly, I could tell the write that in my edit field and send those comments to the contributor. But I’ve realized that that isn’t going to help either of us get the same goal accomplished: to have a great post be published on Search Engine Journal for others to enjoy. It’s not enough to be blunt and tell them their writing sucks; you need to explain why the post has fallen so short.

Example Useful Feedback:

Delores, thanks for the post, but there are a few edits we had. First, please give attribution for all images. Secondly, I don’t think this article flows as well as it could. Can you find a way to better connect your points in the second and third headers? Finally, I feel like your conclusion doesn’t wrap-up the article in a way that gives the readers key takeaways from your post. Can you include a 2-4 sentence conclusion? Thanks!

While some people may even think that feedback is “too blunt” (especially my former mananger), I think it does a good job of balancing thoughtful feedback with a brusqueness that recognizes Delores and I about both busy people that don’t need “How are you today?” exchanges to get things done.

Feedback = Growth

I’m more than well aware that thoughtful feedback and trigger true growth in contributors, my colleagues, and even my family members. They have to be open to it and take it for what it’s worth. It’s up to them to decide to grow.  I can’t make people better than they are. They have to want that for themselves.

So, whether you’re an SEO consultant dealing with a new client or managing a team that is failing the outcomes of a project, be sure to give feedback that gives them the chance to improve and get better. Additionally, along those lines, be receptive to the feedback others took the time to give you. Consider it honestly before moving on and attempt to rectify anything that is getting in the way of your success.


Kelsey Jones

Kelsey Jones

Founder/Chief Marketing Consultant at Six Stories
Kelsey Jones helps clients around the world grow their social media, content, and search marketing presence. She enjoys writing and consuming all kinds of content, both in digital and tattered paperback form.
Kelsey Jones
Kelsey Jones