Ellen Cline, writer
Creative communication that markets, informs, and entertains

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Do you really want to know?

Author: ; Published: Jan 28, 2010; Category: Business Writing, Editing and Proofing; Tags: , , ; No Comments

painting of angry man

Sometimes people will ask me to critique their existing brochure, website or other marketing materials. Usually they’re happy to hear how they can do better next time. Once in a while I wonder why they’re asking. You see, they really don’t want to know. 

Most people are asking for a critique because they know it’s time to update or improve what they have. There’s a minority though that really just want some sort of validation that what they did in the past is good.

Maybe they paid a lot of money for it. And maybe they themselves were involved in the creative.

In those cases, no matter how diplomatically I phrase it, those people don’t want to hear that there are things that can be better. Even though they’ve asked, and have contracted with me to give them advice, they don’t want to accept that everything isn’t perfect just the way it is.

Once in a while people who are very unlikely to ever become clients ask me for free advice. My policy, especially if the piece is really bad and the person is a relative, is to just say no. Or I suddenly have to go against my nature and become a flaky person who just never gets back to them.

In marketing pieces, many aspects can be subjective. There’s always another way to show or say something.  Maybe the designer used blue and personally, I would have preferred green. Or, in my humble opinion, the tone of the copy is a bit too flowery for the subject matter.

Other things are harder to justify; they’re just bad.

For example: 

  • Type that’s hard to read
  • An illogical order for points
  • Inconsistency with other marketing messages and materials
  • Lots of typos

You get the idea.

I was recently reviewing a client’s ad with them.  We were talking about how it could be improved next time.  In the course of this exercise, we flipped through the trade publication to see what other companies’ ads looked like.

We were discussing the good, bad and ugly when I pointed out a small ad that I felt could be stronger, if only they had focused on one photo instead of the five they included.  My client said that maybe I should contact this company and tell them how their ad can be improved. 

I said, well, maybe not. I know this is a method some people use to get new business. It’s just always a tricky thing offering advice, even when it’s solicited. But in this case, they didn’t ask and more than likely, they don’t really want to know.

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