An extremely important and unique portion of the creative hiring process is the portfolio review. In many cases portfolios are viewed prior to meeting a candidate, but an interactive, face-to-face discussion about specific portfolio pieces is equally important.
Respect First, Like Second
Being liked only gets you so far. You have to show focus, fortitude, and tremendous talent to succeed.
Are You in Control of Your Creative Work?
Take steps throughout the creative process that will help both you and your client be more effective and happy.
Transitioning Print Designers
To meet today’s growing interactive needs, consider developing interactive skill sets from within the talent already on your team.
Increasing Your Quality Hires
Finding the right people can be challenging…especially when seeking out creatives to work in-house. Follow these three steps to help ensure you add a valuable partner to your team.
Tips for Evaluating Workflow Tools
Implementing a workflow tool can provide many benefits including increased productivity, better decision-making, improved justification of your decisions and resources to management, and increased control over your resources.
An Opportunity Often Overlooked: Proposal Support
In today’s business climate, the more value your creative services organization can contribute to your company’s bottom line the better.
The #1 Challenge In Transitioning To Strategic Partner
The topic of moving from order taker to strategic partner regularly results in a lively and engaging conversation among the creative leaders.
Justifying Account Management
As the Creative Services function grows to become an in-house agency, a vital step is the introduction of Account Management. But how can you substantiate the addition?
The Black Box of Management
Good managers and less-good managers equally struggle with transparency. Sharing what you do with your team increases efficiency and employee satisfaction.
What Creative Leaders Need to Know About Term Limits and Contingent Workers
Term limits are not the end-all, be-all and sometimes are just put in place because an organization does not have a larger strategy to address the real issues and pitfalls of co-employment risks.
An Off-the-Shelf Convert
The right project management tool can greatly improve the ability of the creative leader to effectively manage his or her business team.
Don’t Let MSP or VMS Programs Obstruct Your Access to Great Talent
Many times MSP and VMS systems implement policies that go too far and get in the way of following best practices when it comes to talent acquisition—especially for creative professionals.
“No, there’s NOT an app for that”
In this age of instant communication and apps for just about anything imaginable, it’s easy to believe everything we need to manage our businesses is at our fingertips.
Your Creative Brief Ambassador
Addressing the “Number One Challenge” for using Creative Briefs is as easy as 1-2-3.
Creatively Managing the Generational Gap
Leaders are often challenged to connect with and motivate team members outside of their own generation.
The Importance of Capturing and Communicating Metrics
Business metrics is an area that is easy to talk about but not so easy to implement.
The Write Stuff
It is up to creative leaders to engage writers with the right talent and skills to achieve these objectives quickly and deliver superior quality.
Use Skills Assessments to Ensure Continued Value to Your Organization
Creatives working inside corporations face the ongoing challenge of constantly updating their skill sets to meet the increasing demand for new and innovative communication vehicles.
Why buy when you can rent?
The technology options available today for managing workflow and digital assets come in many shapes and sizes. One of the more intriguing options today is the ability to essentially “rent” an application…
Collecting Critical Data Begins at Project Intake
Tracking key data points helps you better understand your department’s opportunities to provide more effective creative services for your company, which in turn increases your department’s value to the organization.
Deliver on What Your Clients Really Want
Saying you’re a client-centric creative services organization is easy. Proving it is much more difficult. It’s no longer enough to just be “down the hall” ready to serve.
From How to Why
The further you move away from that entry-level role toward senior leadership roles, the higher the expectation of your contribution—and it’s not your tangible contribution.
Job Cost Tracking and its Impact on Decision Making, Justification and Control
A creative services manager must make many decisions in the course of managing her production process. Increasingly, the manager is also asked to justify decisions, and their team’s very existence.
Getting Started with Process Documentation
Previously I shared some thoughts about the importance and benefits of documenting your processes. After reading you may have thought “great, but how do I get started?”
Some Management 101 Thoughts For the New Creative Leader
You probably have heard many times that as a manager you are only as good as your people. So how do you motivate your team to do their best?
