From the July 2008 issue of our newsletter, Let's Grow. For a FREE subscription, CLICK HERE

Getting the Best Work From Your Creative Team

Hiring talented writers and designers who are familiar with your industry is only the first step in getting the best possible creative work. All too often, marketers sabotage their own success by leaving their creative team hanging with unclear or no direction, or by micromanaging every step of the process.

Barrage Them With Background. Any writer or artist worth his or her salt will want as much background information as possible. Start by identifying your goals. Share previous marketing efforts and their results, as well as demographic and psychographic information about your customers. Show your team what the competition is doing, and point out its strengths and weaknesses. Include examples of work that captures the look and feel you're striving for, even if it's from a completely different industry.

If you expect your team to do research, point them in the right direction. Tell them about industry publications, trade associations, and competitive web sites they may not be aware of.

The more information your team starts with, the better foundation they'll have for developing great work.

Step Two is Stepping Back. Once you've laid the groundwork, don't micromanage. Refrain from asking to see a rough draft "so I can be sure you're heading in the right direction." Rough drafts often bear little resemblance to the end product, so don't put your team in an unfair position by asking to see them. Relax, step back and let them develop their work the way they see fit.

Unless it's necessary to maintain an established identity, don't dictate the words, colors, images or typefaces that must be used. The more your creative team can "own" the project, the better the work you're likely to get.

Develop the Art of Giving Feedback. The hardest part of the whole process is usually identifying what needs to be changed and communicating that to your team. Always tell them what to fix, not how to fix it. Saying, "Move this to the bottom, that to the left , and change the colors to green and blue" isn't helpful without knowing why you're suggesting those changes.

Instead, identify the problem you're trying to address, and if you give specific instructions, make them suggestions, not orders. For instance, say "My eye goes straight to the photograph and completely misses the headline. How can we address this? Would it work better if the photograph were on the left?"

Try to give all your feedback all at once. Not only is it inefficient to keep going back to the same job, but it starts to get tedious and demoralizing to keep revisiting the same project.

Last but not least, always use the "sandwich method." Start and end by congratulating your team on the elements that do work, and sandwich your critiques in the middle. Let your team know how much you appreciate them and their efforts, and they'll repay you with dedication and creativity.


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