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Is your creative partner "the one"?

by Gilda Horgan

Any partnership, business or otherwise, requires a certain amount of trust, effort, and synergy. Long after the courting phase is over, you need to know your creative provider is still willing to hold your hand, surprise you, flatter you, and make you feel good about your relationship again, and again, and again.

So whether you're seeking a new partner, or looking to reignite the fire with your existing creative provider, here are some tips to making the relationship shine.

1. Watch out for mixed signals
Make sure you and your partner are aiming at the same target. If you're looking to spice things up, but you are communicating a level of comfort with the tried and true, you need to decide what direction you want to take. If you are unsure what you need, say so, explain the challenges, and let your creative provider help you discover productive solutions.

2. Keep the magic alive
Look at every project as if it were a first date, complete with high expectations, excitement, and putting your best foot forward. You may never get a second chance to make a first impression, but if you're lucky, you get another chance to impress.

3. Talk about your problems
Behind every great idea, there was first a need, an obstacle, or a dilemma to be resolved. Creative people are awesome problem-solvers, idea generators, and innovators. Put your heads together, talk about your problems, and enjoy the rewards of a collaborative partnership.

4. Enjoy each other
There is nothing more satisfying than a creative partnership that works. Have fun, revel in the success, learn from your mistakes, and don't forget to show appreciation.

If you're not getting what you need from your creative partner, maybe it's time to consider a split or to see other people. Not every match is made in heaven, but when you do find that right partner, don't let them get away!

Revitalize your creative with eleven creative New Year's resolutions.

by Gilda Horgan

  • 1. Free fall! Spend one hour a week developing art, ideas, or writing that is for your own creative expression.
    Imagine that there are no boundaries, budgets, or expectations. Remember why you started doing this in the first place.
  • 2. Give back! Plan and execute at least two pro-bono projects for a good cause this year.
    Support your favorite non-profit organization, small business, or someone in need of your services.
    If you're an artist, donate some work to a local restaurant or office building.
  • 3. Get organized! Clean up that office. Spruce up your workspace. File old paperwork.
    An organized, creative work environment helps clear clutter in your mind and spirit, too.
  • 4. Get inspired! Revisit those folders of tear sheets, unused ideas, and sketches.
    Look over art, photography, design, or writer's magazines. Go to a museum.
  • 5. Revisit your inner child! Energize your creativity by looking at a project or two from a child's perspective.
    You may be surprised by what you learn.
  • 6. Grow up! Look at a project or two through a senior's perspective. How easy is your work to follow and read?
    Or, take the long view. Try to imagine that you are looking at your projects from 50 years in the future.
    How does that influence your messaging?
  • 7. Learn something new! Teach yourself, take a tutorial, sign up for a class, or ask a friend or coworker
    to show you something you haven't done before.
    Expand your skill set (in my case, I'm learning video editing).
  • 8. Stay social! Social Media may be the latest, greatest new thing, but connecting with friends,
    coworkers, and customers is an age-old pleasure. Stay in touch and remember to step away
    from online intimacy once in a while to connect in person. Have a bite to eat or a cup of coffee with someone,
    and put away the cell phone.
  • 9. Submit! Take a chance and submit your work to a contest this year.
    Send your work out for representation by agents or to be positioned in galleries.
  • 10. Play! Switch materials. If you use a computer, pull out some paper,
    crayons, markers, clay, yarn, or other supplies to create new effects, art, backgrounds, or font styles.
    If you are a digital photographer, play with some Polaroids. If you write editorial, try your hand at a poem or fiction.
  • 11. Eat right and exercise! Oh, c'mon, you knew this would be in here, didn't you?
    Your body is a canvas, too. Shape it creatively this year.

If you're working with what you've got, make sure what you've got is working.

by Gilda Horgan, Dottie Melcher, Pat Cormier, and Rick Morin

In this economic climate, it's more important than ever to make the best use of your in-house creative staff and processes. Before you spend a fortune on outside agencies, look at the assets you have and see if they can work better for you. Although some of the following guidelines may seem obvious, it's been our collective experience that these rules are broken again and again in an in-house environment to the detriment of the work, the customer response, and overall profitability. By adhering to these simple rules, your organization will see a greater rate of return for their creative investment:

DO - Provide regular feedback, sales response, and data to your creative team. Copy and design professionals are trained to be problem-solvers, not just to create attractive pages. Take advantage of their training, arm them with facts, solicit their ideas, and involve them in developing strategy.

DON'T - Expect solutions from your creative team without first providing them with information: obstacles, relevant data, and company objectives.

TIP: Provide an environment for quicker, smarter, and more creative results. Many companies may miss out on valuable insight by dictating strategy, rather than developing a cohesive approach, involving the creative team early, and using their expertise wisely. If you're a member of the creative team, ask to be invited to key marketing meetings.

DO - Have clear strategy and solid direction up-front with executive agreement and buy-in. Research the competition, the audience, and the market. Make sure your process and schedules allow time on both counts.

DON'T - Provide hasty or last-minute creative direction: be pro-active, not reactive. If individuals are consistently changing direction or improvising regarding strategy, your response will suffer.

TIP: Flexibility and adaptability are essential, but be aware how late changes effect your productivity and profitability. It's critical that each executive with an interest in the results be on-board with the direction you provide to your creative team and when you provide it. Strive for synergy, with everyone working cooperatively to achieve the desired impact on sales and profit.

DO - Include all involved players when developing creative processes, deliverables, and associated deadlines. It is critical to get buy-in from those who will become partners and champion policy and process.

DON'T - Operate in a vacuum or sabotage creative process by neglecting to adhere to standards and deadlines. Your bottom line will suffer from derailed schedules and sub-par creative that hasn't had time to be adequately developed.

TIP - Get agreement at the highest level possible, and carry it down the org chart. Communicate processes clearly and ensure that all players have access to them at all times. Send out reminders regarding key deliverables prior to the due dates.

DO - Utilize your team's talents to their full potential, and give them the support they need to exercise those skills to benefit the organization.

DON'T - Assume everyone with an opinion should advise, in an educated manner, about design, color, or copy. All input should be welcome and weighed carefully.

TIP: If you've spent considerable time and money hiring the right people for the job, ensure you get the most return by allowing your experienced employees to drive strategy and advise on all aspects of creative development.

DO - Differentiate your products and services from each other and the competition.

DON'T - Assume the customer is familiar with your services or products.

DO - Ensure all media are in sync. Have a cohesive presentation and voice for your audience across web platforms, print, social media and other avenues.

DON'T - Let your print pieces become secondary to your website or vice versa.

DO - Step out of your office once in a while. It may be old-fashioned, but a face-to-face meeting will usually get better results than a request for information via email, which can often be ignored.

TIP: If you need to document the discussion, follow up with an email and cc all concerned parties.

DO - Have fun as often as possible. It will show in your work and your customers will take notice.

More articles to come.