We know, we know: sometimes, working with “those people” is like speaking with someone from another planet. Why DO they do the things they do (be do be dooo…but that’s a song lyric, not a reason). First, as a creative person, and as shown by the previous sentence, always remember that we are easily distracted and have short attention spans. That’s why we all glaze over when lengthy PowerPoint decks get trotted out. Food now, that’s a different story. We’ll sit through any presentation you want as long as there’s a sandwich in it for us. That being said, here are a few (very) topline tips that may help us all harmonize better, regardless of discipline (or lack thereof!)
Account partners: we love you. We do. We love that you’re the ones who deal with the clients all the time, and who provide us with the direction we need to do our jobs effectively and efficiently. We love that you’re organized, and strategic, and are in tune with the brand vision. But when we “push back,” please don’t act as if we’re suggesting we drop your toddler on the New Jersey Turnpike unattended during rush hour. We sincerely have concerns about the timeline/strategy/direction/budget, and want to discuss them with you to come to a productive conclusion. More importantly, we want to talk with you before you talk with the client. Getting everyone to the table to hammer out a plan before approaching the client—and keeping everyone apprised of developments once the client is approached—will help. Not saying we won’t moan about the deadline anyway, but at least we’ll have partial ownership and 100% responsibility for the agreed-upon plan. Including us from the get-go not only will make your lives easier; it’s a sign of respect for us and our processes.
Art director/copywriter partners: Speaking of respect, we are all in this together. There is no reason why the art person can’t come up with a great copy line, and the copy person think up a killer visual. It happens all the time. The trick is to stop defining yourself in a specific role, and broaden your thinking—and listen when others do the same. You might even find that your best idea comes from—gasp!—an account person. Also note that there’s a difference between being passionate and being difficult: you may think you’re making your case by arguing. However, if you find you’re consistently the only one on the soapbox and your team has stopped responding (or started actively ignoring you), you may want to rethink your approach. Talking loudly about your idea won’t make it any more on strategy if it’s not, and won’t make it work if it doesn’t. What it will do is make everyone in the room sigh and roll their eyes and want to throw things at you during concept reviews. And nobody wants that.
Everyone: As bad as it is to be labeled “difficult,” it’s worse to be a doormat. Stand up for yourself and what you believe in, in as positive, productive, and grownup a way as you can. (Note: some of us are better at this than others). Not every conversation is going to end up where you want it to, but the goal should be to do the best, most strategic, creative work we can do all the time, every time. This requires open dialogue (and sometimes yelling), and the knowledge that we’re more than employed at the same company. We’re on the same team.
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