By Catherine Francis

The term “creative” can be a double-edged sword.

While working collaboratively with creative teams can come with prestige – as creativity is highly valued in our entrepreneurial, post-industrial era – it can also be associated with a constellation of psychological traits, ranging from neuroticism to psychosis. The notion of volatility often associated with creative people can leave marketers and communicators feeling jittery and unsure of how to approach them for campaign support.

I certainly felt that way.

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina via Unsplash

Early in my marketing career, I assumed that my creative colleagues were extremely sensitive and shouldn’t be distracted by anything like campaign strategy, content development or split testing. In my zeal to protect their reserves, I made several rookie mistakes:

  • Ran defence between them and everyone else
  • Made sure they didn’t see any copy until it was squeaky clean
  • Presented concepts to sponsors on their behalf and moderated feedback
  • Didn’t bother them with minor art adjustments when an ad wasn’t showing results

These are great examples of what not to do – but what can we start doing? How can marketers and communicators give their creative teams space to work, while meaningfully involving them at the right stages in the campaign process?

I recently caught up with Vishu Mahajan, Creative Director at AltaML, to get her insights on how marketers and communicators can more productively collaborate with their creative colleagues and set their campaigns up for success.

“What puts up roadblocks is people assuming that creativity is just about execution,” she says. “People forget it’s a broader strategic approach. The emotional impact of campaigns is really important. Brand experience and art direction take into account the emotional state of audiences with the creative concept, which, when done well, ties in with copy to meet marketing and communications goals.”

“Creativity is an iterative process. It doesn’t just happen; it takes time.”

-Vishu Mahajan

Three ways to improve your creative collaboration for campaign success:

 1. Engage creative teams early in content development.

The creative influence is important to campaign development, in a broader way than building graphics or designing layouts.

“Creativity is an iterative process. It doesn’t just happen; it takes time. If you come too late, it doesn’t give the process enough room to breathe,” says Mahajan.

“Copywriters love to work with creative people who can find innovative ways to bring <their> copy to life. The concept can come together with both parties fleshing it out.”

2. Involve creative teams in presentations to project sponsors and allow them to get feedback directly.

By including them early, creative people will have a better understanding of the overall project, your goals and can develop an early repour with the stakeholders.

“Creative people are really good storytellers. The story and rationale behind their design decisions have a lot of meaning, and they can back it up in a conversation.”

3. Start small and show them results.

Just like campaign managers use insights to optimize content and their promotional mix, creative teams can use that feedback to improve the brand experience. This feedback loop can support individual campaigns as well.

“If possible, don’t advance all tactics at once,” Mahajan advises. “Paired with the immediacy of feedback, it allows you to evolve the creative approach, and keep it fresh and relevant. A brand isn’t static; it’s constantly changing. A campaign needs to evolve as well.”

So, if you’re new to working with creative teams (or just wondering how to work better with them), don’t be afraid of encroaching on their time or attention. Compartmentalizing the creative process may seem to be protecting their resources, but it just puts up fences around their potential in the long run. By engaging your creative team early and often, then reporting back to them, you’ll give your creative colleagues – and campaigns – a higher chance of success.

Resources recommended by Mahajan:

Medium – 3 Ways Marketers Can Work Better with Creative

American Marketing Association – Trust Me: How Marketers and Designers Work Together

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