The Feedback Sandwich

Mar 29, 2022

All creative projects are challenging, both to clients and agencies. Managing expectations, the market, and subjectivity are all things that aren’t easy to navigate. If everyone’s goals are the same, why is it sometimes so hard to steer a project through revisions – on time and on budget? 

One of the key components to the success of a creative project is managing and navigating feedback. Feedback can be a minefield. If approached incorrectly, it can send a project wildly off course. If you don’t get from your client (or give to your team) clear, constructive and actionable feedback, you risk the project spinning into endless revisions and out of budget. 

Here at P&P we used something taught by the great Chris Do called the sandwich method – our process for getting and giving usable feedback. The sandwich method works internally for giving feedback to the team, and as a framework for getting feedback from clients.

 

What is bad feedback?

To recognize what good feedback is, let’s first identify what bad feedback is. Bad feedback leads to frustration on all sides, and it falls into some main categories: 

  • Ambiguous – “Needs to pop more” or “It’s not different enough” is ambiguous feedback, and it isn’t helpful. Everyone has their own vernacular, and words mean different things to different people. 
  • Negative – All-negative feedback is unconstructive and leads to more questions than it answers. Actioning bad or vague feedback can lead to endless revisions (revisionitis).
  • Diverting – Beware of any feedback that affects scope. Feedback that involves a change in direction needs to be flagged, and will likely need a new Creative Brief and a bigger budget. 

 

Good feedback is a sandwich

Great feedback results in alignment for the project team (externally and internally), and illustrates a clear direction to move forward. It’s constructive and easy to understand. And, in our world, it’s shaped like a sandwich.

  • The bottom layer of the sandwich (whether you are receiving feedback or giving it to your team) is made up of your first comments. These set the tone. A meeting to deliver feedback should start with the good, what is liked about the work. Identify the parts that are going well. This ensures everyone is aligned on what to keep and work from. In any ongoing client relationship, knowing these “likes” is critical.
  • In the middle layer, direct the conversation to what can be made better. Here, you need to zero in on the areas for improvement. It’s crucial you get or give detailed information that leads to specific actions. Feelings aren’t enough; if the ‘feel’ isn’t ‘modern’ enough, you need to figure out what modern means to them (it’s very subjective). You should come out of this stage with a hierarchy of information that you can use to iterate upon.
  • The final layer is the top layer, and this stage is critical for defining the path forward. Summarize the key points from your discussion, identify the specific feedback areas that you will action, and state the next steps. Keep it positive. Wait for acknowledgement from the client or your team that they agree with your summation – this alignment is necessary before ending the meeting. 

Constructive feedback and the opportunity to use that feedback to make better-informed creative decisions helps enhance the work you deliver and the work you get. It allows you to build and maintain solid relationships with both your clients and your agency, with everyone leaving the conversation feeling happy and heard.

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