After a very nice break away, yesterday I returned to discover a bulging inbox which left me feeling more than a tad overwhelmed, and to make matters worse, one of the first emails I opened turned out to be a lengthy rant about a piece of content I hadn’t complemented with a photo. The feedback was reasonable enough – I had been forced to rush through a digital feature that was to be attached to a marketing email, and the copy had been supplied at the last minute. Because I was extremely short on time, I failed to include a larger photo on this accompanying attached content, and absolutely agree that it would have been the better way forward. No excuses, and I for one am well aware that the best learning usually comes from recognising the mistakes I’ve made (or how I could have improved).
Only thing is, this message from a reader was shared in such a way that it was upsetting, and the tone of voice used was that of an individual who came across (in this email, at least) as one who assumes they know better.
It was really obvious they had not considered:
- My (as the content creator) feelings and the amount of work actually put into the entire body of work in the first place.
- Other time constraints and workload pressures I might be facing.
- All the other things in the overall campaign I’d actually got right!
Do you know the feeling?
Many of you reading this spend much of your day putting yourselves ‘out there’, creatively speaking and otherwise. Whether you are broadcasting on air, writing, blogging, filming, painting or working in PR and communications – it’s all a bit of a risky business for the ego. Some would even say we’re brave for doing it. I know a lot of people who are apprehensive about sharing their ideas, content or stories for fear of any type of criticism.
As content creators and communicators, we are consistently in a position where we need to produce written work or other creative output (videos, social media, blogs, magazine features etc.), and with that opportunity comes the people who are quick to judge our work, and not often in a constructive way.
We’re all pretty used to being ‘judged’, and I think most of the time this actually helps with positive personal and professional growth. Cooper and I began our careers in radio – an industry rife with arrogance and daily criticism of your work! That said, when delivered well, this really can help you become a far better on-air announcer than you ever would without feedback. Similarly, my mentors in publishing consistently showed me better ways to phrase, word, style and so on. This is how we hone a craft. This experience also helps you to develop a thick skin, which is something of a necessity in this and many other lines of work.
Criticism delivered in a negative, thoughtless or hurtful way though (whether intentional or unintentional on the part of the person sharing it), can have an adverse impact on self-esteem and confidence, and for those working in communications and creative industries, it has the potential to cause real problems.
People tend to be quick to pick problems, but very slow to share praise or thanks in the form of emails or comments on social media, websites or blogs. Have you ever been on the receiving end of destructive criticism and what kind of impact did it have on you?
These kinds of experiences remind me to think twice if I catch myself being judgmental and critical of other people’s work, because actually, they’re likely to have put much time and effort into the ideas, reason and production of the content being consumed out there in the public domain (whether you thoroughly enjoy it or not). Sharing feedback on someone’s published work is actually challenging their abilities and ideas, and it’s reasonable to expect that what comes back – if not entirely positive – should be designed to help them grow.
Moral of the story: give feedback constructively not destructively; and if you’re on the receiving end, take the valuable learning from it, and leave the rest at the door.
Today’s challenge: When you see something online today (on social media, a website, news site or blog) that’s helpful, makes you smile or feel inspired, drop a positive comment there to let the person behind it know you appreciate the thought and time they’ve put in.