How to overcome, “I don’t like it” and other unhelpful feedback

by | Feb 6, 2020 | Work Tips

When seeking feedback about a marketing or communications concept you’ve spent time and effort creating, few words are as soul-crushing as, “I don’t like it.”

Someone reviews a concept –  be it a plan, some kind of text, or an image – and it doesn’t resonate for them. As the one making the final approval decision, you need their sign off. But they (the decision-maker) don’t like it. 

Similarly, the feedback may be based on someone they have in mind that represents the entire target audience to them.

“My mother/son/neighbor’s kid (does this), and this wouldn’t work for her/him/them.”

Early on, when this happened to me, I felt I had to redo it because I translated the feedback as, “Do it again, it doesn’t work.”

Whether you’re trying to move forward from “I don’t like it,” or the perception that this one representative person wouldn’t like it, making a sweeping decision based on the opinion of one person is called the “focus group of one.”

What’s going on here?

Before going further, let’s look at what exactly is a focus group. A focus group is a research process of bringing selected people together to understand their thoughts on a particular subject better. It’s like the opposite of a survey – a small, carefully curated group pulled together to go deep and gather opinions, feedback, etc.  

Therefore, the phenomenon of a “focus group of one” is when one person’s opinion overshadows that of the wider audience.

Typically in these scenarios, you’ll see a few things occurring.

First, this person’s opinion has weight. Whether they serve as a leader or other decision-maker, their opinion matters significantly.

Second, something has skewed their perspective. Somewhere along the way, they forgot the intended audience and goal. Decision-makers have a lot going on, so that’s understandable! What comes to the forefront is their own opinion or their perception of how the whole group would respond based on one person that they know.

It’s human nature, and certainly something we should be mindful of. I know I’m thankful when someone points out that my own personal focus group is speaking!

The good news is, you can take steps to keep your creative strategy on track and get helpful feedback from your decision-maker.

How you can reframe the conversation and get more helpful feedback.

The goal here is to get helpful, constructive feedback. So you can create messages that resonate. So that your church’s ministerial staff and volunteers can do the good work of helping and ministering to people. 

It may take a few times of going through this to identify who’s prone to the “focus group of one.” Once you recognize it, you’ll know how to navigate and receive the helpful feedback you need.

The reframing approach.

When this happens in the moment, you’ll need to listen to make sure you understand their perspective and discern if you should consider their personal opinion. And then tuck that away for later.

To get the helpful feedback you need, you want to set-up your reveal by getting them in the right mindset. You can even do this after you’ve heard those dreaded words of “I don’t like it!” You want to remind the decision-maker of:

  • The target audience.
  • The problem or need they have and how your church plans to help them.
  • How this piece fits into the overall plan for what you’re promoting. If the art or message changes for different channels (email vs. social vs. posters), you can describe how these pieces will fit together as a part of the larger plan.
  • You can even tie it back to larger organizational plans if need be.

Typically, this reframing helps the person refocus on 1) connecting with the audience through 2) help that aligns with organizational goals.

What this feedback request actually sounds like.

Here’s how your reframing might go in a real-life situation. Let’s say you have creative for a topical event targeted to parents. You have the poster graphic done and need to get it approved before moving on to resizing it for other areas.

Want to show you the poster for the next parent’s night talk. This is a part of the initiative we have to help families grow stronger. We’re hitting the big details here – title, how this will help them, date and time, driving people to the website for more detailed information and to register. For social and email, some of the words will go into the post itself, rather than the graphic. Does this message and graphic hit those compelling notes we’re looking for? If you were a parent (or as a parent), does this grab your interest to at least want to learn more? It’s one part of the larger campaign, so they’ll see this as an announcement slide, in the parent’s Facebook group, and in the email newsletter as well. 

Still stuck? Ask why — a few times.

Sometimes you still may not get helpful feedback or the green light to move forward. In these instances, you have an opportunity to determine if there’s an underlying, unspoken issue before going back to the drawing board and trying again.

Often when feedback gets to a standstill like this, the issue lies with something more significant than the concept presented. There could be uncertainty about how what the church has planned will help people. Will this event actually work? Will people want to hear what the speaker has to say? There may be unfamiliarity (and perhaps doubt) about the strategy in place.

Setting aside the concept you’re working on and asking “why” in a few different ways can help to uncover those underlying issues. 

Afterward, you’ll have one of three outcomes. They’ll identify weak spots in the overall plan and you can work together to make it stronger. Or you’ll be able to better connect the dots for that person, and they’ll feel more confident about heading in the planned direction. Or, in some cases, the discussion may help the decision-maker to see that something is off with whatever it is you’re trying to promote. This does happen, and typically a tweak or two is all that’s needed to both meet the needs of the people you serve and align with overall church goals. 

In all situations, your plan, your working relationship with that person, and your organization will be stronger as a result.

Feel like no matter how much you produce, work remains? If you need help to accelerate your process and better reach and retain guests, read about how the Firm Foundations team can help. 

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