Creative is Not Manufacturing—The Importance of Face Time
There are many similarities between creative processes and manufacturing, particularly custom manufacturing. And, the closer you get to production, whether print, web or video, the more it really is like manufacturing. But I quickly learned that there are some areas where a manufacturing mindset just doesn’t work—specifically the goal of minimizing human interaction in the process.
In-House Versus Agency Rates
The economic downturn and trend toward outsourcing has put added pressure on creative leaders to justify their existence. Executives will be evaluating the value of their investment in your team.
Managing Across Multiple Locations
Managing multiple locations is a big change from managing the day-to-day operation of a single location. The key is to recognize these unique challenges and complexities…
Moving Beyond Your Bread and Butter: Capability Brochures
If you’re looking to evolve your team’s core service offering, consider creating a capabilities brochure (or website or newsletter).
Location, Location, Location
Who your group reports to and where your group is physically located can create misconceptions within the corporation and your client base.
Narrowing the Divide Between Your Full-Time and Contingent Workers
While some corporations limit the ability for line managers to blur the lines between contingent staffers and full-time team members, there are actions to take that can help you, your in-house and outsourced team adjust and thrive in this new realm.
Process Documentation – more than just pretty pictures
Process documentation seems like a lot of work and, it is. But its benefits, when used properly, make it well worthwhile.
In-house creative departments often serve the conflicting masters of pleasing our in-house clients and staying true to the brand. It’s a vicious cycle, but maybe this doesn’t have to be the case.
Become a Referred and Preferred Partner
Will colleagues refer your team over design firms, freelancers or consultants? Here are a few ideas to ensure your team is at the top of their referral list.
Refreshing Your Company's Brand
When your corporate executives recognize that your brand is no longer getting the results—the ROI—they need, they may reach out to your in-house creative team for fresh ideas…
Is the Technology "Tail" Wagging the Business "Dog"?
The real purpose of technology in business is to enable your business to execute faster, cheaper and with better quality—regardless of the old joke that you can pick two of those, but not all three.
Managing Creative Assets
Organizing creative services materials is smart business; when the team knows what exists versus what needs to be created, they’re better prepared to deliver creative, strategic, timely and cost-effective projects.
Make a More Valuable Contribution to Your Organization: Be Known as the Brand Experts
In the last decade or so, branding has risen in importance, becoming a buzzword in large organizations. Marketing departments either develop their new brand internally or contract an outside agency to create the brand.
Internal Training Programs for Staff Growth
The beauty of your Creative team is that their brains work differently from legal, accounting or HR.
The Art of Managing the Right-Brained
Managing creative professionals within a corporation is a unique challenge and an art.
The Diva and Divo—How They Can Help You Soar
We’ve all managed someone who felt they were so special they deserved special treatment. Someone who seemed to grab at power every step of the way. But what differentiates a designer with an attitude from a diva or divo?: the enabling by senior management.
The Value of a Business Coach
Name a highly successful athlete—he has a coach. What about that internationally recognized opera singer? She has a coach. Atul Gwande, a highly respected surgeon, just published an article in the New Yorker explaining his decision to hire a coach. Why do all these already successful professionals have coaches? Because you just can’t do it alone.
Fun Along the Way
Making work fun…sometimes this seems like an oxymoron, it’s called work for a reason, right? But we are all familiar with the proverb “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Regardless of industry, job title and role, we all need breaks within our day to allow our brains to recharge. For some this may mean water cooler breaks or coffee runs, but for others this means a few minutes on Facebook or making sure to take their lunch break away from their desk.
Getting a Seat at the Marketing Table
The unfortunate fact is that in-house creative teams are often viewed as back-end production within organizations. Creative teams often find out about jobs at the last minute, without the proper time to do their best work. Many times, clients present a project that they have already ”thought out” strategically and mocked-up, and just want the creative team to “make it pretty.” This thinking is outdated and doesn’t give the creative team the credit or respect that they deserve as professional designers. It also doesn’t create the most compelling experience for your team. Company leaders often do not realize how graphically based their brand experience is. What the creative team contributes not only represents an organization to the public, but also attracts and resonates with current and potential clients. Further, it attracts and recruits future employees that will (hopefully) help both propel the organization in the direction and vision that the executives want and set the standard for the reputation of the organization.
