Beyond PR

Jul 08, 2016

4 Lessons Learned While Managing Creative Marketers

Tips for Creative Collaboration in Marketing

Creative people are the heart and soul of marketing and communications. They have the ability to make raw and bland information interesting. These are people who can visualize, scribe and verbalize compelling stories inspired by little more than a bullet-point product description.

They are gifted contributors to our marketing and PR teams.

Having managed both creative and analytical people over the years has taught me a few things. Both are absolutely essential, complementary puzzle pieces for your strategy.

Because while the analytical mind can find and present data, creatives can imagine how the data evolved and what its potential might be.

They can imagine that which isn’t there.

They can deliver the sort of compelling, audience-driven storytelling that’s mapped out in our Buyer 2.0 Content Strategy Checklist.

For this to happen successfully, though, a different work environment is required.

You might be thinking of a room covered in whiteboards, a large window overlooking mountains, bean bags on the floor, soothing music and boxes filled with colorful markers. While these may be nice to have for some, they are not a requirement.

The requirements are much more human and interpersonal.

What I’ve learned is that what ‘is’ required is patience that allows creativity to blossom. It can’t be rushed and it doesn’t always happen during normal work hours. But with careful planning and guidance, it can meet deadlines and it can have an impact on your revenue.

There is an art to managing creative people that must be learned and mastered before success can be achieved. It starts with leaving ego at the door and recognizing that the people you hire will be/should be more talented than you. Not at everything perhaps, but in the roles you hire them to fill.

Here are four main things I’ve learned from the creatives I’ve had the privilege to work with.

Set your mind to ‘flexible.’

When we hire for creative roles, we look for people who can think out of the box, who aren’t constrained by the same boundaries of possibility that most of us are. And yet, what happens after we hire them is contradictory to all that we valued in them before they showed up for work on day one.

We immediately inform them of the rules and how we’ve always done things. Then we get frustrated when they want to do things outside of the darn box.

Sometimes creative ideas sound really off the wall, or silly, or a waste of time, or way too complicated. But if we listen and ask questions that help the creative process rather than stifle it, wonderful things are created.

Discuss how an idea relates to your business, including what you sell and who you are as a corporate culture.

Conversations may uncover that an idea needs a slightly different approach or is better suited for a different marketing channel. Collaboration can turn off-the-wall ideas into great content.


Assemble complementary talent.

You can’t achieve great things if you don’t have the right talent assembled. And that doesn’t mean people who are alike.

In building a creative team, make sure the talent brought together balances each other. They should have some things in common, like a desire to be part of group success (creative mavericks need not apply, we’re building a team!), but they also have to be different. And they have to value each other’s differences as much as you do.

The best way for people to complement each other is for them to have some understanding, interest or shared ability in other team members’ talents right from the start. I like writers who get excited about Canva and Photoshop, and I like designers who practice the art of written storytelling in their spare time.

Offer consistent feedback, but also give people space.

Some may think that creative people require a lot of compliments, but that’s not true. What is essential to the creative process is consistent and honest feedback. There’s no mathematical formula to calculate whether an article is well written or whether an infographic can capture and hold the viewer’s attention, hence the need for feedback.

Relating how something is looking or reading or how it can fit into the overall objectives of the team and brand is critical for helping the creative mind stay on track and on deadline.

Pay attention and be an engaged sounding board.

Listening is the most important talent a manager can have, no matter what kind of team he or she leads. Creative teams, however, may need this more than most. Not because artists can’t do things on their own, but because bringing the creative process into a structured business environment requires collaboration. It also requires stepping out of the normal creative process and putting certain limits and deadlines in place.

You don’t want to stifle creativity, but you do need to give structure to how it evolves.

The creative process usually involves taking risks. Some risk is necessary to break out of the norm. But this can run a little antithesis to many brands’ approaches.

Being a good sounding board allows your creative team to take smart risks that help your brand tell strong stories, without having to dust off the crisis communications manual.

To connect with your audience and convert them into customers, you need to create high-quality, visually engaging content. Download our free Buyer 2.0 Content Strategy Checklist for more content creation and distribution tips.

Author Victoria Harres is vice president, strategic communications and content at PR Newswire. Her team leads social media, PR, creative and blogging for the brand. Vicky was the original twitterer on @PRNewswire and continues to be part of that crew. If she’s not at her desk, you’ll likely find her in the garden.

6 Comments on Blog Post Title

­ nikedis 06:07 EDT on Jul 13, 2016


­ mondbala 16:38 EDT on Aug 2, 2016

Thanks a lot for sharing such a informative Post , its worth sharing and publishing .

­ Angelia Sumners 11:39 EDT on Aug 25, 2016

"Set your mind to ‘flexible’" I love it! Some great tips here. Thanks!

­ Jack Mulligan 15:41 EDT on Sep 15, 2016

I know that a lot of companies rely on communications firms to get abstract ideas out to the public. For that you truly do need people with a flexible mindset. If a firm can get difficult ideas across artistically and gracefully, that’s the kind of firm you want on your side. " />

­ 11:59 EDT on Oct 3, 2016

Thanks for the great information !

­ Jon 12:18 EDT on Oct 17, 2016

I really like how you mention you look for people who can think outside of the box. To me this a great skill to have in almost any career or life choice. The ability to think creatively and critically is very important in life.

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