Get the best out of creative people

February 1, 2016

Dan Appleby has spent his 15-year career in client servicing roles at creative, marketing and digital agencies in London and Newcastle. Having recently taken up the post of managing director at Newcastle-based JUMP, he shares his thoughts on how clients can help creative people to produce their most effective work

Tell them your problems …

A blank piece of paper staring up at you is an intimidating thing. More so if you’re not sure whether you understand the challenge or what is expected of you. Unfortunately, this is often what creative people face every day.

A thorough and detailed brief will always lead to better work. A rushed, poorly-written, or absent brief will only confuse matters. If you’re not sure how to write a good brief for a creative agency, just ask them what they’d like to know – they will be delighted to have been asked.

Tell them what you think …

When you see creative work for the first time, it may not be right. The creative process is an iterative one where refinements and improvements are made along the way. But it’s your job as much as theirs to make sure it gets there in the end. Creatives also appreciate seeing an immediate gut reaction. So smile, laugh, grimace; whatever their work makes you feel, show them. Sitting stoically, refusing to give anything away really doesn’t help anyone. That being said, “I don’t like it” is neither constructive nor inspiring. If you don’t think something is right, then explaining why you think so is the only way anyone will be able to do better the next time. Creative people are not looking for a pat on the back, but they do need clarity.

Loosen the reigns …

Be open to ideas, innovation and new ways of thinking. There’s too much rubbish and ineffectual marketing out there. The most successful creative work is adventurous and pioneering but to make an impact you need to be creatively bold and that can sometimes feel uncomfortable. However, if you want to be noticed, if you want to capture someone’s attention, then you’re going to have to take risks. That doesn’t mean taking a blind leap of faith, just try to be open to the creative process from which great ideas emerge.

Be open to debate and discussion …

Creativity is subjective and you’re not always going to agree with the creative team. Talking things through is an important part of the process, and will help both parties to understand their respective points of view. This may result in a client being convinced of the merits of a particular approach, or the creative individual understanding why their first attempt was off the mark. Either way, building a relationship based on collaboration and mutual respect is much more likely to lead to a solution quickly.

Say thank you …

It may sound trivial, but you would be amazed how rarely creative people are thanked for their efforts. When you consider the time, energy and stress that goes into every brief, a simple ‘thank you’ really can make it all worthwhile.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with many wonderfully talented people in my career and I promise that if you stick to these principles, then creative people will relish dealing with you. They will work harder and longer for you; they’ll try their best to fit things into their schedule if you need them to; and the likelihood is they will also do a lot more than you’re paying them for, just because they enjoy working with you. And who wouldn’t want that?


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