Ten Value Propositions for In-House Creative Departments
Brand Equity This is easily the most common value proposition that in-house departments hold to, and depending on the company, it can be the most valuable. Important note here though, this is also one of the more “fun” areas for creative...
Applying Six Sigma to Creative – Good Idea?
Creative services is one of the last parts of corporate America that has been relatively untouched by Six Sigma. Many manufacturing companies apply it rigorously to their production lines, with the mathematical target of Six Sigma being to get errors as low as 3.4 per million items produced. This is an outstanding goal if one of making pharmaceuticals (and, in fact, the pharmaceutical industry has even surpassed this very low error rate), but the general reaction of creative people is, “Developing creative output isn’t like making pills.” This is very true. Ogilvy attempted to apply Six Sigma to its business a few years ago – with mixed results.
Interactive Media Role Definitions—Aligning with a rapidly changing talent market
If you provide a great career opportunity and pathway for your team members, you promote a more stable workforce, a higher performing department, lower personnel costs, and a happier culture. These all improve your ability to attract better talent and better work opportunities over time. Enough said…we’ll need another post to quantify all of that! With all these benefits in mind though, here are a few points you’ll want to review while (re)defining roles and the organizational structure for your interactive team.
Offshoring Creative Production: 11 Best Practices
rule of thumb: “Offshoring projects will cost 4 times less but take twice as long to complete.” The notion of saving up to 70% of labor costs can be very enticing, especially in tight economic times. However, offshoring can be a daunting endeavor and one that can almost as easily waste money as save it.
Tackling Your Process and Technology Projects
Many creative organizations recognize that they have room for improvement. This could mean better alignment within the organization, improving existing processes or implementing technology that can help manage the work. But often nothing gets done, because the next step requires time and effort… and those are in short supply. So, what options are available to creative leaders to address process and technology initiatives?
Do you need a DAM (Digital Asset Management System)?
I’m often surprised by the many well-established Creative Services organizations that do not utilize a DAM system for managing digital assets. And often, they explain that they don’t need a DAM system because they have a well-organized shared server where they keep all their assets, work-in-progress and archived files. But, this approach actually works better for outside agencies that it does for internal groups.
As in-house creative leaders, we’re charged with inspiring our teams to be and stay creative.
This can be daunting when there are many revisions, only one client, only two fonts to choose
from (y’know: Book and Italic, or if you are lucky one serif and one sans serif) and the color
palette is limited to three choices. So with all of this potential monotony, how do we inspire
our teams to find and maintain creativity?
It’s different up here: Helping your team decide if management is right for them
Many creatives want to rise up the ladder, but few understand the role of a creative manager beyond the perception of power and increased pay. It’s important to help your team members understand what’s expected and required—the good and the hard.
Creating High–Quality Work Relies on Recruiting, Training, Environment and Communicating Value
The communications materials produced by your in-house team need to support your corporate mission, give your company a competitive business advantage and make a positive impact on your company’s bottom line. Which means what your department creates must be of the...
Some Thoughts on Requirements for Software Solutions
There are many ways for an organization to implement a software solution, whether it is an automated workflow tool, a digital asset management system or some combination of functionality that uniquely fits the needs of the organization. Hopefully, process is used to identify the needs of the organization and the solution candidates, as well as to manage the eventual selection and rollout of the final solution.
Effectively Managing Just-In-Time Creative Resources
Just-in-time (JIT) labor is a customized staffing model that ensures you have the right resources with the right talent in the right place at the right time. In the past 20 years, the use of JIT labor by in-house creative groups has grown from less than 10% to nearly 30% and is predicted to increase over the next few years.
The “New Normal” in Staffing Strategies: Contingent Workers
It is a clear reality that contingent workers (defined as freelancers, contractors and temporary employees—basically all non-permanent employees at an organization) are playing an increasingly larger role in an organization’s success. With this in mind, leaders of in-house creative departments need to have a strategy on the impact that this may have on their department.
Take Control of Your Digital Assets
As much as an internal creative services department may organize and act like an external agency, there will always be some differences due to being an in-house agency. One difference needs to occur in the management of digital assets.
