Not all agencies will ask you to roll up your feedback, but if you do this anyway, you’ll sure help smooth the project out.

Imagine this scenario: You have hired an agency to write a 20-page white paper on a technical topic. You get the first draft from the writer and you send copies to your boss, your lawyer, your marketing team, and two of your technical contacts. A week later everyone has sent you their feedback — and there you are with five documents, each one with feedback from a different person embedded in it. Adding your own copy to the pile, that’s six documents to look at.

What do you do? Roll it up!

Why should you roll it up?

When you have multiple copies of a document with feedback from different people, you need to combine all the feedback into a single document. This is what agencies mean when they ask you to “roll up” the feedback.

Rolling up the feedback can save hours from the time it takes a vendor to complete your project. For something as  simple as a two-page document it can save one to several hours. For a more complex project it can save five, ten, or even more hours. Rolling up the feedback also significantly reduces the risk of errors, as it is cumbersome for the agency to catch everything when comparing multiple documents looking for the edits and having to guess which ones take precedence.

Most important, rolling up the feedback puts you in control. Frequently there will be differing, sometimes even contradictory feedback. If you just send all those documents to the agency without rolling it up you are leaving it to them to figure it out and guess which feedback to use. This not only is time-consuming, it often involves email exchanges from the agency to answer questions — taking even more time.

“Single Point of Contact” in the contract

Unrolled feedback can add so much overhead to projects that it can make it difficult to finish a project on time and on budget. To deal with this, some agencies stipulate a single point of contact in their contracts. What this means is that when they work with you, they expect that you will herd all the other reviewers, remind them to complete reviews, and will roll up the feedback.

How to roll your own

So how do you roll up feedback? The answer to this depends mainly on the type of document it is, and how extensive it is. For Word documents or files from other text-editing programs that aren’t very long, it might be easiest to create a single master feedback file. But for very complex projects or very long documents, a feedback note might be better.

Create a single master feedback file: Open up your copy of the document, then add the comments from all the other documents into it, using initials or names or other notations to keep track of who each bit of feedback is originally from. Once you are sure you have copied everything from all the feedback documents, go through your master document and start editing. Delete any comments which are duplicates or that you want the agency to disregard. Next edit all the comments so that they read exactly as you want them to be.

Write a feedback note: Especially in cases of extremely long documents with sparse feedback, or more graphical projects, sometimes it is better to copy all the feedback from all the documents (including your own) into an email or new file, again keeping track of who each comment came from. Then delete duplicates and edit the remaining feedback so that it is accurate and so that it precisely describes where the feedback applies.

Here is an excerpt of a mock feedback email so you can see what I mean:

Vague is worse than nothing

As long as we’re on the topic of feedback, keep in mind that incomplete or vague feedback can often be worse than no feedback at all. Before you click “send” on that feedback, read it to yourself. Is there any part of it that the agency could have a question about? My golden rule is: Never Make Assumptions… and the corollary to that is to never say or write anything that will cause someone else to have to make assumptions. Remember that when your agency has to try to figure it out and finally send you an email to ask what to do, this takes time.

The moral of the story

Rolling up feedback is more important than you think. Not rolling up your feedback can add hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars to the cost of your project, add extra rounds of revisions, and increase the risk that important feedback will be missed.

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