Across the past few weeks, creative executives from more than 40 in-house creative departments from the Washington, D.C., New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Atlanta metropolitan areas joined us at CreativeExecs Roundtable meetings to discuss measuring, reporting, and structuring for effectiveness and efficiency. These 40 creative executives represented:

  • nearly every major industry (retail, pharma, financial services, consumer goods, entertainment, higher education, healthcare, government contractors and hospitality),
  • companies and organizations of varying sizes, and
  • creative teams of less than 10 members to teams of up to 100+ members.

The conversation was moderated by Cella's Vice President and General Manager, Jackie Schaffer who will be conducting two follow-up Roundtable Replay webinars to present findings and best practices that were revealed across this group of leaders, as well as a few clear recommendations related to proving and improving effectiveness and efficiency. In advance of that webinar (registration information is available at the end of this blog post), I'd like to offer a few observations from the live Roundtables.

The Leadership Above Creative Says It All
It has always been clear to us, during this Roundtable series and from previous series, that senior executives who work above and outside of creative departments are ultimately going to define what it means for the creative department to be effective and efficient. In short, they will define the value that the creative department must bring to the business, and creative leaders must focus their measurements and reporting of effectiveness and efficiency around that definition of value. Some creative teams are valued for their ability to define and expand upon visual communication standards, while others are valued for their ability to produce sales collateral as quickly as possible or guide the organization's journey into new mediums. It is very important that creative leaders understand how the company leadership values their team and recognize their vision for the department. This will allow creative leaders to communicate the department's effectiveness and efficiency in terms that resonate.

Connect Your Team with the Business's Goals
Creative departments are often seen as "black boxes." Work goes in and goes out through some "magical process" that is rarely understood. In addition, creative teams are often described by their clients as not understanding the overall business goals, and therefore they "don't get it." Thus, it's important for creative leaders to proactively connect their team to the greater business goals regardless if their efforts directly or indirectly impact business. Reporting success metrics, such as direct mail conversion rates or email newsletter click-through rates, to the greater team enables the team to celebrate wins or band together to brainstorm new strategies to be more successful next time around. If your creative team actively supports the sales department, celebrating sales milestones together will enhance their connection to the greater purpose of their efforts.

Creative Leaders Practice Creative Employee Engagement
At each CreativeExecs meeting (both this Summer and past series), we are continually impressed by the wealth of original, fun, and successful employee engagement programs that have been developed by corporate creative leaders. While some may put significant effort into their engagement planning, it appears that creative leaders are natural born leaders in the field of "creative employee engagement." It isn't difficult for anyone to understand that a more engaged staff leads to a more effective and efficient creative organization overall. Some of the fun examples shared at the most recent Roundtable series include:

  • Have your team design wacky congratulatory notes to the salespeople who used your collateral to win a big proposal.
  • Integrate a scavenger hunt into your employee onboarding process.
  • Hold a paper mache animal making contest and auction them off to other departments for charity donations.

In addition to jump starting your team's creativity engagement, these creative programs can yield terrific results when engaging your client base, partner departments, and your leadership team which in turn will lead to a more effective and efficient creative organization.

Person-to-Person Client Communication is King
A common and always present challenge for creative departments is the need to clearly communicate with internal clients and set clear expectations, while at the same time developing strong and valuable relationships with those clients. The universal key to success in this category lies in person-to-person communication. There is an ever-increasing trend towards electronic communications in and outside of the corporate environment. Sometimes, even headcount is eliminated because their person-to-person communication skills are easily replaced by a workflow management system or other technology. But don't be fooled, when working in a client service environment, technology should not replace the voice. Embrace this part of your job, and your department's job, as a critical area of professional focus and development. Teach your staff about the value of person-to-person communication and instill the proper values in them that will drive them to pick up the phone before shooting off the 3rd email in a chain. The result of more person-to-person communications is a stronger client relationship. The results of a stronger client relationship that have an impact on effectiveness and efficiency can be:

  • Fewer work revisions/iterations
  • Work opportunities that better match your department's capabilities
  • More developed creative briefs
  • Higher quality and more helpful feedback for the creative group

You may have a best-in-class metrics reporting strategy, job-tracking system, creative brief, and account management structure, but the absolute number one impacting factor in driving strong internal relationships with your clients is person-to-person communication.

If you'd like to join us for a webinar presentation of our summer CreativeExecs Roundtables series in which we'll review how creative departments define and measure efficiency and effectiveness, the drivers of each, and considerations for setting your team up for maximum effectiveness and efficiency, please email me at [email protected]. Webinars are being held Tuesday, August 10 at 1pm and Wednesday, August 25 at 11am.

Brendon Derr has been working in the creative industry for over seven years. As the Business Development Manager for Cella Consulting, he maintains intimate and successful business relationships with creative leaders in corporations and agencies. Brendon has gained a keen sense of the unique cultural characteristics that make the Creative Services field tick. Prior to working with Cella, he provided business development for The BOSS Group, where he established himself as a resident expert in building integrated and interactive media creative teams. Brendon developed a new social media recruiting model which is still running today. Before his work with Cella and BOSS, he worked for film and video production companies, providing TV and Corporate production services to creative clientele.