Market Your Team as if Your Job Depends on It
The majority of in-house creative groups believe in a myth: that marketing is unnecessary because they have a built-in client base. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In-house groups must prove their worth every day. Proactive marketing is the key to surviving and, better yet, thriving as an in-house group.
Service Level Agreements are a Win-Win
Deadlines are looming, expectations are high, the scope is huge…it’s the perfect time to create a service level agreement (SLA) to ensure that everyone has a clear definition of ownership and responsibilities.
Automated Workflow Systems—Your Choices
The recent announcement of IBM’s acquisition of Unica prompted me to think about the current landscape of options for automated workflow systems and how it keeps changing. For some companies, their history has included many acquisitions and changes in ownership, while others have been providing workflow solutions to the marketing communications market for decades. So, what are the choices available today?
Get on Board with Design Thinking
You may have heard the phrase “Design Thinking” in your travels, but do you really understand what it means? It’s crucial that you do if you want to grow your department and your career.
Implementing Creative-Friendly Time Tracking
Time tracking in creative services is necessary in order to monitor utilization and productivity. We previously published a blog about the benefits of time tracking, but also pointed out it’s no one’s favorite activity. Let’s examine some of the ways time tracking can be implemented and how to make it an integral part of your organization.
A Non-Creative Viewpoint on Corporate Creative Culture
It is the elephant in the room that nobody knows is there until it moves in the wrong direction. A healthy corporate culture can be one of the most, if not the most, valuable assets to a Creative Executive. The quantifiable outcomes of a healthy corporate culture can be tied to increased productivity, higher employee retention, accelerated learning, and more consistent innovation. If the culture is healthy and has been that way for a long period of time, you may never even realize how much you’re benefiting from it. However, when the cultural health of a creative organization goes south, you’ll quickly begin realizing its negative impact. Playing an active role in maintaining and building culture is an important aspect of being a leader.
Start Fixing Your Processes
I’ve written in the past about selecting workflow systems and about specific aspects of automation, but what if you’re just starting to get your creative processes under control? Well, it’s an old axiom that if you automate your processes before fixing them, all you have is an automated bad process. (Or at least an un-optimized process.) So, where to start? In my experience, there are three main areas within your processes to address first. Once you address these areas, the rest will fall in place pretty easily.
As Invested Partners, Account Managers Create Raving Fans
Keeping in mind that the Account Manager’s job is to be dedicated to their clients’ needs and that requires understanding the client’s business and related goals, being a good steward of the client’s time and budget, focusing on the big picture, and making the creative process as painless as possible, it’s important that account managers manage their accounts as relationships and not transactions.
A Prescription for Difficult In-House Clients
Leading an in-house agency often requires dealing with difficult clients. Unlike an outside agency, you cannot “fire” or walk away from your clients. You must learn to work with them and act as a buffer for your team members to maintain their morale and keep their focus on the work and delivering quality cost-effective products.
As the creative leader, your job is to make your client look like a superstar while delivering results that contribute to your company’s bottom lin
Planning for 2011
Strategic planning can sound and be overwhelming and sometimes can feel like an exercise in futility as most strategic plans are never referred to again after presentation. Strategic plans can be created at varying levels of complexity, and unless you are required to create a full-blown strategic plan that includes an executive summary, situation summary and implementation plan, I suggest addressing your 2011 strategic plan in a more simplistic manner.
Interactive Designer: Recruiting and Retaining the Right Talent for the Role
Throughout my career I have spoken to hundreds of creative leaders who have been challenged with finding the right Interactive Designer for their department. Hiring Interactive Designers is challenging because of the diverse and constantly evolving job descriptions, skill sets, and career paths that are associated with the role.
World-Class Creative Services Teams Include Account Management
If an in-house agency is successful in contributing to its organization’s needs, there comes a point in its growth that the team will need to restructure if it wants to continue to increase its worth to the organization.
Positioning Your In-House Team as the Vendor of Choice
Large corporations accept certain beliefs at face value. Among them is the myth that in-house organizations can never be as good or as responsive as outside agencies/vendors, particularly creative services groups. It is a daily battle to overcome the built-in prejudice against internal creative organizations.
