Everybody thinks they have a really cool content idea. Whether you're a social media manager or a content writer—you've heard your share of these at least 25X per year if we're being honest 😅

But how do you tell someone their idea isn't it without absolutely ruining their morale? This depends. So to keep it simple, I'll cover two different approaches I take for two different common scenarios.

The Scenarios

  1. Telling non-marketers or people you're not super familiar with yet
  2. Telling marketers or people you've built a bond with and know you're not an asshole

Scenario 1: Telling non-marketers or people you're not super familiar with (yet)

Sharing your creativity can be a vulnerable experience whether you work in content or not. Be honored someone felt safe enough to share. I like to take a softer more educator-esque approach in this scenario.

  • 💭 Entertain the idea by not completely shutting it down and thanking them for contributing. If there's a part of it that is usable then highlight only what you genuinely like. Emphasis on genuinely.
  • 📓 Educate them with context about what you know works. When possible, root this in irrefutable facts and/or experiences.
  • 👩‍🏫 Examples help them visualize what a 2.0 version of the idea looks like. Share alternatives to help drive the point home.

In doing so you make people know they are heard, establish your subject matter expertise, and are more of a team player in reaching a solution that works for your audience and your team.

As you work more with people and loosen up a bit around each other you'll begin to learn all about their traits and quirks so you can find the flavor of candidness that'll work with them.

Who knows, maybe they even start sharing even stronger ideas thanks to your teachings!

Scenario 2: Telling marketers or people you've built a bond with and know you're not an asshole

In this situation, people already know you and the company. You're in a place where your candidness isn't misinterpreted for being a jerk. Therefore saying something isn't up to par becomes simpler.

From my experience, sometimes you just need to test the waters by being candid to see how you can improve your open communication with someone else.

If I'm working with a fellow content teammate, like the content marketing manager, my replies might sound more like this recent edit I left on a blog outline.

Pro Tip: Ask why, what, or how questions to encourage open communication and collaboration. For example, if I don't fully like an idea I'll share why, provide some context, and ask my teammate how they suggest the content could do better with the new info in mind.

Don't just straight up leave things at "I don't like it".

This kind of reply gets you, the other person, and your client (or employer) nowhere. I can't stand it when I hear about people experiencing rejection of their ideas or work with no explanation.

Being "too busy" is not an excuse to not give your team (or freelancers) context. You need to re-evaluate how you're running things if that's the case.

The key to great content is collaboration, candidness, and an open mind. You need to be receptive to ideas, even the not-so-great ones because, hey, you never know which "bad idea" could trigger a conversation that births the best idea.

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