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Have a Process

Two Minute Tips  //   //  By Christopher Davies

The article below originally appeared in Leadership Vol. 1 – Best Practices and Processes For In-House Creative Leaders published by In-Source.

“Creativity is subjective – the truth isn’t.” That’s the clever new PSA from Advertising Standards Canada (ASC). Well, the truth is, creativity isn’t that subjective, either. It’s a process, as much science as it is art – and more often than not, ideas flow most freely when a project has parameters, guidelines and a process.

Too often, the work you produce is reduced to a matter of stakeholder taste. Clients dictate, and creatives bemoan the restrictions placed on their work, constantly frustrated by the “if only” injustice of compromised visions:

“I don’t like brown.”
“Logo cannot be changed.”
“Can’t we use all the white space on the page?”

Having a process and sticking to it avoids this unhelpful tug-of-war and the feelings of resentment it engenders – on both sides. Projects will vary in size, scope, and creative latitude, but the process to arrive at deliverables should always be the same. There is freedom in limits.

When you start a new project, assign it a docket number and set a timeline. Now you’re in charge. Have a discovery meeting to define the audiences, messages, medium/media, the stakeholders involved (including the ones that seem to appear at the 11th hour), the product life cycle (edits, updates, etc.), creative parameters, and measures for success. Write a discovery summary document and have everyone sign off. Now they have agreed to the critical inputs, timelines and outcomes. Do your creative work, then tie it back to the summary document. Use everyone’s signed-off words and directions as leverage in disputes, or to guide them to the right solution (as opposed what they may think is the right solution based on their tastes). Keep everyone on the same page – the very page they helped to write at the start of the project – then deliver. But don’t stop there. Follow-up on the measures for success.

Now you’ve become a true marketing partner, not a tool in their toolbox. And there’s nothing subjective about it.