The Morale of the Story

The morale of a creative department is very fragile. Scientists have shown that there is a higher concentration of ego issues in a creative department than in the cast of “Survivor.”

Here are a few ways to support your group and keep the outbursts to a minimum.

If you create it, you present it. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, there is nothing more disheartening than working 40 hours on a campaign and having it whisked away at the last minute by a starched-shirted account executive on his way to the client’s office. I’ve talked to many account people over the years, and most say that they’d love members of the creative department to present their own work, but they’re not polished enough to do it. Bull. Most people got into the creative world because they have a high percentage of ham content.

Make those in the creative department the best presenters in your company. It takes some work on your part, but the rewards are worth it.

  • Tell your department members (or specific team members) that they will be presenting to the client. Which team members work harder: the ones who know they’ll be handing off the creative to someone else or the ones who know they’ll be in front of real, live clients?

  • Practice, practice, practice. Take some time and have your art directors, graphic designers, and copywriters present to you or to the creative department before presenting to a client. If they can get through your comments, they can get through the client’s as well.
  • Demand higher standards, and you’ll get better results. Without being a raving lunatic about it, you can increase the quality of your group’s work simply by demanding better work. The next time a group comes to you with a good concept, say “Good concept. Now come back in a few hours with a great concept.” You’ll be surprised how much better the second one is.

An important byproduct of these suggestions is that you’ll be showing your team members that you respect their talents. Investing time in your team members is the best way to show that you believe in their skills. You hired them, you must have seen something worth developing.

What’s going on in the industry? Does your department know who your competitors are? If you mention Razorfish, DDB, Arnold Worldwide, Viant, Scient, or Proxicom and all you get are the “deer caught in the headlights” stare, you’ve got some work to do.

Here’s how to keep up: Designate one person in the department as the industry NEWSHOUND. A simple step is to go to Moreover.com and see what’s going on in your industry. If you have clients in healthcare, finance, or any other field, you can find specific pull-down menus for them, too.

You can receive daily email updates and really strut your stuff, or have the NEWSHOUND send URLs of stories that directly affect your business. Other sites worth bookmarking are Adweek, Advertising Age, The Industry Standard, Business 2.0, and CEOExpress — my favorite place to start any search. It’s also valuable to see what’s going on around the world, so check out AdAge Global, and see what’s going on outside our borders.

Won’t the strategists and suits be impressed when the creative department is sending timely articles to the rest of the company!

One word can make a big difference. Add the word “strategy” to your life. It’s amazing what adding an adjective can do to a job description. I changed my title from “Copywriter” to “Strategic Copywriter.” My IQ rose 19 points immediately! Nothing shows your dedication to strategic thinking quicker than changing everyone’s title to “Strategic Copywriter,” “Strategic Art Director,” etc. It also shows the rest of the agency or company that you’re serious about doing strategic-centered work.

An aisle seat, please. While we all know that the world revolves around your agency and your work schedule, occasionally creative folks like to get out and mingle with others in the field. If you’re in the direct world, check out: DM News and the Direct Marketing Association Inc. for a list of upcoming events. If you’re in general advertising and marketing, visit the American Marketing Association and the American Association of Advertising Agencies; new media folks can visit internet.com seminars. Of course, with the convergence of all these disciplines, it’s a good idea to visit all of them. And, once you sign up for one brochure or event, your mailbox will be full with new seminars and meetings.

Learning a new skill and honing the ones we have are great ways to keep fresh. These conferences, seminars, and training programs introduce us to people who do the same things we do but in a different way. What better method to keep your troops fresh and to reward them for their hard work?

And don’t worry about these events being places for your people to find new jobs. If they’re looking, they’ll find it anyway. Have a little faith that the time you spend helping your employees grow will lead them to spend more time improving their skills and less time on Monster.com.

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