Supporting the Career Growth of Designers
Following discussions with more than 60 creative leaders this summer, the omnipresent challenge of Creative Services leaders kept bubbling to the surface: career paths for creative staff. This common challenge pulls at the heart strings of creative leaders, because they want to pay their people more money and want to provide them with more opportunities, but there isn’t always a business case to support those desires. Seemingly the larger the team, the more opportunities that exist for advancement. But typically the percentage of opportunities is similar, only the frequency of opportunities is higher.
The ABC's of Team Evaluation
Whether you’ve recently inherited a team or you’ve been working with the same core group for several years, it’s likely your team is a mix of rock stars, steady performers, and underperformers—otherwise known as “A”, “B”, and “C” players. It’s important to have a healthy mix of “A” and “B” players on a team because you can’t keep the rock stars engaged if there are more rock stars than exciting opportunities, and “B” players are necessary to support your department’s bread and butter projects.
Account Managers and Project Managers: what’s the difference?
Often in-house creative shops blur the distinction between account and project management since they are perceived to be similar, but, in truth, the two roles are quite different. They require different skill sets and different focuses – and there is even a natural tension between the two functions in providing good service to clients. Account management is all about strategic management: understanding client needs, defining solutions for those needs, “selling” those solutions to the client and advocating for that solution during the creative process. Project management is all about the details: tasks, resources, deadlines, accuracy and coordination between different process participants.
Dynamic Collateral Creation for Marketing
Often when I work with marketing and creative services organizations, a piece of technology that is usually missing is Dynamic Authoring, or Content software. For some reason, there isn’t recognition of the value of this tool outside of generating things like direct mail or email campaigns. So, here’s another take on the value of these tools.
Offshoring Creative to India
As the economy struggled across the better part of the last decade and developing nations proved able to take on business services in addition to production tasks, outsourcing and offshoring conversations and activities increased. Business leaders looking to take advantage of the cost savings have asked their business unit heads to identify opportunities to offshore activities within their departments. These asks have not excluded creative departments and multimedia design and development and graphic design have been specifically targeted.
Tracking Hours is Not Only for Chargeback Organizations
In-house creative services teams with an hourly chargeback model must track their time—often to the quarter-hour increment. The discipline of time tracking can be off-putting for many teams at first, but the advantages of time tracking can’t be ignored, and teams generally support the practice once they understand the potential outcomes.
Building a Chargeback Model
Internal creative organizations often struggle with whether they should be charging clients and if so, at what rate. This doesn’t seem like a complex challenge, until you try to solve it! In this post I’ll touch on good reasons for implementing a chargeback model, costs that should be considered for inclusion, key considerations, and implementation tips.
Who’s Talking to the Customer?
In-house creative groups have plenty of challenges working with their customers, who range from marketing managers to technical experts to the CEO’s executive admin. These customers often look at the creative group as a free support resource and picture them just sitting by the phone or computer waiting for their favorite customer to call with a pet project that just happens to be needed yesterday.
Clear Roles are Key to Good Client Service
Many in-house creative services and communications groups grew organically as a result of an organizational unit deciding to hire a few people to do more cheaply (and perhaps more quickly) what the company was paying external agencies to do. The overwhelming majority of such groups start small with informal roles and processes.
Tips When Benchmarking Creative Departments
Speak to any executive, regardless of industry, and they’ll always be fascinated to hear how other companies run similar functions. When used correctly, benchmarking can be an extremely effective learning and validation tool for leaders who are trying to improve their corporate operation.
InSide InSights: Ken Warshaw, Saint-Gobain
Recently, I had an opportunity to speak with the manager of the creative services group at Saint-Gobain, and I think his story from the past few years can provide some encouragement to other in-house creative leaders who are continuing to experience the pressures of a down economy.
What Does Social Media Mean for Marketing Infrastructure?
There is currently a lot of buzz about using social media for marketing by encouraging grassroots enthusiasm for a company’s products. Much has been written and discussed about various tactics for effective use of social media marketing.
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