How to Communicate With Your Creatives Without Killing Their Creativity


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Many of us, even though we work in a creative industry, haven’t been trained to speak the “language” of creatives. We struggle with communicating goals, with describing what we want the piece to “look,” “feel,” and “sound” like. We give either give too much advice or fail to relay any, which can lead to disappointing or surprising results for the client.

During my decade in business, I’ve learned that it’s extremely important for our team to understand how to balance the ideas generated by a creative team of gifted artists and composers with the demands communicated by our client clients to ultimately ensure that the end result is spot-on target and that everyone is happy with the outcome.

In that spirit, I’d like to offer some tips for brand managers, ad agency execs, and other marketing specialists as to how they might be more effective when communicating with their creative teams:

5 Tips for Communicating With the Creative Team

1) Appreciate Your Team’s Skills

Remember that the creative people you’ve hired are experts in their field, so give them room to breathe. It’s important for you to cultivate relationships with the various artists who are involved with your new campaign — this will improve the quality and efficiency of everyone’s work.

Once a strong relationship is established, you can begin to speak the same language and be better united in working toward the same goal.

2) Direct the Process While Leaving Room for Creativity

Inspire your creative team as you would any artist. Involve them in the process.

Managing creative talents can be delicate work, and of course, you must constantly balance the fine line between artistic freedom and corporate deadlines. You must also grow to recognize what kinds of projects need a firmer managerial hand and which projects can be given a bit more slack space to imagine. When there are very specific parameters required for your latest campaign, you need to make sure your creative team has a good understanding of what is — and what is not — allowed before they even get started.

3) Manage Deadlines With an Understanding of the Process

Be sure to stress to your creative team that certain deadlines are non-negotiable — be very clear and direct with your creatives, and cut them off if and when necessary.

With any kind of art, the most important thing at the end of the day is knowing when you’re done. Your creative team is making something brand new — something that’s never existed before — for a client who has goals to meet. This needs to come into play, not only with the time it takes and deadlines, but with every part of the creative process. For example, the musicians and composers we use for a client’s advertising campaigns need to understand how their work fits into the overall campaign and goals of the client.

4) Speak in Emotions

Whether the theme behind your new project is dramatic, celebratory, triumphant, inspiring, scary, funny, quirky, or thrilling, the more specific emotional direction your creative team receives from you, the better. Creatives are storytellers. They need to know: What’s the story here? What’s the emotional outcome you are seeking for your audience to take away from this new piece of work?

With any new advertising campaign, the promotional goal is important, but even more so is the sentiment the client wants to ultimately convey to the target audience. You need to let your artists know what emotions they need to convey for each of your projects. Should the overall feeling be tense, ominous? Should it ebb and flow? Or should it be driving? Uplifting and inspiring? Should it tug at the viewer’s heartstrings?

5) Think About the Best Ways to Convey Your Intended Goals

People who are creative usually do their best to protect their ideas and their individual techniques. If a client comes in and demands that her new project simply “must” be done her way, the creative team is likely to become defensive.

A client or account manager should give a good deal of advance thought to the best ways by which to convey the intended goals of the new project. Give the creative team insight into the strategy behind the campaign, and clearly outline the due dates of specific work on the calendar. Approach your creative team with gentle suggestions, be open-minded to their input and new ideas, yet remain clear and firm about what the end results need to be. A good creative knows how to balance pure creativity with deadlines and strategic messaging. Embrace your creative team so your relationship with them never becomes an us-versus-them arrangement.